Occupational Therapy News: Hypermobility

You might have heard the word Hypermobility before or terms like low muscle tone, or double jointed and still not really know what it means. The term hypermobility refers to increased range of motion in the joints and can occur throughout many joints in the body.  It commonly occurs with low muscle tone (hypotonia) and the ligaments are longer and hence the joints more mobile.  Generally, hypermobility can be ranked on a scale up to 9 (Beighton hypermobility scale), anything over 5 is considered hypermobile.

Hypermobility is quite common in society with about 20% of the population having hypermobility. It can prove to be a physical advantage for many people such as dancers, gymnasts and athletes, as long as the increased range of motion in their joints coincides with good strong muscles.

To support hypermobility, it is important to build up strength and maintain physical activity. Lots of core strength exercises and daily physical activity (60 mins a day for children aged 5-12 years) is essential for all children but really important for kids with hypermobility. The more we can support them to build up muscle strength around the joints and core of the body, the more they can compensate for their joint mobility. Unfortunately it may cause fatigue, but this is more reason to make the muscles keep building strength.

The thing to be mindful of is pain. If a child complains of sore legs, muscles or often stumbles then it may be worthwhile seeking advice from your GP or physiotherapist as they may refer onto a specialist to check that the hypermobility is benign. Curtin University offer a free paediatric physiotherapy clinic at Cockburn Central for child aged 5 and under or you could seek a referral to the Child Development Services or seek advice from a private physiotherapist.

Things to help

Hypermobility will be with you through life, so if you find that your child is “bendy” you will most likely also find someone else in your family is also hypermobile. To support them, physical activity throughout life is important and keeping all your muscles at a good strength and length. Sometimes, children will sit in different postures when they are hypermobile and this may lead to muscle tightness later on, so it is really important that we also encourage good posture.

Some strategies that we use around the school include daily fitness, as well as different seating options. Air filled cushions on the mat or other individualised seating aids can provide good postural support as well as consistent feedback to the body.  Wearing compression clothing can also be beneficial as it can provide body and muscles with feedback consistently throughout the day and this is really valuable for a child with hypermobility.

Activities such as swimming, dancing, gymnastics, yoga and martial arts are all great for people with hypermobility and keeping an active lifestyle and being mindful of fatigue and pain is a great habit to start from an early age.

For more information

Visit https://arthritisaustralia.com.au/types-of-arthritis/hypermobility-syndromes/

Berry Johnston
Occupational Therapist