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Exercise for joint stability
July 31, 2017
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.

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.
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