Joint hypermobility and upper limb pain
Have you ever thought you were “double jointed” or could freak out your friends by the weird things you can do with your body? You may fit into the category of having hypermobile joints. The flexibility of our joints varies from individual to individual, and from joint to joint.
Joints that can move more than the “normal” range can be referred to as hypermobile. This can be specific to a joint or can be generalised to multiple joints throughout the body. Joint hypermobility is not a medical condition, but it can become an issue if the increased mobility leads to symptoms of pain and instability.
Extra movement in the soft tissues in your body can affect you in various ways. It can be easier to move your arms into different positions, but it can place more strain on your muscles to hold the position for a long time.
People with joint hypermobility may experience headaches or muscle strain if they sit for long periods of time as the muscles around the neck and shoulder girdle have to work harder to stabilise these structures to maintain the posture.
Shoulder joints may be more susceptible to dislocation especially on the sports field as the ligament structures allow for extra movement in a joint that is naturally very mobile anyway.
Extra mobility in wrist joints can be linked to weakness in grip and the increased risk of instability.
One of the best things that you can do if you think you fit into the hypermobility category is to be aware of the position of your joints when you are active. Ensure that you are not putting force through joints when they are in an extreme position. You can use a mirror or even take a video when you are doing a specific task to check the position of your joints if needed.
Holding your limbs in a static position puts more strain on the joints and muscles than you expect. Hypermobile joints will fatigue quickly if you are doing one activity for a long period of time. Try to change your position regularly to give your muscles a break.
Prioritise core strengthening – when the joints closest to the spine are stable, they can give better support to joints further away such as wrists and fingers.
Keep active but respect muscle fatigue and pain. Aim to build up your general strength to support hypermobile joints, but as this may be a slow process it is important not to overdo things and to rest when you need to.
A practitioner in hand therapy can advise anyone with hypermobility by helping to identify when you’re at risk of over straining joints and muscles. They can make or recommend specific splints, braces and strapping techniques to support certain joints during activity to minimise strain doing the things you enjoy.
Also, they can develop a targeted strengthening program can be developed to maximise the muscle support around hypermobile joints to minimise the risk of injury. The best program may involve strengthening and stabilising the surrounding joints – not just the ones that are sore or giving you trouble.