Hypermobility (Juvenile): Symptoms, Treatment

Overview

Hypermobility, or hypermobility joint syndrome, is a condition that joints can easily move beyond the normal range. Hypermobile joints are sometimes referred to as “loose joints,” and those affected are referred to as being “double jointed.” Hypermobility tends to be an inherited problem. It can cause pain in the joints or muscle of knees, fingers, hips and elbows.

Hypermobility is a common joint or muscle problem in children and young adults. It is estimated that 10%-15% of normal children have this condition. Typically, girls are more hypermobile than boys. It seems to happen more often in Asian-American children than in Caucasian children, and it is least common in African-American children.


Cause

The exact cause of hypermobility is unclear, but it tends to run in families. Experts believe that genes responsible for producing collagen, an important protein for functions of joint, tendon and ligament, play a role in hypermobility.

Syndromes associated with hypermobility, like Marfan or Ehlers-Danlos, usually are genetic disorders that are passed from parents to their children. Often, children with Down syndrome will be hypermobile.


Symptoms

Some children with hypermobility may have no obvious symptoms, while others may experience joint or muscle pain, usually in the calf, thigh, knees or elbows. Mild swelling in these joints may occur in the late afternoon or evening, or after exercise and activity. Generally, joint and muscle pain can relieve with rest.

In addition to pain, children with hypermobility are more prone to:

  • Joint dislocation
  • Joint sprains
  • Soft tissue injury in the affected joint
  • Curvature of the spine, causing pain in the back


Diagnosis

There has been no blood test for hypermobility yet. Doctors often make diagnosis depending on a physical examination of the affected joints. They will check if the joints can move easily beyond the normal range expected. Specific tests include:

  • The little fingers can be extended back beyond 90 degrees.
  • The wrist and thumb can be moved downward to the point that the thumb can touch the forearm.
  • The knees are bowed backward abnormally when viewed from the side.
  • The arms bend further than normal when fully extended.
  • The patient can put their palms on the floor with the knees straight when bending.

Sometimes the symptoms of hypermobility can mimic arthritis, so you may need to get lab tests to make sure your child doesn’t have a more serious disorder (such as juvenile arthritis or other inflammatory conditions).


Treatment

Often hypermobility causes no symptoms and requires no treatment. Many children with hypermobility improve in adulthood. Treatments are customized for every patient based on their particular manifestations and severity.

Patients should learn to strength the muscle around loose joints. In some cases, doctors may recommend splints, braces, or taping to protect affected joints. Protecting the affected joints is important in hypermobility cases. Specific tips include:

  • Stand with knees slightly bent
  • Avoid extreme range of motion
  • Avoid sitting cross-legged
  • Wear shoes with good arch supports

Some over-the-counter medications may help relieve the joint and muscle pain, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen or naproxen. Your children can take these medications before or after exercises.


Keyword: hypermobility.


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What are the Symptoms of Down Syndrome?

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.