Joint hypermobility syndrome or double jointedness means that a person’s joints bend more than usual. In some people, this can cause joint pain and injury.

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Many different conditions cause hypermobility. Doctors refer to these as joint hypermobility spectrum disorders. People with joint hypermobility have greater joint flexibility than others.

Joint hypermobility syndrome can happen on its own with no other symptoms. It can also be a symptom of another disorder, such as Marfan syndrome or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Doctors may diagnose benign hypermobility syndrome when a person does not have other symptoms. This condition means the symptoms are unlikely to progress to severe disease.

Read on to learn more about joint hypermobility syndrome.

Hypermobility syndrome means that a person has unusually mobile joints. This can increase the risk of injuries and pain. Some hypermobility syndromes also increase the risk of osteoporosis.

Not everyone with hypermobility has pain or injuries. Sometimes, hypermobility is the only symptom, and a person does not have an underlying disease. However, in many cases, hypermobility can lead to issues such as joint pain and injuries.

Some conditions that may cause hypermobility include:

  • hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), which may be the most common heritable connective tissue disorder
  • Klinefelter syndrome, which causes males to have at least one extra X chromosome
  • Down syndrome
  • differences in joint shape or poor muscle tone
  • injuries
  • other genetic disorders, such as Marfan syndrome, Stickler syndrome, or osteogenesis imperfecta

There are different types of hypermobility. They include:

  • localized joint hypermobility (LJH), which affects less than five joints
  • generalized joint hypermobility (GJH), which affects more than five joints
  • peripheral joint hypermobility (PJH), which affects only the hands and feet
  • joint instability, which is progressive damage of the joint that can be a complication of hypermobility

According to the Ehlers-Danlos Society, hEDS commonly presents as:

  • LJH, PJH, or GJH without symptoms
  • hEDS, along with another hypermobility disorder with recognizable symptoms

In some cases, a person may have hypermobility symptoms but not enough to justify a diagnosis. Usually, doctors refer to this with the general term hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSP).

However, many people with hEDS do not have symptoms other than hypermobility, making it difficult to recognize.

When other symptoms are present, they may include:

Similarly, other hypermobility conditions can have a wide range of symptoms. For instance, Klinefelter syndrome may cause delayed puberty, unusually long limbs, tallness, and reduced muscle mass after puberty.

While genetic tests can test for most forms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, there is no genetic test for hEDS.

Blood and other tests can diagnose some other diseases that cause hypermobility.

For example, blood testing can detect Klinefelter syndrome at or before birth.

Many hypermobility syndrome disorders are diagnoses of exclusion. There is no specific test, but a doctor makes the diagnosis by ruling out other conditions.

This process usually requires a medical exam. A doctor will ask about previous injuries and pain and may examine the person’s skin, heart, and eyes. They may recommend additional tests to rule out other medical conditions.

The symptoms depend on the hypermobility spectrum disorder a person has. For example, people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome may experience the following:

  • bladder issues
  • anxiety
  • dizziness
  • skin issues, such as bruising

Hypermobility spectrum disorder symptoms include:

  • increased joint mobility
  • the ability to extend the joints past their typical range
  • joint flexibility that may enable a person to make unusual movements

Some people with hypermobility spectrum disorders have chronic pain.

Many factors can increase the likelihood of developing hypermobility syndrome, including:

  • a family history of genetic diseases
  • a family history of hypermobility
  • participating in sports that require frequent intense stretching or cause injuries
  • having an inherited genetic syndrome

Treatment depends on the reason for the hypermobility.

In most cases, treatment focuses on managing symptoms rather than the underlying disease.

Some treatment options include:

  • pain relief medication
  • physical therapy
  • supportive and assistive devices to reduce the risk of injury
  • strength-building exercises to protect the bones and build muscle strength
  • stress management techniques
  • supplements such as vitamin D and calcium to prevent osteoporosis
  • ongoing monitoring to check for bone injuries and bone mineral loss
  • treatment for reflux and other digestive symptoms

There is no cure for hypermobility syndromes. The outlook depends on a person’s overall health, the treatment regimen, and the type of hypermobility they have.

For example, Marfan syndrome may decrease a person’s life expectancy due to heart and blood vessel complications.

For all causes of hypermobility syndrome, the outlook is better with supportive care. Exercise and lifestyle changes can improve the outlook and reduce the risk of serious injuries.

A person cannot self-diagnose a hypermobility spectrum disorder. But they may suspect they have such a disorder if they have:

  • chronic pain
  • frequent muscle injuries
  • low energy
  • other symptoms, such as bladder and bowel dysfunction

A person should contact a doctor if they have any of these symptoms and the symptoms do not improve with home treatment.

It is also important to contact a doctor if:

  • treatment does not seem to be working
  • a person develops side effects
  • a person wants to try a different treatment

There are many hypermobility spectrum disorders. Some cause only hypermobility, while others cause complications, such as skin or developmental concerns.

Getting the correct diagnosis can help with treatment and symptom management. The outlook for many hypermobility syndromes is good with the right supportive care.