Many people pursue fitness training so that they can be stronger and more flexible, but for a subgroup of the population, flexibility comes naturally. This phenomenon is referred to as hypermobility, double-jointedness, or having loose joints. Some examples include people who can bend their thumbs all the way back to touch their wrists and others who can place their legs behind their heads. These super abilities can leave you spellbound. For the more extreme cases, these skills are often utilized for careers in entertainment such as contortion. Perhaps you have wondered about the causes and possible implications of being double-jointed. This article contains the answer to these and other questions.
Hypermobility, or double-jointedness, is the term used when someone has highly flexible joints. They have the ability to stretch their joints farther than normal. This can be seen in one or multiple joints in their body. This is quite common, and an estimated 10-25 percent of the population is double-jointed in some way. The extent varies and can lead to anything from hypermobile fingers and thumbs to being able to bend one’s knee joints backward. The term “double-jointed” is not to be taken in a literal sense because being hypermobility does not mean having double or extra joints.
Causes of Hypermobility
There are a number of possible causes of hypermobility. In some cases, the double-jointed person has abnormally shaped ends of one or more of their bones at a joint. It can also be caused by a defect in the connective tissue such as collagen. The result of this is weakened tendons, muscles, bones, and ligaments. There are a number of medical conditions associated with this. A third possible cause of hypermobility is an impairment in one’s ability to monitor and locate joints and body parts in space. This is called abnormal joint proprioception. It is also believed that there is a genetic link associated with hypermobility because the characteristic tends to run in the family.
Effects of Being Double-jointed
While some people have hypermobility linked to certain health conditions and various syndromes, for most, there are no further symptoms associated with the ability. Among the healthy part of the population, an estimated five percent have at least one hypermobile joint.
For those that do have associated health conditions, this is known as joint hypermobility syndrome. This is when the unstable joints lead to a number of other conditions. Joint hypermobility syndrome has, in the past, been likened and equated to a condition known as Ehlers–Danlos syndrome hypermobile type or EDS Type 3. In the last few years, scientists have differentiated the conditions by putting stricter diagnosis criteria on the latter.
Joint hypermobility syndrome has many signs and symptoms. These include joint, knee, and back pain. Fatigue and a higher chance of getting injured when doing physical activity are also associated with this syndrome. Finally, dislocations and other joint conditions are common.
There are various treatment options for joint hypermobility syndrome and associated conditions. Physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are some of the options.
Contortion and Hypermobility
When you think of extreme flexibility, your first thought might be of a contortionist performing an unbelievable act. Contortion is a form of performance art. It is often seen in various acts at the circus, in acrobatics, in the street, and other places where there is a ready audience. Contortionists can bend their bodies in amazing ways that display their extreme physical flexibility.
It follows that being naturally hypermobile is a huge asset for someone looking to get into contortion. Contortion requires a lot of strength and flexibility training, but you don’t necessarily have to be naturally hypermobile to master a lot of their poses and movements.