Pain can be—Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS)—or it is sometimes referred to as being “double-jointed”
I remember, as a child, being able lay on my back with my ankles aside of me. To this day, I can reach the floor with the palms of my hands while keeping my knees straight. I always prided myself on being very flexible, not knowing that joint hypermobility as a child can play a role in the development of Fibromyalgia later on.
Joint hypermobility Syndrome is relatively easy to spot. If you appear “double-jointed,” if you often wobble when you walk, or if you tend to lose your balance, Prominant veins on the hands and droopy eyelids are also signs of a person living with hypermobility.
In one study, the prevalence of Fibromyalgia in schoolchildren was 6% and 40% among children with joint hypermobility. The association between joint hypermobility and fibromyalgia was highly significant. More studies are needed to establish the clinical significance of this observation. (Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 1993; 52: 494-496)
Not all flexible people develop the symptoms of Joint Hypermobility Syndrome
Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is said to exist when symptoms are produced such as joint pain, and results in a higher incidence of dislocations, sprains and secondary osteoarthritis. The ligaments that provide joint stability are loose and weak, which increases the risk of ligament injury or strain and can cause pain. The cause is thought to be genetic, the body doesn’t make enough collagen or doesn’t make a good quality collagen, which is the principal structural protein of the body Collagen fibers give strength to ligaments, tendons, bone, skin and cartilage. Hence, the whole body can be structurally weakened!
We End Up With A Diagnosis of Fibromyalgia
Many women become symptomatic around age 40 and are misdiagnosed and therefore incorrectly treated so the body’s structural support is prone to problems. Health issues, such as varicose veins, hernias, hemorrhoids, scoliosis, low back pain, thoracic problems, neck problems, wrist and hand problems, heart valve defects, TMJ, and the list goes on. All of this contributes to various headache and balance issues. All of this gives rise to the “Fibromyalgia” symptoms of “hurting all over”, lack of endurance, malaise and fatigue.
More women than men are affected, though men have the problem but are rarely diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. They can be labeled as other musculoskeletal diagnosis, or even neurological diagnoses from carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff, osteoarthritis, mandibular joint dysfunction, spondylolisthesis and others.
Overstretching Wrongfully Encouraged
Functional training coach Vern Gambetta warns in an article titled “Too Much Too Loose,” that the “cult of flexibility” encourages athletes to stretch beyond a functional range of motion. When you overstretch the muscles surrounding your joints, explains Gambetta, you compromise joint stability and integrity, making yourself more susceptible to injury. http://ow.ly/jrxHy
Yoga positions such as Full Lotus force external hip rotation, and may damage the ligaments and cartilage around the knees, warns instructor Lee Crews, in an article on the International Dance Exercise Association website.
Crews also warns that postures such as Downward-facing Dog, which involve supporting your weight with your upper body, may overstretch the shoulder joints and damage the surrounding bursae sacs. Overstretching these muscle groups weakens them, making them less efficient at supporting your weight during impact activities. http://ow.ly/jrynT
I had experienced this when practicing beginner Yoga. More than once I had felt pain in my hip joints by over-extending them. I erroneously thought I was helping myself by giving my muscles “a good stretch”. I also felt increased pain in my wrists trying to “do” the downward dog Yoga posture. My challenge is in knowing when I am over-reaching myself, Most times I do not know until the next day when I feel the results.
There are proper ways to support the body “doing” Yoga, such as when placing weight on your hands, in Downward Dog, distribute the body’s weight through both hands by spreading them wide and pressing through the fingers. You can read more tips on how to avoid injuries during Yoga at: http://ow.ly/jy7Cw
Mobility Obtained at the Expense of Stability
You might be naturally flexible, or you might have unintentionally developed hypermobility from your exercise program. If you are naturally flexible, you probably require less time in Yoga and Pilates class and more time in the weight room. Strengthening the muscles surrounding your joints improves stability and therefore manages hypermobility. http://ow.ly/jy8UO
If the mobility of a joint is in excess, as in Joint Hypermobility Syndrome, this mobility is obtained at the expense of stability, thus yielding many problems such as flat feet, bunions, scoliosis, popping out of joints and arthritis.
How to Gain Stability in Hypermobile Joints
It is important to engage in activities that strengthen your muscles. Stronger muscles are better equipped to protect the joints they surround. They provide more stability, thus decreasing not only joint wear and tear, but also your risk for joint displacement.
Strengthening exercises are those that involve working with resistance, such as weight lifting, medicine balls and tension bands. Also focus on strengthening your core muscles in your lower back, abdomen, pelvis and hips, because they protect your spine. By stabilizing your entire body, a strong core also lessens the load on the most susceptible joints, reducing the chance for injury there as well. http://ow.ly/jyxrP
The knees may bend back excessively in standing and suffer arthritic change in time, so work on the hamstrings to counteract this. Often patients need to work on several areas, maintaining muscle strength and control.
Avoidance of excessive or repeated heavy lifting and other movements which put stresses and strains on the hypermobile joints is important and patients should avoid end-range postures which strain the lax ligaments. I was also bestowed with the diagnosis of bursitis from working as a caregiver and carrying heavy packages and lifting heavy people. I did not know the damage I was inflicting on myself.
Even in normal circumstances the shoulder is very mobile yet unstable but in a hypermobile person, the lax connective tissue makes the joint more unstable and difficult to control. The shoulder and surrounding muscle must keep the large ball of the arm bone aligned with the small socket during large movements and this is difficult with hypermobility, leading to abnormal muscle patterns and pain.
Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is a lifelong condition
“Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is a lifelong chronic condition so sufferers are faced with managing this daily in all their postures and activities. Dysfunctional muscle patterns are common when the joints are significantly stressed, forcing them into unsuitable positions where they suffer strains. Physiotherapists can help with retraining of muscle patterns and treatment of painful joints but the largest component is self management and therefore patient education.” – Jonathan Blood Smyth is a Superintendent of Physiotherapy at an NHS hospital in the South-West of the UK.
I advise people to try a warm Epsom salts bath, it’s a magnesium balm for those sore muscles. Treat yourself to a massage, a gentle therapeutic one. I recently had a deep tissue massage and nearly went screaming out of the room, though some people living with FMS may be able to tolerate it. A deep tissue massage does release the knots in the muscles if you also suffer with MPD.
I also take an organic whole-food supplement that supplies the magnesium my body needs.
I will attend my chair yoga class, I look forward to it and it has helped me with the postural fatigue and pain, as we do postures to strengthen the core muscles. As we do the neck and shoulder stretches, I now know not to over-stretch the muscles.
I write these posts not only to share with others what I am learning from the research I do on the many associated disorders that accompany Fibromyalgia, but to search and find natural solutions that enable us to be at our optimal best.
I would love to hear from you!