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Lessons From A Hypermobile Physical Therapist

By: Ted Ziaylek PT, DPT

Hypermobility is used to describe joints that can bend further than normal. It is also commonly referred to as being “double jointed”. There are many things that can cause hypermobility. In basic terms the structures surrounding the joints (ligaments and capsules) are loose, which allows the joint to bend further than normal. I have learned a few things from working with patients who are hypermobile, as well as being hypermobile myself, about ways to help protect your joints.

Firstly, people who are hypermobile often feel like they need to stretch. The problem here is that due to the laxity (or loose ligaments) in the joint we tend to stretch the joint well before the muscle. At the time, we feel better after stretching. However, over time this constant stretching can lead to more laxity in the joints and increased instability. Foam rolling the muscles is a more effective way to release the tone in the muscle without stretching the joint. When foam rolling focus on major muscle groups and avoid boney prominences.

People with hypermobility tend to be described as “clumsy,” or individuals who injure themselves when they trip. This is because a lot of our bodies’ proprioception, or sense of space, comes from input from the ligaments and capsules in and around the joints. With the increased laxity of these structures there is a decrease in feedback. Balance training, exercises as simple as standing on one leg, can be an effective tool to help overcome proprioception deficits. Physical therapy can also provide you with a home exercise program that includes balance exercises that are specifically tailored to your needs.

Lastly, people with hypermobility need to create stability in our joints through strengthening. Strengthening the muscles that surround and cross over the joint helps to create stability that is lacking due to loose ligaments. Often, tight fitting clothing feels good to those of us with hypermobility. It helps to give us some external stability in our joints. There are even garments designed to go underneath clothing to help with this function. Compression clothing, or even a pair of tight jeans, may help provide the sense of extra stability. Strengthening exercises are also a valuable component in a comprehensive home exercise program from your physical therapist.

A trained physical therapist can help expound on these idea ss well as provide the proper techniques to create stability through strengthening while teaching balancing and foam rolling exercises to help you achieve your goals and protect your joints!

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