You may well have heard people talk about being "double jointed" or brag about how flexible they are, but being "double jointed" doesn't really exist - just try to imagine someone with two elbows or two knee caps... it doesn't make sense! When people claim to be double jointed, what they really mean is that they are excessively flexible, which is a symptom of hypermobility.
What Is Hypermobility?
Hypermobility is a very common condition in which the joints can easily and painlessly move beyond a normal range of motion. However, contrary to popular belief, being overly flexible is not a good thing! Common symptoms of hypermobility include pain in the knees, ankles, and hips, as well as an increased risk of developing conditions such as arthritis.
Am I Hypermobile?
There is a simple way to check if you are hypermobile. Place your hand flat on a table and stand over it so that your arm is straight vertically with your shoulder above your wrist. Can you twist your elbow almost 180 degrees? If so, you are definitely hypermobile. You may also see people who stand with their knees bent back so that the legs appear to bow outwards, this is also a symptom. There are varying degrees of hypermobility, with some people who can bend their fingers all the way back, or people who are just more flexible than normal. This is a condition that must be treated with great care, especially when you are very active and engage in sports such as running and weight training as you are more prone to injury.
Hypermobility In Pregnancy
Hypermobility also affects pregnant women. When pregnant, a hormone is released called relaxin which makes the muscles and joints more flexible. The body does this to take the pressure of the body while pregnant and to allow an easier birth, but when women realise they are more flexible than usual, they might push themselves too far and this is when they can end up popping a hip or breaking a joint! Women always have more relaxin than men, which is why they are generally more flexible. Never push your joints too hard as you could really injure yourself.
How Hypermobility Affects Training
If you are hypermobile, you need to be very careful when you are training as you are more at risk of injuries. If you are a runner, you may feel pain in your knees, hips, and ankles while you run. If you are a weight lifter, you may feel pain in your shoulders when doing the bench press. The ligaments are more lax which means that ankles and shoulders are more prone to becoming sprained.
What You Can Do About It
Hypermobility is a genetic condition and doesn't have any negative medical implications, you just need to be careful. Isometric exercises (exercises where you don't move like the plank or wall sit) are good for those with hypermobility as it allows you to strengthen your muscles without extending and contracting your joints. Proprioceptive exercises (exercises where you feel the space around you) are also good, such as balancing exercises. If you are a runner, focus on your running form and make sure it is perfect at all times, and when you become fatigued make sure you don't let it become subpar. If you train at a gym, make sure you do not over-extend your joints while you are training. A common example of this is over-extending your elbows at the top of a press up. Make sure there is always a slight bend in your arms and legs while you are training.