By: Jeff Petersen, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist, Boundary Community Hospital Rehabilitation Services
How many times, on the sports field or playground, do you hear the kids talking about being “double-jointed”? This is common slang for a condition called joint hypermobility or joint laxity and it simply means that someone is able to move their joints farther than most people can; and in some children (and adults) this condition may be the cause of joint pain.
The majority of patients I see who are under the age of 18 and not post-surgical, complain primarily of joint pain. In addition, they tend to score in the mild to moderate 4 – 6 point range, of the 9-point Beighton score for joint hypermobility. This patient population represents only a very small percentage of the total population in this age group in Boundary County. Because many individuals do not seek treatment, this suggests the condition may be more widespread.
The problem with joint laxity is that the connective tissues involved, which typically provide joint stability, are looser than they should be, and allow excessive range of motion. This can be congenital in nature, which typically presents throughout the body, or from a traumatic event affecting just one or a few joints specifically. These tissues do not stretch and rebound like muscle tissue, and therefore if they allow excessive range of motion, there is no changing that without surgical intervention.
On a more conservative note, if the muscles that attach to the joint connective tissues can be strengthened and trained to work more as joint stabilizers, they can help reduce the strain on the connective tissues, and provide increased joint stability when performing movements, especially with sports.
What options do you have to postpone or prevent issues with joint hypermobility?
Most people do very well participating in a physical therapy program to evaluate deficits and establish an individual plan of care. The objective of the plan of care is to improve tolerance to functional mobility, especially sports and other recreational activities, and to reduce joint pain and associated symptoms.
Make a habit of including strength and stability training in a life-long, regular exercise program to minimize the effects of joint laxity.
Be sure to take advantage of the free Sports Physical Clinic at Boundary Community Hospital on August 1, 2017 from 5-7 pm. The Sports Physical Clinic includes a screening by the Physical and Occupational Therapists in the Rehabilitation Department, providing evaluation for neuromusculoskeletal function in the kids, including range of motion, strength, balance and functional mobility. The therapists will ask if the child has been experiencing any joint pain or other related symptoms. This is excellent for early detection and intervention to avoid something small becoming something big later on.
Boundary Community Hospital offers the Sports Physical Clinic annually as a FREE service for our community. In accordance with Idaho High School Activities Association, any students in grades 7, 9, and 11 participating in sports, including cheerleading, must have a physical before the first practice starts. A physical is also required for those new to the sports program who did not have a physical last year, even if in grades 8, 10 and 12. Students and parents should enter at Outpatient Services off Comanche Street and check in at the Coaches’ table. Parents must be present for the clinic.