Benign Hypermobility

What is benign hypermobility?

Benign hypermobility is described as looseness of the joints that allows the joints to move more than what it is suppose to.

To better understand this, a joint is where two bones meet with fluid in between to allow it to move. The joint is also surrounded by tissues such as muscles, ligaments and tendons. When the surrounding tissues are loose, it allows the joint to move more than usual and leads to this condition.

Who is affected by benign hypermobility?

  • Girls tend to be more affected than boys and younger children more than teenagers.
  • In general it is found in 7 to 40 percent of school-going children.
  • There is often a family history of “loose-jointedness.”

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Children or teenagers with hypermobility tend to show no pain when doing these excessive bending of the joints.
  • There also appears to be no long-term damage to these joints.
  • If pain occurs, your child may have benign hypermobility syndrome and you should consult your doctor for further information.
  • There are certain conditions where hypermobility may be associated with other conditions such as increased skin laxity, defect in the heart valves or eye problems. If your child has any of these associated conditions, your child may need further evaluation by your doctor as it may be due to these other conditions.

How is benign hypermobility diagnosed?

You can do 5 specific mobility tests listed below to check whether your child or teenager has benign hypermobility :

  1. The thumb can be bent downwards at the wrist joint so the thumb touches the forearm.
  2. The fingers (especially the little finger) can be bent backwards so they are more than 90 degrees to the back of the hand.
  3. When standing up straight, the knees are abnormally bent backwards when viewed from the side.
  4. When the arms are fully straightened to the front, the arms bend downwards more than normal (beyond straight) when viewed from the side.
  5. While standing with the knees straight, the child or teenager can bend forwards at the waist and put his or her palms flat on the floor.

Some children who experience joint hipermobil might be able to make all of the above movement, but some children may only be able to do one or more of the above-mentioned movement.

How is benign hypermobility treated?

  • There is no treatment as most children grow out of it as they grow older when the muscles and joints become stronger.
  • Physical therapy specifically strengthening certain muscle groups and regular exercise such as swimming, walking and cycling are helpful to improve joint strength.

What is the outlook?

  • Children with loose joints often do well in activities that “reward” flexibility, such as cheerleading, modern dance, gymnastics and ballet. However, decreasing or stopping some of these activities may be necessary if the child exhibits pain.
  • Benign hypermobility rarely leads to arthritis later in life.
  • Some of them may develop shoulder or kneecap problems if they perform these excessive bending till the joints dislocate. Care must be given to not overdo it.
  • In studies of older people who were hypermobile when they were young, it seems that they function better physically compared to those without hypermobility.
  • Generally, the outlook for benign hypermobility is positive if care is given to the joints.
Last Reviewed : 03 January 2014
Writer : Dr. Cham Weng Tarng