Joint hypermobility syndrome
Joint hypermobility syndrome is when you have very flexible joints and it causes you pain (you may think of yourself as being double-jointed).
It usually affects children and young people and often gets better as you get older.
Non-urgent advice: See a GP if you:
- often get tired, even after rest
- keep getting pain and stiffness in your joints or muscles
- keep getting sprains and strains
- keep dislocating your joints (they "pop out")
- have poor balance or co-ordination
- have thin, stretchy skin
- have bladder or bowel problems
These can be symptoms of joint hypermobility syndrome.
What happens at your GP appointment
A GP will usually test the flexibility of your joints using the Beighton score.
They may also refer you for a blood test or X-ray to help rule out any other conditions like arthritis.
Testing hypermobility – Beighton score
|bend a knee backwards||1|
|bend an elbow backwards||1|
|bend a thumb backwards to touch your forearm||1|
|bend a little finger back more than 90 degrees||1|
|while standing, put hands flat on floor while knees stay straight||1|
4 points = hypermobility likely
4 points and pain in 4 or more joints for at least 3 months = joint hypermobility syndrome likely
A doctor will also use more detailed criteria to help their diagnosis.
Treating joint hypermobility syndrome
Treating joint pain
There's no cure for joint hypermobility syndrome.
The main treatment is improving muscle strength and fitness so your joints are better protected.
A GP may refer you to a physiotherapist, occupational therapist or podiatrist for specialist advice.
You can also pay for these services privately.
These physical therapies can help to:
- reduce pain and the risk of dislocations
- improve muscle strength and fitness
- improve your posture and balance
Speak to a pharmacist about the best painkiller for you.
A GP may be able to prescribe stronger painkillers.
If you're in severe pain, a GP may be able to refer you to a pain clinic to help you cope with pain.
To help ease joint pain and stiffness, you can:
- have warm baths
- use hot water bottles
- use heat-rub cream
Joint care you can do yourself
If you have joint hypermobility syndrome, there are things you can do to improve joint and muscle strength and reduce strain.
do not overextend your joints just because you can
do not do repetitive exercises or activities – take regular breaks (called pacing)
Joint hypermobility syndrome in children
What causes joint hypermobility syndrome
Joint hypermobility syndrome can run in families and it cannot be prevented.
Usually, the joints are loose and stretchy because the ligaments that should make them stronger and support them are weak.
The weakness is because the collagen that strengthens the ligaments is different from other people's.
Most experts agree that joint hypermobility syndrome is part of a spectrum of hypermobility disorders which includes Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Some people with hypermobility spectrum disorders do not have symptoms.
Page last reviewed: 6 November 2020
Next review due: 6 November 2023