Joint hypermobility syndrome

Hypermobility means your joints are more flexible than other people's (you may think of yourself as being double jointed). When this causes pain, it might be joint hypermobility syndrome.


When to get medical help

See a GP if you:

  • often get pain or stiffness in your joints or muscles
  • keep getting sprains and strains
  • keep dislocating your joints (joints "pop out")
  • have poor balance or co-ordination
  • have thin, stretchy skin
  • have digestive problems like diarrhoea or constipation

These can be symptoms of joint hypermobility syndrome.

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What happens at your GP appointment

Your GP will usually test the flexibility of your joints using the Beighton score.

They may also refer you for a blood test or X-ray to help rule out any other conditions like arthritis.

Testing hypermobility – Beighton score

Can you… Points
bend a knee backwards 1
bend an elbow backwards 1
bend a thumb backwards on to your forearm 1
bend a little finger back more than 90 degrees 1
put hands flat on floor with knees straight 1
See pictures of these tests

4 points = hypermobility likely

4 points and pain in 4 or more joints for at least 3 months = joint hypermobility syndrome likely

Doctors will also use more detailed Beighton criteria to help their diagnosis.

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Treatment

There's no cure for joint hypermobility syndrome.

The main treatment is improving muscle strength and fitness so your joints are protected.

Ask a GP to refer you to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist for specialist advice.

You can also book them privately.

They can help you:

  • reduce pain and the risk of dislocations
  • improve muscle strength and fitness
  • improve posture and balance

Treating joint pain

Paracetamol and anti-inflammatory painkillers (like ibuprofen, which can come in tablets, gels and sprays) may help ease any pain.

Speak to a pharmacist about the best treatment for you.

A GP may be able to prescribe stronger painkillers.

If you're in severe pain, ask a GP to refer you to a pain clinic to help you learn how to cope better with pain.

To help ease joint pain and stiffness, you can:

  • have warm baths
  • use hot water bottles
  • use heat-rub cream

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Find physiotherapy services

Find occupational therapy services through your local council

Find a pharmacy

It may also help to meet other people with joint hypermobility syndrome, or join a support group like the Hypermobility Syndromes Association or Ehlers-Danlos Support UK.

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Things you can try

If you have joint hypermobility syndrome, there are things you can do to improve joint and muscle strength, and reduce strain.

Do

  • gentle low-impact exercise like swimming or cycling (not doing any exercise can make your symptoms worse)
  • maintain a healthy weight
  • buy good, firm shoes
  • if you have flat feet, use special insoles (support arches) in shoes

Don't

  • do not do high-impact exercise
  • do not overexercise
  • do not grip things too tightly
  • do not overextend your joints just because you can

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Causes

Joint hypermobility syndrome usually runs in families and cannot be prevented.

Usually, the joints are loose and stretchy because the tissues that should make them stronger and support them are weak.

The weakness is because the collagen that strengthens the tissues is different from other people's.

Most experts agree that joint hypermobility syndrome is part of a spectrum of hypermobility disorders, which includes Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Some people with hypermobility spectrum disorders do not have symptoms that affect their joints.

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