Joint Hypermobility Syndrome
Your doctor has found that you have Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS). The ligaments, tendons, and other structures that support your joints can stretch more than usual. Most, but not all, people inherit JHS from a parent.
Sometimes people with JHS are referred to as “double-jointed”. They do not really have extra joints, just very flexible joints.
JHS may affect many joints. You may be able to:
- Bend your spine forward and backward more than usual
- Bend your fingers or toes backward or sideways more than usual
- Bend your knees or elbows backwards
- Move your legs in unusual ways or easily do “splits”
Not everyone with JHS can do all of these things.
Many people with JHS have no pain at all. Others have pain and some of these other conditions.
- Joint pain
- Joint “popping” or “cracking”
- Flat feet
- Frequent ankle sprains
- Back pain
- Widespread aching pain or fibromyalgia
- Problems with healing (thin scars) or fragile skin
- Easy bruising
- Varicose veins
- Low blood pressure
- Joints dislocating or coming out of place (this is unusual)
Whether or not you have pain, it is important to take good care of your body if you have JHS. There is no way to get rid of JHS, so taking the proper steps now may reduce your chances of having pain, arthritis, or other problems later in life.
People with JHS can get help from a good exercise program and expert advice, most often from a physical or occupational therapist. Exercises that increase strength can help you to support your joints and reduce extra motion. This may help protect the joints from harm. Light aerobic exercise may be helpful in keeping a healthy level of fitness.
Most people with JHS do not need a lot of stretching, because their joints and muscles are more flexible than normal. Stretch only those muscles that are very tight, cramping, or have been specified by your therapist or other experts. Good posture is very important in JHS, and you will be taught ways to help you with this.
Braces and Splints
If a joint affected by JHS is getting painful or has arthritis, splints or braces may help to reduce pain, improve function, and prevent extra motion. Tools used in JHS may include:
- Elbow or knee supports to prevent abnormal bending
- Arch supports in the shoes to support flat feet and decrease stress on the ankles and knees
- Finger joint splints
- Spine supports
Your health care provider should guide you in your choice of splints or braces.
Most patients with JHS live productive and happy lives. Some limits on activity can help reduce the risk of pain or being injured. These limits vary from person to person. Talk to your health care provider to learn which ones apply to you.
Doing such things as lifting, carrying, or other motions over and over can cause harm or pain. They are safer if you maintain good posture, exercise, use splints or braces where needed, and take rest breaks where needed.
JHS may cause an increased risk of back pain in the later months of pregnancy. To prevent this, pregnant women with JHS or those who plan to become pregnant should consult with their health care providers.
Medicines and Supplements
If medicines for pain are needed, your doctor can help you find the best choices.
Some people have tried over-the-counter products to reduce their joint pain. Glucosamine and chondroitin is not harmful, but has not been proven to work for JHS. Herbal “joint health” products are not proven and could be harmful. Check with your doctor before you start to use any over-the-counter supplement.
Treatments Applied to the Skin
Some people get short-term relief from ointments, gels or creams, or by putting heat or ice on painful areas. Your health care provider can advise you on the best treatments.
Areas of muscle “knotting” and pain (trigger points) can sometimes be helped by special injections. (For more details, please see Health Facts for You #5934 “Trigger Point Injection”). Bursitis or tendon pain may also be helped by injections. Your doctor will help you decide whether these are right for you.
As with all chronic pain problems, pain from JHS can be treated using relaxation, meditation, massage, and other non-drug methods. Talk with your health care provider to see if any of these are right for you.
JHS sometimes goes along with more serious health conditions. Talk to your doctor or nurse to make sure these other problems have been checked for and ruled out. There may be tests to check your eyes, blood vessels, and heart to make sure all are working well.
People with JHS can lead full lives. If you take good care of your body and follow the advice of your health care team, you should be able to manage your JHS well, instead of letting it manage you.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/07/2011
Copyright © 07/07/2011 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6412
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