What is Hypermobility?
Hypermobility is an umbrella term for a number of conditions that affect the body’s connective tissues, giving them a more elastic structure.
Connective tissue can be found all over the body – most obviously in tendons and ligaments (which gives people the characteristic increased flexibility associated with hypermobility) but also in other structures, such as the gut, brain and blood vessels. This can lead to wide-ranging symptoms, including many issues that people do not think of as being related to hypermobility, meaning that they are often overlooked by many healthcare professionals. People with hypermobility often think that they have several unrelated medical issues, and don’t realise that it is in fact one condition that is responsible for it all. This delay in diagnosis often leads to a lack of effective treatment, and can be incredibly frustrating for people.
Who Does It Affect?
Affecting between 10-20% of the population, hypermobility is incredibly common, and many people have no idea that they have it. It occurs more often in women than men, and appears to have a genetic link, meaning that it is more likely to affect you if a parent or grandparent is also hypermobile. There also appears to be strong link with certain neurodivergent conditions, such as ADHD and autism, meaning that people with these diagnoses are more likely to be hypermobile than the general population. Being a genetic issue, hypermobility usually affects people from childhood, although symptoms often only come on later in life.
What Are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of hypermobility vary greatly. For many people, it will not cause them any issues at all, whereas for others it can be a severe and even life-threatening condition. Below is a list of some common signs of hypermobility:
• Flexible joints
• Soft, stretchy skin
• Frequent dislocations of joints
• Gut issues (IBS, reflux etc)
• Dizziness/Light-headedness when standing up
• Widespread pain
• Over pronated feet
As you can see from the list above, the effects of Hypermobility can be incredibly wide-ranging. In its milder forms, only one or two of these signs may be present. But at the more severe end of the spectrum, such as in the condition Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), people may have all of the above and more.
How Do I Know If I Have Hypermobility?
There is no blood test or scan that can give a diagnosis of Hypermobility, instead, it is confirmed by a healthcare professional, based on a physical examination and your reported symptoms. In recent years, as research and understanding of Hypermobility has improved, diagnostic checklists have been published for healthcare professionals to use. These aim to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, and prevent people from slipping through the net. Unfortunately, however, awareness of Hypermobility is still low amongst many healthcare professionals, so it may be best to seek help from somebody who specialises in the condition. At RTMS London we see Hypermobile patients every day, many of whom have gone undiagnosed for years. If you think that you may have hypermobility, or would like support with your existing diagnosis, please don’t hesitate to get in contact to see how we may be able to help.
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