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Hypermobility Syndrome

Hypermobility syndrome facts

Joints easily move beyond the normal range with joint hypermobility syndrome.
Joints easily move beyond the normal range with joint hypermobility syndrome.
  • The joint hypermobility syndrome is a condition that features joints that easily move beyond the normal range expected for that particular joint.
  • Hypermobile joints tend to be inherited.
  • Symptoms of the joint hypermobility syndrome include pain in the knees, fingers, hips, and elbows.
  • Often, joint hypermobility causes no symptoms and requires no treatment. Treatments are customized for each individual based on his or her particular manifestations.

What is joint hypermobility syndrome?

The joint hypermobility syndrome is a condition that features joints that easily move beyond the normal range expected for a particular joint. The joint hypermobility syndrome is considered a benign condition. It is estimated that 10%-15% of normal children have hypermobile joints or joints that can move beyond the normal range of motion. Hypermobile joints are sometimes referred to as "loose joints," and those affected are referred to as being "double jointed."

What diseases are risk factors for joint hypermobility syndrome?

Joint hypermobility is also a feature of a rare, inherited, more significant medical condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), which is characterized by weakness of the connective tissues of the body. Joint hypermobility is commonly seen in people with Down syndrome and in people with Marfan syndrome.

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What are the symptoms and signs of joint hypermobility?

Because the joints are capable of excessive motion in people with the joint hypermobility syndrome, they are susceptible to injury. Symptoms of the joint hypermobility syndrome include pain in the knees, fingers, hips, and elbows. There is a higher incidence of joint dislocation and sprains of involved joints. Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) occurs more frequently in people with hypermobile joints and can lead to back pain. Joint hypermobility tends to decrease with aging as we become naturally less flexible.

Signs of the syndrome are the ability to place the palms of the hands on the floor with the knees fully extended, hyperextension of the knee or elbow beyond 10 degrees, and the ability to touch the thumb to the forearm.

What causes joint hypermobility syndrome?

Hypermobile joints tend to be inherited in specific genes passed on by parents to their children. It is felt that these certain genes predispose to the development of hypermobile joints. As a result, there is a tendency of the condition to run in families (familial). Genes that are responsible for the production of collagen, an important protein that helps to glue tissues together, are suspected of playing a role.

What tests diagnose joint hypermobility syndrome?

Joint hypermobility syndrome is diagnosed by examining affected joints and noting that they easily move beyond the normal range expected. For example, the middle of the fingers may bend backward more than usual. There is no blood test for hypermobility syndrome.

What is the treatment for hypermobility syndrome?

Often joint hypermobility causes no symptoms and requires no treatment. Many individuals with joint hypermobility syndrome improve in adulthood. Treatments are customized for each individual based on their particular manifestations. Joint pains can be relieved by medications for pain or inflammation. Proper physical fitness exercise should be designed to avoid injury to joints. Home remedies include home exercises and acetaminophen (Tylenol), as needed. Sometimes physical therapy can help with rehabilitation of injured areas and can be especially helpful to prevent reinjury.

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What is the prognosis for joint hypermobility syndrome?

Frequently, there are no long-term consequences of joint hypermobility syndrome. However, hypermobile joints can lead to joint pain. Over time, joint hypermobility can lead to degenerative cartilage and arthritis. Certain hypermobile joints can be at risk for injury, such sprained ligaments.

Which types of doctors treat hypermobility syndrome?

Doctors who treat hypermobility syndrome include general-medicine doctors, family medicine doctors, and internists, as well as rheumatologists, orthopedists, and physical-medicine physicians.

Can you prevent joint hypermobility syndrome?

Because joint hypermobility syndrome is inherited, it is not preventable. Nevertheless, when joint hypermobility syndrome causes symptoms, prevention of injury and pain is possible by avoiding trauma and with appropriate treatments.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2019
References
Klippel, J.H., et al. Primer on the Rheumatic Diseases. New York: Springer, 2008.
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