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Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
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Hypermobility

Hypermobility, also known as being double-jointed, is common in childhood and has both advantages and disadvantages:

Advantage: It leads to increased suppleness and agility, which is useful in sport. Many sportsmen and women are hypermobile and they too may experience pain after matches or prolonged training.

Disadvantage: It may result in joint pain including knees, ankles, feet, hips, back, shoulders and hands.

What causes the pain?

Pain from hypermobility often occurs:

  • In the afternoon or towards the end of the day and may continue to the following morning
  • After prolonged or increased levels of exercise, such as a long walk or shopping trip

The exact cause is not known, but it is thought that there are several factors:

  • The joint may overstretch and not have the muscle strength to support it adequately. 
  • Hypermobility results in imbalances between muscle groups which may pull the joint awkwardly
  • Imbalances may arise from poor bone alignment such as flat feet and knock knees, which put extra stress on some joints.

The pain is not the result of inflammation or a sign of joint or bone damage. Moreover the pain from hypermobility is not a warning sign of future damage.

What can I do to help a child with hypermobility?

There are many simple ways to help a child with hypermobility:

  • Buy good firm shoes
    If the child has flat feet, ensure their arches are supported. This will stabilise the foot and avoid extra pressures through the knee, hip and back.
  • Pace rather than reduce activity
    Do not let the child overdo activity too often. We appreciate this is often easier said than done.
  • Encourage non-weight bearing activities
    Activities such as cycling and swimming work the muscles to make them stronger and fitter without putting extra stress on the joints.
  • Ease discomfit or stiffness
    Try one or more of the following:
    • Hot or cold compresses
    • A warm bath
    • Gentle rubbing of the affected joint with a soft towel
    • Use of simple medication such as ibuprofen or paracetamol

A physiotherapist may also be able to recommend exercises to do at home.