What type of exercise should I do if I'm hypermobile?
We see a lot of patients in our clinic who have some level of hypermobility, and most of them don't feel clear about what they should and should not be doing in the gym. If you have read any of our blog posts in the past, I am sure you know the first thing I am going to say: it depends.
Hypermobility can vary widely from person to person. Some individuals present with just a bit of hypermobility. They tell me "I've always been really flexible", or they note that they hyperextend in their elbows or knees. I have also seen patients who have been diagnosed with conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and they experience symptoms beyond joint hypermobility, including chronic fatigue and/or pain. Additionally, I have seen patients who have experienced recurring injuries such as chronic ankle sprains due to hypermobility (which may or may not have been present before the ankle sprain). As you can see from these few examples, all of these patients have some degree of hypermobility, however the underlying cause and severity of symptoms can be very different.
I have also seen a lot of patients who "feel tight" or have pain, but have excessive range of motion in their joints. What often happens in this situation is that muscles will give the individual muscles around the joint feedback that they need to guard in order to protect against pain. They may stretch and stretch and never get lasting relief, or they may totally avoid stretching because someone told them they are hypermobile and to never stretch.
So what should you do if you are hypermobile? First, it is important to understand what hypermobility means to YOU and how it affects you specifically. Are you experiencing pain? Do you have systemic symptoms such as chronic fatigue? What joints are hypermobile? And what are your physical goals?
With my patients at Absolute Kinetics, one of the first things we discuss is what they do for work and what type of exercise and activities they want to do. We need to be strong and resilient for the tasks we need/want to do, and physical therapy should ALWAYS focus on the patient's individual goals. If the patient experiences systemic symptoms such as chronic fatigue, we may discuss the importance of adequate rest and recovery as well as fatigue management techniques. From there, we look at strength and range of motion. Often times there is a lot of weakness and instability in those with hypermobility. We are going to work on building strength and stability throughout the entire range of motion to make the individual as strong and safe as possible with the activities they want to do.
Have you been diagnosed with hypermobility? Do you have questions about what you should be doing to keep your joints strong, safe, and healthy? We would love to connect with you and see how we can help! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your free 10 minute phone consult.
Blog post written by Dr. Alexis Hutchison, PT, DPT, OCS