Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder Explained

Discover what is Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder, its impact on health, and strategies for managing symptoms.

reuben kesherim
Ruben Kesherim
April 9, 2024

Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder Explained

Understanding Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders

To comprehend what is hypermobility spectrum disorder, it's crucial to delve into its definitions, impact, and prevalence.

Defining Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders

Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) are conditions where joints stretch more than normal, putting individuals at risk of injury due to excessive flexibility. Symptoms can include abdominal cramping, anxiety, bladder problems, chronic pain, dizziness, easy bruising, fatigue, joint problems, and difficulties with skin healing. The primary cause of HSD and its severe form, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), is genetics, and it often runs in families.

Impact on Joint Health

The prevalence of hypermobility affects 1 in 4 people, causing a significant impact on joint health [2]. Hypermobility syndromes can cause pain, fatigue, and injuries to joints and ligaments. Additionally, hypermobility can lead to additional conditions or symptoms such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), digestive issues like gastroparesis, irritable bowel syndrome, or gastric reflux [2].

The joint hypermobility in such disorders can lead to an increased risk of sprains, dislocations, and joint instability. Over time, these injuries can result in the development of early arthritis due to the wear and tear on the joints. Furthermore, the chronic pain associated with these conditions can lead to reduced physical activity and subsequent weight gain, further exacerbating joint discomfort and impairing overall health.

Understanding hypermobility spectrum disorders is vital not just for those diagnosed with the condition but also for clinicians, caregivers, and educators. Knowledge of these disorders can aid in early diagnosis, facilitate effective management strategies, and contribute to improving the quality of life for affected individuals.

Causes and Symptoms

Understanding the underlying causes and recognizing the common symptoms of hypermobility spectrum disorders are key to effective diagnosis and management.

Genetic Factors

The main cause of Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD) and hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), the most common form of EDS, is genetics and it often runs in families [2]. As of now, thirteen types of EDS have been identified. The exact prevalence of hypermobile EDS is not known, but along with the related conditions, the hypermobility spectrum disorders may be common. Currently, there is no genetic testing available for hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome.

Common Symptoms

Hypermobility affects 1 in 4 people and is a primary characteristic of hypermobility spectrum disorders. An unusually large range of joint movement (hypermobility) occurs in most forms of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and is a hallmark feature of the hypermobile type.

Infants and children with hypermobility often exhibit weak muscle tone (hypotonia), which can delay the development of motor skills such as sitting, standing, and walking. The loose joints are unstable and prone to dislocation and chronic pain.

Common Symptoms Description
Large Range of Joint Movement Joints are more flexible than normal
Weak Muscle Tone Muscles may feel softer and less firm
Delayed Motor Skills Late development of skills like sitting, standing and walking
Unstable Joints Joints may easily dislocate
Chronic Pain Long-term pain, often in the joints

Early identification of these symptoms can lead to a more efficient diagnosis process and better management of the condition. If you or a family member exhibit these symptoms, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional.

Diagnosis and Management

Navigating through the path of understanding what is hypermobility spectrum disorder, it's crucial to delve into the diagnosis and management of this condition.

Diagnostic Process

The diagnosis of hypermobility spectrum disorders is a multifaceted process. It typically involves a physical examination where the flexibility of joints is assessed, along with a skin examination. In addition to these, tests like blood tests may also be conducted to identify the specific hypermobile condition present. It's worth noting that individuals with more symptoms may be diagnosed with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which is typically more severe than hypermobility spectrum disorders.

Due to poor awareness about this condition, misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis is quite common. Hence, the journey to an accurate diagnosis can be long and complex. However, a proper diagnosis is crucial as it informs about the risk of passing the condition within a family, the prognosis, and guides the right management approach.

Treatment Options

While there is no cure for hypermobility spectrum disorders, management of symptoms is possible through a variety of treatment options and lifestyle adjustments. This includes maintaining physical activity with low-impact exercises, proper posture, taping or bracing joints for support, and considering activities like tai chi to reduce falls and pain [1].

Individuals with hypermobility spectrum disorders can also benefit from relaxation techniques, meditation, massage, and cognitive behavior therapy to alleviate pain, manage stress, and improve overall well-being. It's also recommended to maintain a sense of purpose, discuss feelings with others, and seek counseling when needed.

Additionally, treatment may involve medications for pain management, heat or cold therapy, strategies for managing fainting or lightheadedness, and adjustments in medical procedures, as individuals with this disorder may not respond typically to certain medications, such as numbing agents.

The day-to-day management of most types of hypermobility spectrum disorders is based around the right kind of exercise, physiotherapy, and pacing.

By understanding the diagnostic process and various treatment options, one can effectively manage the symptoms of hypermobility spectrum disorders and improve their quality of life.

Living with Hypermobility

Living with hypermobility spectrum disorders can present several challenges that impact daily life, from physical difficulties to impacts on mental health and relationships. Learning effective coping strategies is essential to managing these challenges and improving the quality of life.

