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A Flexibility Pain: Hypermobile Joint Syndrome

Hypermobile Joint Syndrome (HJS), also known as joint hypermobility syndrome or hypermobility spectrum disorder, is a connective tissue disorder that affects the flexibility and stability of joints. People with HJS have joints that extend beyond the normal range of motion due to overly stretchy ligaments and tendons. While some individuals with hypermobility experience few symptoms, others can suffer from various degrees of pain and discomfort.

The primary characteristic of HJS is the ability to perform movements that are considered beyond the normal limits for a joint. This increased joint flexibility can be observed in various parts of the body, such as the knees, elbows, fingers, and spine. While some individuals might initially see this as an advantage, it often leads to joint instability and chronic pain. The pain associated with HJS can range from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain, affecting daily activities and quality of life.

The pain in HJS is often due to the lack of proper joint support from overly loose ligaments and tendons. This can result in joints not being held in their optimal alignment, causing increased wear and tear on the joint surfaces. Muscle fatigue is also common as the muscles work harder to compensate for the lack of joint stability. This combination of factors can lead to chronic pain, especially in weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips.

Beyond joint pain, individuals with HJS might experience a range of symptoms, including frequent joint dislocations or subluxations (partial dislocations), muscle spasms, and soft tissue injuries. The pain might be localized to a specific joint or present as a more generalized musculoskeletal discomfort. Fatigue is also a common complaint, as the body works harder to maintain stability and compensate for the joint laxity.

Diagnosis of HJS involves a combination of clinical evaluation and sometimes genetic testing. Medical professionals often use scoring systems like the Beighton Score to assess joint hypermobility based on specific criteria, such as bending fingers back beyond a certain point or touching the palms to the floor with straight legs. Genetic testing might be employed to rule out other connective tissue disorders like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Management of HJS focuses on addressing symptoms and improving joint stability. This often involves a multi-disciplinary approach including physical therapy to strengthen muscles around the joints, pain management strategies, and lifestyle adjustments to prevent exacerbation of symptoms. Braces or taping might be recommended for certain joints to provide additional support.

In more severe cases where pain and joint instability significantly impact daily life, healthcare providers might consider medication to manage pain and inflammation, and in some cases, surgery to repair or stabilize severely affected joints.

It’s important to note that while HJS can present challenges and chronic pain, many individuals with the condition are able to lead fulfilling lives by managing their symptoms through a combination of medical intervention, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications. If you suspect you have HJS or experience chronic joint pain and hypermobility, seeking medical advice is crucial for proper diagnosis and management.


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