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Ehlers Danlos and Joint Hypermobility

What is Ehlers Danlos Syndrome

Ehlers Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is actually a set of syndromes involving abnormalities in connective tissue. In some subtypes, it can affect the blood vessels, skin, or ligaments. We don’t know a lot about its causes but there are some genetic markers and it does tend to run in families.

What is Joint Hypermobility Syndrome

Hypermobility in a joint means excessive range of motion. If you’ve ever seen someone do the splits or bend over backwards, you can likely picture what it looks like. In joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS), several joints are able to go beyond the normal range of motion.

This may be a result of abnormal collagen from EDS or many other causes. Everyone with the hypermobility subtype of EDS has joint hypermobility, but not everyone with JHS has EDS.

How does it feel to have hypermobility

As a physiotherapist and a dancer, I have seen a lot of hypermobile joints in my day. They make for some beautiful dance moves and easy recovery from surgery. However, there’s a downside.

A joint that moves more than normal has to be stabilized by the muscles because the ligaments are too lax. The muscles work extra hard, causing fatigue and discomfort.

When the muscles aren’t active (like during sleep) or they’re not perfectly in balance, injuries can happen. People with EDS and JHS can have a history of many joint dislocations which also result in pain.

Chronic pain is common in the EDS and JHS communities. Like other joint conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, people with EDS and JHS have pain all over their bodies that goes through cycles of improvements and worsening.

What can be done

Exercises for Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and joint hypermobility syndrome can be recommended by a physiotherapist or kinesiologist who is familiar with the conditions. Oftentimes, people with hypermobility love to stretch because it feels good to relax the muscles that are working overtime. However, stretching that’s not properly done can worsen the laxity problem.

Heavy weightlifting can also put a lot of stress on the connective tissues around the joints and cause injuries. It’s best to use less weight and work on the proper techniques to build up the muscles that stabilize the joints.

Aerobic exercise releases endorphins and has been shown to help with chronic pain and fatigue. Swimming is a great option for getting a vigorous workout while minimizing impact on the joints.

Posture posture posture

You sat up when you read that, didn’t you?

Poor posture and bad ergonomics put a lot of stress on the ligaments and connective tissues. Sometimes we do it because we’re tired or just out of habit, but a lot of the time it’s due to our environment.

Desk jobs, long commutes, and tiny screens on cell phones can all contribute to poor posture. How do we counteract this?

  1. Walk or ride your bike when you can. If your work is too far away, then leave the car at home for shorter trips like to the grocery store or coffee shop.
  2. Set up your desk and chair with proper ergonomics. Blog post on this coming soon!
  3. Use an alarm to remind you to get up and move.
  4. Employ good sleep hygiene to get a good night’s rest and battle the fatigue.
  5. Do strength training to build muscle.

If you would like more information on joint hypermobility and connective tissue disorders, contact us! We’d love to hear from you.

For a physiotherapist who is familiar with these conditions and can develop an individualized program for you, book an appointment through by phone or through our online portal.

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