Daily Challenges

Hypermobility spectrum disorders can lead to a myriad of daily challenges. Depending on the severity of symptoms, individuals may face obstacles in daily life and relationships with others. These challenges can range from physical discomfort due to joint hypermobility to difficulties in school and work.

In children with hypermobility spectrum disorders, symptoms can sometimes go unnoticed if they are mild. However, in severe cases, these symptoms can affect various parts of the body, leading to difficulties in school and other everyday environments.

Additionally, individuals with hypermobility often struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms such as acid reflux, nausea, and poor appetite. This can make it challenging to maintain a balanced diet and may lead to nutritional deficiencies over time [6].

Coping Strategies

Effective coping strategies play a significant role in managing the daily challenges of hypermobility spectrum disorders. These strategies can vary from person to person, but some commonly recommended methods include relaxation techniques, meditation, massage, and cognitive behavior therapy.

These strategies can help alleviate pain, manage stress, and improve overall well-being. For instance, relaxation techniques and meditation can help reduce physical discomfort and stress, while cognitive behavior therapy can provide tools to manage mental health challenges associated with living with a chronic condition.

Moreover, maintaining a sense of purpose and discussing feelings with others can provide emotional support and promote mental health. Seeking counseling can also be beneficial for individuals struggling with the emotional impact of living with hypermobility spectrum disorders.

Lastly, maintaining an appropriate diet and addressing nutritional deficiencies is crucial. It may be beneficial to consult with a nutritionist or dietitian who can provide guidance on maintaining a balanced diet that addresses individual dietary needs and challenges.

Living with hypermobility spectrum disorders can be challenging, but with the right resources and support, individuals can manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives.

Hypermobility and Associated Conditions

Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders (HSD) not only affect the flexibility of joints but can also lead to various health complications and be associated with other medical disorders. In this section, we will delve into the potential health complications associated with HSD and the related disorders that can coexist with this condition.

Potential Health Complications

Hypermobility syndromes can cause a range of health issues, including pain, fatigue, and injuries to joints and ligaments [2]. Besides these, individuals with HSD may also experience additional conditions or symptoms such as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), digestive issues like gastroparesis, irritable bowel syndrome, or gastric reflux.

Furthermore, symptoms of HSD can include abdominal cramping, anxiety, bladder problems, chronic pain, dizziness, easy bruising, fatigue, joint problems, and difficulties with skin healing. These health complications can significantly impact the quality of life for individuals with HSD, making it vital to manage the condition effectively.

Related Disorders

Although an association has been demonstrated between hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS) and HSD with many other conditions, there is not enough scientific evidence to prove that one issue causes the other.

Poor awareness of EDS often results in misdiagnosis or underdiagnosis, making the journey to diagnosis a long and complex one. Proper diagnosis is crucial for informing about the risk of passing the condition on in a family, the prognosis, and guiding the right management approach.

In conclusion, understanding the potential health complications and related disorders associated with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders is essential for individuals affected by these conditions. Proper diagnosis and effective management can significantly improve the quality of life for those living with HSD.

Nutritional Considerations

In managing Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD), nutrition plays a crucial role. Dietary choices can influence symptoms and overall health. It's necessary to consider both the potential impact of diet on symptoms and how to manage nutritional deficiencies that may arise.

Diet Impact on Symptoms

There is no universally prescribed diet for individuals with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) or Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder (HSD). The decision to exclude specific foods should be grounded in personal experiences and guided by professional advice.

Individuals with EDS and hypermobility often struggle with gastrointestinal symptoms such as acid reflux, nausea, and poor appetite, which can make it difficult to maintain adequate nutrition. Some individuals may self-impose restrictive diets to manage symptoms, but this can lead to nutritional deficiencies over time [6].

For those with gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a low FODMAP diet, which eliminates certain short-chain carbohydrates that are not well absorbed in the small intestine, may help. Studies have shown that this diet can significantly improve symptoms in individuals with hypermobility compared to a standard diet [6].

Managing Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, and iron deficiencies, can cause symptoms like fatigue in individuals with EDS and hypermobility. It is important for individuals with these conditions to monitor and address these deficiencies with the help of healthcare professionals.

Nutrient Symptoms of Deficiency
Vitamin D Fatigue, muscle weakness, bone pain
Vitamin B12 Fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite
Iron Fatigue, weakness, difficulty maintaining body temperature

Hydration and sodium intake are also crucial for individuals with hypermobility and conditions like Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). Sodium helps the body retain water, increases blood volume, and can alleviate POTS symptoms. Individuals with POTS are recommended to aim for a sodium intake of about 3,000-10,000 milligrams per day.

In conclusion, understanding and managing nutritional needs are key aspects of living with HSD. It's important for individuals with HSD to work closely with healthcare professionals to develop a comprehensive and personalized nutritional plan.


[1]: https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2021/0415/p481-s1.html

[2]: https://versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/conditions/joint-hypermobility/

[3]: https://www.ehlers-danlos.org/what-is-eds/information-on-eds/self-management/

[4]: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ehlers-danlos-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20362149

[5]: https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/condition/ehlers-danlos-syndrome/

[6]: https://www.thefibroguy.com/blog/hypermobility-diet/