Hypermobile Joints Information Sheet

Information Sheet for parents

Hypermobile Joints Information Sheet

Children with hypermobility joints have too much movement in the joints.  This can occur with just a couple of joints or all joints.  A joint is the place on the body where two bones meet.  All joints have a cavity containing a small amount of fluid which allows movement to happen.  The attached tendons, muscles, ligaments and joint capsule hold the joint in its correct position.  Looseness of these supporting structures allows a joint to have extra movement.

To illustrate how a joint works, think of a door hinge and a door stop.  The hinge is like the joint and the door stop prevents the door from swinging too far and damaging the wall.  Likewise a joint with supporting structures that are too loose or stretched will allow extra movement past the normal range of motion.

Generalised joint hypermobility affects each individual differently.  For some individuals there is no impact from having hypermobile joints and for others they may experience some of the symptoms described below.  It is important to note that these symptoms may only be mildly experienced by some and more significantly by others.

 

  • Fatigue - Children may complain of a general fatigue, because they are working very hard to maintain positions and move due to laxity in the joints.  Children may also experience joint or muscle fatigue.
  • Pain - Children can experience joint pain, again because their joints and muscles are working harder to stabilise the joint and move throughout the day.  Repetitive activities may cause pain due to the muscle fatigue and should be paced and regular rest breaks scheduled.
  • Poor Concentration - Children may appear less coordinated and have more accidents than their peers.
  • Difficulty with Activities - Children may have difficulties with pencil grip, managing clothes fastening or manipulating objects.  They may be slower to complete activities than their peers.
  • Knowing Where Joints Are In Space - Children may have difficulties feeling where their bodies are without looking as the proprioceptive receptors which send this information to the brain are located in our joints.

 

Strategies

Joint Protection

  • Encourage your child to have regular movement breaks in order to mobilise all their joints.
  • Learn to understand and respect any pain.  Understand the difference between general discomfort and the pain from over using a joint.  By noting the activity that stressed a joint you can help the child to learn to avoid repeating that movement.
  • Encourage your child to be careful how they use their hands.  Fingers are used in many day-to-day activities.  Stressful positions and techniques may increase the risk of putting extra stress on joints.  Most tasks can be performed in easier ways, which put less force on the joints.
  • If a child is carrying items, encourage them to make several small trips rather than carrying one very heavy item.  When in secondary school it would be beneficial for young people to use a locker rather than carry out all their belongings.
  • Avoid your child demonstrating the 'party trick' of over stretching their joints!

 

Good Body Mechanics

The way that your carry your body largely affects how much strain you put on your joints.  Proper body mechanics allow you to use your body more efficiently and conserve energy.

  • When sitting at a desk the child's feet should be flat on the floor, the thighs and forearms should be horizontal and the desk just below elbow height.
  • During long periods of keyboard use consider using a keyboard wrist support.
  • An angled work surface is easier on the neck position.
  • When standing, the work surface height should enable the child to work comfortably without stooping.
  • Increase the height of the chair to reduce stress on the hips and knees.
  • Carry heavy objects close to the chest, supporting the weight on your forearms.
  • Use a backpack with padded straps for carrying school books.  This distributes weight evenly.
  • Pack heavier items closest to the back of the bag.

 

Use the Strongest Joint Available For the Job

Save your weaker/more mobile joints for specific jobs that only they can accomplish.  Throughout the day favour large joints, for example

  • Carry object over your forearm rather than in your hand.
  • Slide objects along a counter or workbench rather than lifting them.

 

Avoid keeping joints in the same position for a prolonged period of time

  • Don't give joints a chance to become stiff, this can cause discomfort, keep them moving.
  • Move throughout the day, even if experiencing aches and pains this will help.
  • When writing or doing hand work release the grip every 5-10 minutes.
  • Whilst watching TV get up and move around every half hour.
  • Discourage the child from resting their head on their hands when sitting at the desk, have a movement break instead.

 

Balance Periods of Rest and Activity during the Day

  • Effectively managing the workload throughout the day can help avoid overworking/tiring joints.  Balancing activities throughout the week can also help to manage fatigue levels.
  • Remember making a lot of small adaptations to workload/tasks throughout the day will accumulate and can have a positive impact on managing fatigue.
  • Prioritise tasks/work - "what tasks must I complete today and which can wait until tomorrow?".
  • Encourage your child to work at a steady moderate pace and avoid rushing.
  • Allow rest periods if your child becomes fatigued or sore.
  • Alternate light and heavier work throughout the day.
  • Take regular stretch breaks.

