In September 2022, American pop music darling Halsey posted a heartfelt Instagram update for fans concerned about her recent absence from the recording studio and concert stage. Halsey explained that she was taking time off to address various health issues ahead of her 28th birthday, and one of those medical concerns is Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is often associated with hypermobility in many patients.
Hypermobility is a syndrome that affects joints and connective tissue. To a great extent, hypermobility refers to the abnormally additional flexibility of the joints; it can be described as an extra range of motion condition that negatively affects patients from a physiological and biomechanical perspective. You may have previously heard about people who are born “double-jointed,” thus making them extremely flexible, but the reality of this congenital health issue is that it can be quite difficult to live with.
The exact cause of hypermobility is not completely understood, but scientists have identified several potential risk factors that can lead to a much higher likelihood of developing it, such as having a family member diagnosed with the condition. There is no doubt that Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and other forms of hypermobility affect many of the key areas of a patient’s life, especially when it comes to physical functions and overall health. Some of the more common symptoms of this disease include the following:
- Joint pain or inflammation, which is generally worse in the morning
- Unexplained Increased or decreased blood pressure.
- Nerve damage, especially marked by inflammatory blood vessels.
- Early osteoarthritis or osteoporosis.
- Deficient body mechanics.
- Being more prone to orthopedic injuries.
Patients with hypermobility syndrome become aware that their joints are more flexible than they should be, and they make this realization through the discomfort. What seems like additional flexibility can actually affect them when they are participating in physical activity. Hypermobility affects some of the larger joints in the body, such as the shoulders, hips, elbows, knees, and feet, but it can be quite painful and debilitating when it impacts the wrists and fingers.
Chiropractic care is often recommended to patients who live with this condition because it can be corrected in many cases, thus alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, improving range of motion, and providing an opportunity for a better quality of life.
Understanding Hypermobility Syndrome
Hypermobility is a rheumatology condition of no clear origin beyond genetics. In recent years, rheumatologists have been evaluating research studies that propose the following:
- There are several degrees of hypermobility, which bolster the argument in favor of treating this syndrome on a spectrum.
- When hypermobility is part of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), there is often a possibility that an underlying autoimmune disorder could be the cause.
- Childhood hypermobility tends to go away as the body develops.
- When the skin near the hypermobile joints turns fragile, there may be a vascular disorder that prevents healthy joint function.
Because of the constant inflammation in the connective tissue, hypermobility is more likely to cause pain and discomfort. Patients who are diagnosed with the disorder may develop other issues as well, such as joint dislocation, an increased risk of falling, poor posture, and more.
Patients with EDS may also experience skin sensitivity, swelling, stiffness, and other issues related to the connective tissue, which can result in disfiguration. In many cases, patients with EDS are diagnosed with the disorder at an early age, and the disorder typically results in more significant physical and structural issues in childhood.
At times, the disorder is accompanied by a mild form of muscular dystrophy, called myotonic dystrophy. There is no cure for EDS or hypermobility in general, but there are a few ways that patients can manage the symptoms of the disorder, and this is where chiropractic care comes in.
Physical therapy, joint adjustment, focused tissue massage, and other chiropractic treatments can help to reduce the symptoms of EDS,l. It is important to remember that chiropractors can provide professional healthcare advice about treating EDS because this condition cannot be cured; it can only be managed at the musculoskeletal level. While is no cure for EDS, there are a few treatments available for patients. EDS patients can often benefit from joint braces, exercises, and physical therapy supervised by chiropractors.
How Chiropractors Assess Hypermobility Syndrome
The orthopedic and chiropractic communities are generally in agreement with the American College of Rheumatology with regard to hypermobility syndrome insofar as treating it as a spectrum. For example, children with overly flexible joints may only need to learn proper body mechanics prior to reaching adolescence, but adults who never grow out of this condition may require treatment to prevent the development of osteoarthritis. All the same, an EDS patient may need rheumatology treatment in addition to chiropractic care.
Chiropractors evaluate the degree of hypermobility syndrome based on an assessment that may involve subjective health complaints, a review of medical history, diagnostic imaging, examination of the joints, and observation of how patients are able to complete certain joint actions. In most cases, a determination of hypermobility can be made based on the excessive range of motion in the fingers. Some individuals can be double-jointed without being overly flexible; for example, they may be able to bend their thumbs back towards their forearms with their opposite hand, but not move them on their own.
When severe inflammation is observed as part of the chiropractic diagnosis of hypermobility, blood tests for genetic structure may be ordered; this is done to establish whether EDS is the cause, which may suggest that medications may be prescribed in addition to chiropractic therapy.
The subjective aspect of hypermobility evaluation is important insofar as figuring out how deep into the spectrum patients are. Pain in the knees, calves, thighs, and elbows is often a sign, particularly if it is felt in the evening or a couple of hours following physical activity. When inflammation can be seen or felt in the skin surrounding major joints, this could be a clear sign of hypermobility if the pain is felt on muscle tissue located away from the swollen joints.
What Chiropractors Can Do For Hypermobility Patients
Adjustment of the joints and physical therapy are the two most common chiropractic techniques used to alleviate and correct hypermobility syndrome. Deep tissue therapeutic massage and spinal adjustment may be performed on patients whose inadequate posture and gait have resulted in subluxation.
The physical therapy aspect of hypermobility treatment cannot be ignored, especially in the case of younger patients who have a chance to grow out of this condition. In fact, chiropractic care for juveniles can make a difference in terms of how they will be affected as they develop into adults. In other words, children with hypermobility are more likely to grow out of this condition if they receive early chiropractic care. The key is to stimulate the joints through adjustment so that they do not exceed the normal range of motion; all the same, physical therapy can go a long way in terms of promoting muscle memory, which in turn can signal the endocrine system to produce healthy levels of collagen to support connective tissue.
Many young adults with hypermobility are encouraged to keep an active lifestyle and participate in fitness activities to avoid having to deal with symptoms later in life. Exercise is an important component of treating hypermobility syndrome because it aids in maintaining balance and range of motion, but it needs to be focused exercise as prescribed by chiropractors; this is the kind of physical therapy that is aligned with conditioning. Additionally, stretching the muscles can help prevent muscle spasms and reduce the risk of injury.
Patients with hypermobility syndrome who are aware of the condition and look into chiropractic care as an alternative to conventional medicine are always pleasantly surprised at how effective it can be. They often report that not only has their body felt better overall, but they also experience improved physical endurance and their physical performance has improved in general. Many hypermobility patients experience relief immediately after receiving chiropractic care, and that is not all; there are studies that indicate that chiropractic can significantly improve one’s quality of life.
Since chiropractic care involves an alternative form of treatment that does not use medication, it offers a unique opportunity to treat hypermobility naturally. Hypermobility is a condition that affects the joints and is characterized by the excessive stretch of soft tissues. The condition can have several adverse effects on one’s health, including musculoskeletal disorders and osteoarthritis; for this reason, it is crucial to seek chiropractic care before it devolves into a chronic disease.