Many people with hypermobile joints have few or no problems from their condition.
Being hypermobile does not necessarily mean you will have pain or difficulty. If you have symptoms, it is likely you have joint hypermobility syndrome.
Joint hypermobility syndrome can cause:
- joint pains, particularly after physical work or exercise – due to overstretching of the joint capsule (the structure that surrounds the joint) and ligaments (tough bands that link two bones together at a joint)
- muscle aches and pains because your muscles have to work harder with supple joints
- back pain and neck pain
- a tendency to bruise easily
- pain that gets worse through the day and better at night, after you have rested
- fatigue (extreme tiredness)
- night pains in children
Joint hypermobility syndrome can be caused by changes in your collagen (a protein in connective tissue). You may also have other related conditions or symptoms, as collagen is found throughout your body.
If you have joint hypermobility that is part of another condition, such as Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (stretchy skin and easy bruising), you may also have additional symptoms. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type III, also called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome hypermobility type, is the same as joint hypermobility syndrome.
See joint hypermobility – causes for more information about the role of collagen and other conditions that can cause hypermobility.
Digestive system symptoms
Joint hypermobility syndrome can cause symptoms that affect your digestive system. A series of muscles squeeze food through your digestive system.
In joint hypermobility syndrome, these muscles may be weaker than they should be and this leads to food progressing more slowly though your digestive system. This can cause a range of symptoms including:
- stomach acid leaking from your stomach to your gullet, causing symptoms such as heartburn (a burning sensation or discomfort in the chest)
- your stomach having difficulty emptying its contents into the small bowel, which can cause bloating and nausea (gastroparesis)
- an overgrowth of bacteria in your bowels – this may cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, bloating and cramps
- not being able to pass stools (faeces) as often as you usually do, or having to strain more than usual (constipation)
- irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) – a disorder that affects the digestive system, causing tummy pain, diarrhoea and constipation
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
Joint hypermobility syndrome can cause abnormalities in part of your nervous system that controls the bodily functions you do not actively think about, such as the beating of your heart. This is called your autonomic nervous system.
These abnormalities can cause problems when you stand up or sit in the same position for a while. Your blood pressure can drop to low levels, making you feel sick, dizzy and sweaty. You may also faint.
In some people, these abnormalities can lead to postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). POTS causes your pulse rate to increase rapidly within 10 minutes of standing up. You may also experience:
- dizziness or fainting
- tummy upsets
- a sensation of anxiety
- purple puffy fingers and feet
- a pounding or fluttering heart beat (heart palpitations)
People with joint hypermobility syndrome may have other related conditions and further symptoms including:
- stress incontinence – a type of urinary incontinence that occurs because the pelvic floor muscles are too weak to prevent accidental urination
- hernias – an internal part of the body, such as an organ, pushes through a weakness in the muscle or surrounding tissue wall
- varicose veins – swollen and enlarged veins, usually blue or dark purple
- flat feet – where the inner part of your feet (the arch) is not raised off the ground when you stand
- drooping eyelids
- thin or stretchy skin
- bluish tinge to the white part of the eyes (sclerae)
- a sense of anxiety – feelings of unease or worry
If you have joint hypermobility syndrome, you may be at increased risk of injuring your joints – for example, by partially or completely dislocating them (when the joint comes out of its correct position). Joints, particularly the shoulder or knee-cap, can dislocate if overstretched.
A dislocated joint will need to be moved back into place, usually in hospital, in a procedure called a reduction. Some people with joint hypermobility syndrome may be able to put their joints back into place themselves. However, you should still seek medical attention if you have dislocated a joint.
You may also be at increased risk of soft tissue injuries such as:
- tenosynovitis – inflammation (swelling) of the protective sheath around a tendon (the tough, rubbery cords that link muscles to bones)
- bursitis – inflammation of a bursa (a small, fluid-filled sac found over the joints and between tendons and bones)
- epicondylitis (tennis elbow) – a condition that affects the outside of the elbow, causing swelling and pain