 

Pain Management

If your child experiences any pain or discomfort the following can help:

  • Heat or Ice: Warm baths, hot water bottles or heat packs can help relax muscles.  Ice can reduce inflammation.

  • Distraction Techniques:  Focusing on pain will make it feel worse so help your child to keep their minds busy with activities to distract them.
  • Visit the GP:  If the pain isn't manageable or if it continues in a specific joint over a period of time.

 

Strengthen

  • Encourage regular low impact strengthening activities such as swimming, children's yoga, Pilates or walking.  These are all helpful to generally improve joint strength.

  • Avoid inactivity.
  • Being overweight can add extra stress on joints.

 

School

When your child is at their desk ensure that feet are flat on the floor, thighs and forearms are horizontal and the desk is just below elbow height.

Using a desk slope can further improve wrist position for writing.  Older children may prefer to use a large ring binder folder as an angled surface.

Children may need to move around a lot and rather than sitting still may fidget.  This will reduce the risk of discomfort and should be allowed.

Having an ice cold bottle of water for your child to hold may help to reduce hand pain during writing tasks.

Writing may be hard work for children with hypermobile joints.  Using chunky pens may help with grip and regular rest breaks are useful to reduce fatigue/discomfort.  Completing hand warm ups before handwriting may also help, they can also be used at regular intervals during writing activities to reduce discomfort from the static writing grip. 

Try some of the following:
  • Pull at fingers gently.
  • Praying position - push hands together, holding hands close to chest.
  • Monkey grips - pull hands apart.
  • Finger taps - tap fingers on a table top.  You can ask you child to imitate different sequences.
  • Finger separation - spread fingers as far apart as possible.
  • Finger flicks - on a table top, as if flicking something with each individual finger.
  • Shake hands to relax.
  • Pencil walks - holding the pencil with a tripod grip then walking fingers up the pencil shaft and back down again using writing hand only.
  • Pencil flick - holding the pencil with a tripod grasp then flick the pencil forward and upside down, then flick it back into tripod grip ready for writing.
  • Pencil pecks - hold the pencil with a tripod grasp, using small hand movements peck' the pencil forwards and backwards.
  • Blu Tack games - (with writing hand to encourage pincer grasp); pull blu tack into pieces using index finger and thumb only; make a 'spiky snake' by rolling the blue tack into a snake shape then pinching spikes using thumb and index finger only; rolling into a ball then squashing the ball as flat as possible using thumb and index finger only.

Reducing the volume of writing your child is expected to produce will help to reduce fatigue and promote improved quality of written work for short written tasks.  Increasing the child's access to Information Technology (IT) in order to type longer pieces of work should be implemented.  Talk to text technology may also be helpful if fatigue occurs during typing.  Adapting other learning tasks will also help to manage fatigue throughout the day.  For example pre-printed maths sheets or allowing the child to use key words as answers rather that writing sentences.

Have a plan to allow children to rest if they get over tired at school or experience discomfort.  Having alternative activities pre-planned for the child to access during rest times may be helpful.

 

Physical Education (PE)

Unless told otherwise children should participate as much as they can in PE.  This will help keep joints strong to reduce pain.  Make sure they always wear supportive sports shoes with cushioned soles rather than bare feet.  Reduce high impact sports if your child is experiencing discomfort.

 

Self Care


If children are struggling with dressing, fastenings or holding cutlery there are many adaptive strategies that may assist them such as Velcro or elastic laces.

Using pipe lagging to build up the grips of cutlery handles can help.

 
Remember - Not all children will need to implement any/all of these strategies.  Implement strategies based upon what you observe your child to require.  You do not have to make all of these changes at once.  By gradually incorporating some of these methods into day-to-day activities improvements can be achieved in relation to any fatigue or discomfort.

Further Resources and Information on desk slopes, cushions and pencil grips can be found at:

   

Adaptive cutlery or fastenings:

  
Further information on hypermobility can be found here: