At first glance, you might think that being double-jointed is a blessing. After all, it means having a greater range of motion and flexibility in some or all of your joints. That can provide a definite advantage if you’re an athlete, a competitive gymnast, a professional dancer or a musician, or just someone who loves yoga.
But double-jointedness (aka joint hypermobility) can also be a curse when it leads to joint pain and injury.
One’s range of motion is often determined by genetic factors related to bones and cartilage, the protective tissue in the joint. How do you know if you’re double-jointed? Here’s a simple way – known as the Beighton Test – to assess your hypermobility:
- Stand with your knees straight. If you can bend forward from your waist and place your hands flat on the floor, give yourself one point.
- If you can bend one or both of your elbows slightly backward, add a point to your score.
- If you can bend one or both of your thumbs down until they touch your inner arm, add a point for each thumb.
- If you can bend one or both of your other fingers back beyond 90 degrees, add a point for each finger.
- If you can bend one or both of your knees backward slightly, add a point for each knee.
Not many people have the ability to do even one of those things. If you can do at least four of them, it means your joints are so flexible you can probably do splits or contort your body like a pretzel into unusual shapes.
However, it could also mean you’re at greater risk for chronic joint pain, overstretched tendons, and dislocated joints. In fact, numerous studies have found that hypermobile athletes and dancers are more prone to injuries, especially knee damage sustained during contact sports.
In some rare cases, people who are abnormally flexible can develop a condition known as hypermobility syndrome. It causes connective tissue to reposition itself in another part of the body, thereby causing asthma, irritable bowel, or some other health problem. More often, those afflicted with unstable joints are susceptible to frequent sprains, tendinitis, or bursitis when performing activities that wouldn’t affect people who aren’t double-jointed.
If being double-jointed causes chronic joint pain, you should consult your doctor or rheumatologist. They can evaluate your conditions and refer you to a physical therapist who can help reduce your risk of injury by prescribing strengthening exercises aimed at stabilizing your joints. Other therapeutic activities can also improve your balance and coordination.
If your joint pain is keeping you from doing the things you enjoy, you may be considering orthopedic surgery. Seek out a reputable, board-certified and fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon who can educate you about your options. The staff at Orthopaedic Associates utilizes both cutting-edge therapies and traditional treatments to address a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call (440) 892-1440.