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Hypermobile Joints

What are hypermobile joints?

If you have hypermobile joints, you’re able to extend them easily and painlessly beyond the normal range of motion. Hypermobility of the joints occurs when the tissues holding a joint together, mainly ligaments and the joint capsule, are too loose. Often, weak muscles around the joint also contribute to hypermobility.

The joints most commonly affected are the:

  • knees
  • shoulders
  • elbows
  • wrists
  • fingers

Hypermobility is a common condition, especially in children, since their connective tissues aren’t completely developed. A child with hypermobile joints may lose the ability to hyperextend as they age.

Having joint hypermobility may also be called:

  • having joint laxity, or hyperlaxity
  • being double-jointed
  • having loose joints
  • having hypermobility syndrome

Common causes of hypermobile joints

Most commonly, hypermobile joints appear without any underlying health conditions. This is called benign hypermobility syndrome since the only symptom is hypermobile joints. It can be caused by:

  • bone shape or the depth of the joint sockets
  • muscle tone or strength
  • a poor sense of proprioception, which is the ability to sense how far you’re stretching
  • a family history of hypermobility

Some people with hypermobile joints also develop stiffness or pain in their joints. This is called joint hypermobility syndrome.

In rare cases, hypermobile joints occur due to an underlying medical condition. Conditions that could potentially cause hypermobility include:

  • Down syndrome, which is a developmental disability
  • cleidocranial dysostosis, which is an inherited bone development disorder
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is an inherited syndrome affecting elasticity
  • Marfan syndrome, which is a connective tissue disorder
  • Morquio syndrome, which is an inherited disorder that affects metabolism

When to seek treatment for hypermobile joints

Usually, people with hypermobile joints don’t have other symptoms, so they don’t need treatment for their condition.

However, you should see a doctor if you have:

  • pain in the loose joint during or after movement
  • sudden changes in the appearance of the joint
  • changes in mobility, specifically in the joints
  • changes in the functioning of your arms and legs

Relieving symptoms of hypermobile joints

If you have joint hypermobility syndrome, treatment will focus on relieving pain and strengthening the joint. Your doctor may suggest you use prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, creams, or sprays for your joint pain. They may also recommend certain exercises or physical therapy.

What is the outlook for hypermobile joints?

You’re more likely to dislocate or injure your joints through sprains of strains if you have hypermobile joints.

You can try the following to decrease your risk of complications:

  • Do exercises to strengthen the muscles around the joint.
  • Learn what normal range of motion is for each joint to avoid hyperextension.
  • Protect your joints during physical activity by using padding or braces.
  • See a Physical Therapist to have a detailed joint strengthening program developed for you.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Amber Erickson Gabbey
Medically reviewed on: Apr 24, 2017: Gregory Minnis, DPT

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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