People who are flexible enough to be considered double-jointed may be suffering from one of the 13 types of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS). The most common of the 13 is joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS). This is a multi-system disorder that manifests itself in a full range of symptoms that go well beyond excessive flexibility.
At one time, JHS was treated primarily by rheumatologists. We rheumatologists still do treat this syndrome, but other types of doctors have become more familiar with it over time. My recommendation is that you find a rheumatologist doctor to help you if you believe your symptoms are pointing to JHS.
More About Ehlers-Danlos
Conditions within the Ehlers-Danlos spectrum are all connective tissue disorders. They are inherited and, as a group, quite rare. JHS and its cousin, hypermobile EDS, are exceptions to the rule. Both are fairly common compared to the other 11 disorders in the spectrum.
Ehlers-Danlos conditions reduce the quality of collagen in the human body. Collagen is a protein found in connective tissue, and it makes up between 25% and 35% of the total body protein in mammals, making it the single most abundant protein in the human body.
Due to collagen’s role in forming connective tissue, those suffering from Ehlers-Danlos conditions are subject to all sorts of pain and other symptoms relating to the tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and bones. Even the skin can be affected.
Symptoms of JHS
JHS is most likely to affect young people and children. In most cases, especially with proper treatment, the condition and its symptoms can improve over time. But the fact that JHS is genetic suggests that it can never be fully conquered. Some of its symptoms include:
- joints that regularly dislocate
- pain and stiffness in the joints and muscles
- frequent muscle sprains and strains
- regular fatigue – even after rest
- thin and unusually elastic skin
- bowel or bladder problems
- poor coordination and balance.
If you or someone you know exhibits at least a few of the above symptoms, it’s probably a wise idea to see a doctor. I offer private rheumatology in London and would be more than happy to see you or your loved one.
How JHS Is Treated
JHS is one of those genetic disorders for which there is no cure. However, it is treatable. Our first course of action is physiotherapy designed to strengthen muscles and joints. Occupational therapy is sometimes recommended as well.
Physical therapy can help by improving strength and fitness. In return, improved strength reduces joint dislocations and the associated pain. Many patients experience improved posture and balance as their muscles and joints gain strength.
Joint pain can be treated with medications like ibuprofen and paracetamol. More powerful medications can be prescribed as necessary. I like to also recommend non-pharmacological treatments, including warm baths and hot water bottles.
Take Care of Yourself
As with most conditions that rheumatologists treat, the key to maximising quality of life with JHS is taking good care of yourself. General good health makes it easier to manage JHS symptoms. Good overall health also equips your body to do what it is naturally designed to do, in terms of fighting against illness and disease.
I am proud to offer private rheumatology services in the London area. Please feel free to contact my office if you have concerns about JHS or any of the other conditions I treat. My number one goal is to help each and every patient regain quality of life while managing their conditions effectively.
Joint hypermobility syndrome diet
Eating the proper diet to help better manage many health conditions has risen to prominence over recent years. Paying attention to what you consume can help give your body the right nutrients to help feed your muscles, support your joints, and improve your general health.
Just as you wouldn’t consciously feed yourself a high sugar diet day in and day out if you were trying to manage type two diabetes, eating a healthy diet can help you better manage the symptoms of hypermobility and EDS.
The research is ongoing, but so far, we already know that there is some correlation between EDS and food allergies and hypermobility and GI conditions. Many sufferers also complain of having irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and you can reduce IBS symptoms with a change in diet.
Keep a food diary
As there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing your symptoms through diet, it can help to keep a food diary for at least two weeks, or ideally a month, to spot those foods or drinks that can trigger hypermobility-related digestive issues.
Record what you eat and drink and monitor your response after consuming these foods and how you feel immediately after and the next day. Start by cutting out these trigger foods and drinks, and then continue to keep your food diary to record your findings.
Suppose you want quicker relief from digestive distress. In that case, you could start following a popular and effective elimination diet that has removed foods that are already known to be inflammatory, such as the FODMAP diet or the GAPS diet.
Joint hypermobility syndrome in children
Hypermobile children have too much movement around their joints. This means the supporting structure of the joints are loose and can lead to joint instability.
Overdoing exercise or excess movement can cause discomfort, inflammation and pain in the joints. Children can also feel pain when experiencing a growth spurt or from accidents that other children would bounce back from much quicker.
Your doctor or joint specialist can investigate and look for joint hypermobility in your child if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms with this condition:
- Joint or muscle fatigue from joints that are working extra hard
- Pain and muscle fatigue from performing normal activities
- Increased range of movement around joints causing pain
- Poor coordination and difficulty holding cutlery, pens and getting dressed
Managing child joint hypermobility
By working with your doctor and your joint specialist, you can help your child adopt a healthy posture that will put much less strain on their joints.
Environmental changes can also help offer joint support and relief, such as using sloped work surfaces for school and homework, making it easier to hold a healthy neck, shoulder, and arm position.
Learning to sit with both feet on the floor in a well-balanced position while doing school work, reading or using a laptop also help to reduce joint strain. Learning how to lift and carry heavy objects using their larger joints and use a backpack with double shoulder straps to evenly distribute the weight of heavy books, etc., will also help.
Your child can be treated using a holistic approach that can combine prescription medication, physical therapy, healthy eating and lifestyle changes to help manage their condition.