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Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders
Hypermobility spectrum disorders, also known as joint hypermobility syndromes or Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS), are a group of genetic connective tissue disorders that affect the joints, ligaments, and other connective tissues in the body. These disorders are characterized by excessive joint mobility, often beyond the normal range of motion. At Aspen Integrative Medical Center, Dr. Alexandra Mele specializes in determining if your hypermobility spectrum disorder is congenital, acquired, and/or which epigenetic factors activated your condition. Determining the underlying causes and pathological changes is the first step in treatment management.
What are the symptoms of hypermobility spectrum disorders?
The primary feature of hypermobility spectrum disorders is joint hypermobility, which refers to joints that can move beyond their normal limits. This increased flexibility can affect multiple joints throughout the body, including the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. Some individuals with hypermobility spectrum disorders may also have joints that are prone to dislocation or subluxation (partial dislocation).
In addition to joint hypermobility, individuals with hypermobility spectrum disorders may experience various symptoms and complications, which can vary in severity. These may include:
- Joint pain: Frequent joint pain, stiffness, and muscle aches are common symptoms.
- Joint instability: Joints may feel unstable or “give way” easily, leading to recurrent injuries or dislocations.
- Soft tissue injuries: Increased joint flexibility can put stress on the supporting ligaments, tendons, and muscles, leading to sprains, strains, and other soft tissue injuries.
- Chronic fatigue: Many people experience persistent fatigue and low energy levels.
- Joint clicking or popping: Joints may make audible sounds during movement due to lax ligaments.
- Skin and tissue involvement: Some forms of hypermobility spectrum disorders can affect the skin, leading to features such as stretchy or fragile skin, easy bruising, and delayed wound healing.
- Gastrointestinal issues: Some individuals may experience digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).
- Dysautonomia (aka autonomic dysfunction): In certain cases, hypermobility spectrum disorders can involve dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, leading to symptoms like dizziness, fainting, and postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
How are hypermobility spectrum disorders diagnosed?
It’s important to note that hypermobility disorders are a spectrum of conditions, ranging from mild joint hypermobility without significant symptoms to more severe forms associated with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. Diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive evaluation of medical history, physical examination, and sometimes genetic testing.
How are hypermobility spectrum disorders treated?
Management of hypermobility spectrum disorders often includes a combination of strategies such as physical therapy to strengthen muscles and stabilize joints, pain management techniques, joint protection strategies, and lifestyle modifications. Additionally, healthcare professionals may provide guidance on managing specific symptoms and preventing complications.