'Double-jointed' teens may experience pain later in life

May 2, 2013

Topic: orthopaedic research

'Double-jointed' teens may experience pain later in life

Some people are born with the ability to move their joints beyond the normal range of motion with little effort, and may be diagnosed by their healthcare providers with benign hypermobility syndrome. Despite the fact that the condition commonly affects healthy people, new orthopaedic research published in Arthritis and Rheumatism reveals that "double-jointed" young individuals may be at an increased risk for joint pain later in life.

Some examples of affected joints include little fingers that bend backward to a 90-degree angle, thumbs that bend to forearms, and elbows and knees that hyperextend 10 degrees beyond neutral.

Forty-five percent of patients experience discomfort
Researchers from the U.K. analyzed data from 1,267 boys and 1,634 girls from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Among the 5 percent of subjects who were diagnosed as hypermobile when they were 14 years old, 45 percent of them reported some kind of musculoskeletal pain. Ultimately, they discovered that the condition is associated with a two-fold increased risk of discomfort in the shoulder, knee, ankle and foot joints. The likelihood is significantly greater for individuals who are obese.

"Our study provides the first prospective evidence that adolescents who display joint hypermobility are at increased risk of developing musculoskeletal pain as they get older, particularly in the shoulder, knee, ankle or feet," said lead author John Tobias, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Bristol. "Further investigation of increased joint pain in teens is warranted to determine if the long-term effects of joint hypermobility puts them at risk for developing osteoarthritis later in life."

Seeking guidance early from orthopaedists is key
According to the National Institutes of health, hypermobile joints can lead to arthritis and dislocations, as well as sprains and strains. While it tends to occur in perfectly healthy children, it can result from rare medical conditions, such as cleidocranial dysostosis, Down syndrome, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Marfan syndrome and Morquio syndrome.

There is not much that affected individuals can do to decrease the hypermobility of their joints. However, depending on the severity of their condition, patients may seek physical therapy services to strengthen their joints and learn how to prevent hyperextension, alter their lifestyle to alleviate discomfort and take pain reliever when need be.

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