People with double-jointed knees have unusual flexibility in their knee joints. This can be a sign of joint hypermobility syndrome.

Alongside joint hypermobility syndrome, double-jointed knees may also be a symptom of a connective tissue disease such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

People with hypermobile joints have greater flexibility than others. They may be able to bend into positions that would be impossible for people with standard joint mobility.

Joint hypermobility tends to run in families.

Keep reading to learn more about why knee hypermobility occurs and how to treat it.

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The terms “loose jointed” and “double jointed” both refer to joint hypermobility. Double-jointed knees are extremely flexible. People with double-jointed knees can bend their knees into positions that others cannot.

Symptoms of joint hypermobility vary according to the person and the affected joint. However, some common symptoms include:

  • thin or stretchy skin
  • pain and stiffness in and around the knees
  • frequent strains and sprains
  • balance or coordination issues
  • frequent dislocation of the kneecap

The prevalence of joint hypermobility ranges widely among different populations. A 2019 study found that in a sample of Florida Gulf Coast University students, 12.5% met the criteria for generalized joint hypermobility.

Researchers have also examined rates of hypermobility among dancers. Another 2019 study, which involved 77 jazz dancers from the Polish Dance Theatre, identified joint hypermobility in more than half of the dancers.

Joint hypermobility tends to run in families. People who have family members with this condition are more likely to develop it themselves.

Other risk factors for double-jointedness include:

  • having a connective tissue disorder such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • younger age
  • female sex

Collagen is the main component of tendons and ligaments that provide stability to the joints. Some people experience genetic changes in their collagen fibers that lead to them being more flexible and stretching easier.

Hypermobile knees can lead to additional health issues. People with hypermobile knees may contribute to the following:

  • pain
  • musculoskeletal injury
  • cartilage damage
  • osteoarthritis

Knee hypermobility can also be a sign of an underlying health condition.

Joint pain

People with hypermobile knees often experience more joint pain than others. For example, joint hypermobility can cause pain in the knees and lower back. This can make it difficult to stand for prolonged periods.

Many people with joint hypermobility experience chronic pain that can negatively affect sleep quality. It can also make it challenging to perform daily tasks. People experiencing chronic pain can speak with a doctor to learn about treatment options.

Joint injuries

Knee hypermobility may also increase the risk of certain injuries. Athletes with hypermobile joints are more likely to experience joint dislocations. They also found that these athletes take longer to recover from their sports injuries.

According to a 2019 review, joint hypermobility may also increase the risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.

Related conditions

Conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome, and Down syndrome can all cause excessive joint flexibility. People with these conditions may experience further health complications.

People with Ehler-Danlos syndrome tend to bruise easily, and injuries may take longer to heal. Hypermobility in Ehler-Danlos syndrome can also cause pain, degenerative joint disease, and frequent joint dislocations.

Marfan syndrome is another condition that affects connective tissue. People with this condition are at a higher risk for scoliosis, or curvature of the spine. They may also experience health issues that affect bones and joints.

Finally, people with Down syndrome typically experience weakened muscle tone and joint hypermobility. Instability in the joints may lead to a higher rate of dislocations. Kneecap instability can also lead to chronic pain and an increased risk of falling.

There is no single cure for knee hypermobility. However, many treatment options are available to help minimize hypermobility pain, such as:

  • physical therapy
  • muscle strengthening programs
  • anti-inflammatory pain medications such as ibuprofen
  • warm baths
  • hot water bottles

Lifestyle modifications are generally the most effective way to manage hypermobility pain. Regular exercise can also help reduce discomfort. However, excessive exercise can increase pain and the risk of injury. Low impact exercises such as water aerobics are an excellent option for hypermobility pain.

Doctors also discourage people from purposely dislocating or hyperflexing their joints, as these extreme positions will lead to long-term damage and disability.

Sometimes people may require joint replacements or fusions of the joints to improve stability.

People experiencing pain from knee hypermobility should speak with a doctor. Only a medical professional can recommend an effective and individualized treatment plan.

People with double-jointed knees experience greater flexibility around their knee joints. This may be a sign of joint hypermobility syndrome. It can also be a symptom of connective tissue disorders such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and Marfan syndrome.

Joint hypermobility can lead to chronic pain. It can also increase the risk of certain injuries, such as joint dislocation or ACL tears.

With the proper medical support, people with double-jointed knees can take steps to manage their condition.