When a person has Hypermobility Syndrome, their joints move beyond the normal range of motion. This increased flexibility is not welcome as it creates pain in the joints and makes the person prone to injury. With the state of constant inflammation in the joint, the person can also experience immune disorders as their immune system is constantly impaired by the process of fighting the inflammation. Joints are naturally limited in motion in order to prevent over extension that can strain, pull or tear muscles, ligaments or tendons.
Hypermobility Syndrome – A Case Study
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Hypermobility Syndrome is best understood through following case studies. In this case, a young man is beset by pain and problems controlling his limbs and fingers. Diagnosis is relatively easy, but treatment is still difficult. Here is his story:
“I was diagnosed with hypermobility syndrome at 16, I am now 18 years old. I first knew something was wrong after I had started working. I was working for about a year but the pain started to become so great on a daily basis that I just couldn’t do more than a few hours at a time. Then I would have to stop what I was doing because of the pain and rest, by the next day I was ready to try again – but the same pain always returned.
In November of my 17th year, I had an accident where I got pushed down some stairs. That’s when things really started to go downhill. It’s like my body just can’t recover anymore no matter how much I rest. My doctors also are thinking I have postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS). That is when my heart will just start beating really fast because it can’t get blood to my head. The problem with that is now it puts me at a fall risk, and if I fall, the Hypermobility Syndrome makes sure I can’t get up and the pain is unbearable.
My doctor sent me to a physiotherapist, but they don’t know what to do with me. The physiotherapist wants me to see a specialist, but no one is quite sure who that would be. My doctor basically told me to “suck it up” and doesn’t want to write any more sick notes for me to miss work. The problem is that on most days I can’t even feed myself because I can’t control my hands enough to pick up a knife and fork. I am not sure why they can’t measure the pain I am in, or why they can’t do something to help me. I am doing everything I can. I enrolled in a college course and am trying to get my license, but I need help with this.”
What causes Hypermobility Syndrome?
Hypermobility is an inherited condition. It is thought that the gene associated with the production of collagen does not work properly. While most people think of collagen as a skin and nail substance, it is also what the joints use to adhere to the tendons and stay together. Without collagen, there is little control over the range of motion of the joint. Hypermobility Syndrome is most often seen in those with Down’s Syndrome or Marfan Syndrome, where the connective tissue in the body is not present or breaks down too easily.
How is Hypermobility Syndrome diagnosed?
This syndrome is diagnosed by a visual inspection of the joints and then a range of motion test. If the joint moves out of the expected range of motion, and there is no other potential cause (such as dislocation), then a diagnosis is made. Hypermobility Syndrome is inherited, so it can not be prevented.
What is the prognosis?
The prognosis for this syndrome is positive. Many people who have it experience no difficulties or pain from it. Some people do have pain and difficulty moving. The standard treatment is to prescribe pain relieving medication and anti-inflammatories. Proper daily exercise is considered a must for this condition. The exercises performed must be done with respect to controlling the motion of the joint, but the goal is to build up muscle on all sides of the joint to make that control automatic. The long term outlook may see an increase in arthritis and loss of collagen in the joints, but that generally does not affect the person until much later in life.
Why do some people have more pain than others?
One of the most difficult things to accept with this syndrome is that some people will experience more pain than others with it. This is partially about the level of pain tolerance that a person has, but there is also much more involved. As the hypermobility creates different strains and pressures on the joints it can also cause inflammation. Depending on how inflamed the person’s joints become the pain can increase – or decrease.
Inflammation can press on the surrounding nerves and increase pain, and it may also press so much that it causes the nerve bundle to shut down. This creates numbness in the area. That numbness may not be better than having pain as you then become more prone to injury.
Why diet and exercise are so important with Hypermobility Syndrome
Both diet and exercise are very important in treating Hypermobility Syndrome and relieving pain. Science now knows that there are many foods that can affect pain levels in the body, and more specifically the joints. You even have to become mindful of the temperature you heat your food to when cooking. The exercise regimen should be daily. The goal is to strengthen the muscles and tendons to hold control over the joint. Without strength building exercise the person’s pain levels and joint control will not improve.
What else should you know about Hypermobility Syndrome?
In the case study, doctors also suspect that this person has POTS. This randomly elevated heart rate can make the exercise aspect of treating Hypermobility Syndrome difficult – but not impossible. By monitoring the heart and following the standard treatment for POTS, you can also work to relieve the pain of hypermobility. The good news is that POTS is something that most people grow out of, it is not considered a life-long, or life threatening condition.