Best hypermobility exercises for your stability
Hypermobility exercises may seem simple, but they can start to stabilize the core, work on your pelvis, work on your hips, and make your pain dissipate!
If you've ever marveled at the incredible flexibility of a gymnast or a dancer, you've witnessed hypermobility in action. But what happens when this extraordinary flexibility becomes a challenge in everyday life? That's what we're here to explore.
Hypermobility isn't just about being able to bend and twist into impressive positions; it's a complex condition that affects many people, often without them even realizing it. For some, it's a hidden talent, a party trick to show off to friends. For others, it can be a source of ongoing pain and discomfort, impacting daily activities and overall quality of life.
In this article, we're diving deep into the world of hypermobility. We'll explore what it really means to be hypermobile, the causes behind it, and the symptoms that might have you saying, "Hey, that sounds like me!"
But most importantly, we're going to focus on the best exercises to help manage hypermobility. These aren't just random stretches or workouts; these are carefully chosen activities designed to bring stability and strength to those super-flexible joints.
What is hypermobility?
So, what exactly is hypermobility? At its core, hypermobility is all about joints that stretch farther than usual. It's like having elastic bands for ligaments, giving you the ability to perform movements and stretches that many can only dream of. But it's not just about being bendy; hypermobility is a spectrum, and for some, it can be more of a bane than a boon.
Imagine a door hinge – ideally, it should move smoothly, opening and closing to just the right angle. Now, picture a hinge that swings too freely, moving beyond its intended path. That's akin to what happens in hypermobile joints. They can extend beyond the normal range, which, while it might sound cool, can sometimes lead to joint pain, frequent injuries, and other complications.
Hypermobility can be a standalone trait – something you're born with that doesn't really cause any issues. In fact, in certain fields like gymnastics, ballet, or even yoga, it's often seen as an advantage.
However, it can also be part of a broader condition, such as Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (JHS) or Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS). These conditions are a bit more complex and involve a constellation of symptoms beyond just flexible joints.
Understanding hypermobility is crucial because it's not just about flexibility. It's about how your body supports and moves with that flexibility. It's a fascinating mix of biology and mechanics, a unique trait that makes your body distinct. But like any superpower, it comes with its own set of challenges. And that's what we're here to tackle – turning this unique trait into a strength, not a setback.
Causes of hypermobility
Now, let's unravel the mystery behind what causes hypermobility. It's like piecing together a puzzle where genetics and environment both play a role. Understanding these causes not only helps in managing hypermobility better but also brings a sense of clarity to those who live with it.
First up, genetics. Hypermobility often runs in families, passed down like an heirloom through generations. If your parents or grandparents could easily do the splits or bend their fingers into seemingly impossible positions, there's a good chance you've inherited this trait.
This genetic link is due to variations in certain genes responsible for collagen production – a key protein that affects the elasticity and strength of your ligaments and tendons.
But it's not all about what you inherit. Environmental factors, though less significant, can influence hypermobility too. For instance, a child engaging in activities that require extreme flexibility, like gymnastics or dance, might develop a greater range of motion in their joints over time.
However, it's important to note that these activities don't cause hypermobility; they can just enhance the flexibility in someone who's already predisposed to it.
Interestingly, hypermobility can also be a feature of other medical conditions. Conditions like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) or Marfan Syndrome, both connective tissue disorders, often include hypermobility as a symptom. In these cases, hypermobility is just one part of a broader medical picture.
Symptoms of hypermobility
Recognizing the symptoms of hypermobility is like learning to read the subtle signals your body sends you. While the primary sign is, of course, an increased range of motion in the joints, there's more to hypermobility than just being extra bendy. Let's dive into the other, less talked about symptoms that can come with this flexible trait.
Joint pain is a common companion of hypermobility, often sneaking up after prolonged or intense physical activity. It's like your joints are protesting the extra work they have to do to keep up with your flexibility. This pain can range from a mild, nagging ache to more severe discomfort, and it's particularly noticeable in weight-bearing joints like the knees and hips.
Then there's the issue of joint instability. Imagine a door that swings a little too freely on its hinges; that's what it's like for hypermobile joints. This instability can lead to frequent sprains, strains, or even dislocations, especially in the ankles, wrists, and shoulders. It's as if your joints are a bit too eager to move, sometimes going further than they should.
Fatigue is another symptom that often flies under the radar. When your joints are more flexible, your muscles have to work harder to stabilize them. This extra effort can leave you feeling unusually tired, especially after physical activities that put a strain on your joints.
Some individuals with hypermobility also experience other symptoms like digestive issues, dizziness, or even problems with their heart rate. These are less common but important to be aware of, especially if you're considering a broader condition like Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.
It's crucial to remember that hypermobility affects everyone differently. While one person might experience several of these symptoms, another might have none at all. The key is to listen to your body and seek medical advice if you're concerned about any symptoms you're experiencing. Understanding your body's unique language helps you better manage hypermobility and maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.
4 exercises for hypermobility
Embarking on an exercise routine when you're hypermobile can feel like navigating uncharted waters. The key is to focus on stability and strength, rather than pushing your flexibility even further.
Let's explore some exercises that are not just effective but also safe for those with hypermobility.
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These are the cornerstone of managing hypermobility. They help in reinforcing the muscles around your joints, providing them with the support they need. Think of them as your body's own natural brace.
Exercises like Pilates and yoga, when done with a focus on alignment and control, can be incredibly beneficial. For instance, a simple plank, held with proper form, strengthens your core, which is vital for overall stability. Here are some example of stability exercises that good for hypermobility:
A fundamental stability exercise. Lie face down, then lift your body on your toes and forearms, keeping your body a straight line from head to heels. Engage your core and hold this position. It strengthens the core, which is crucial for overall body stability.
2. Leg lifts
Lie on your back with your legs straight. Lift one leg at a time, keeping it straight, to about a 45-degree angle, then lower it slowly. This exercise strengthens the hip flexors and core, providing stability to the lower back and pelvis.
3. Bird dog
Start on your hands and knees. Extend one arm forward and the opposite leg back, keeping both straight. Hold for a few seconds, then switch sides. This exercise improves core stability and balance, essential for spinal and pelvic alignment.
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Building muscle strength is crucial for hypermobile individuals. It's about creating a supportive framework for your flexible joints. Resistance training, using light weights or resistance bands, can be highly effective.
Exercises like leg curls, arm curls, and gentle squats not only build strength but also teach your body how to move with better control. Remember, the goal here is not to lift heavy but to focus on controlled, stable movements. Here are some example of strengthening exercises that good for hypermobility:
1. Leg curls
Use a leg curl machine or a resistance band. Lie face down and curl your legs towards your buttocks, then slowly extend them back. This strengthens the hamstrings, crucial for knee joint stability.
2. Arm curls
Can be done with light dumbbells or resistance bands. Hold the weights with palms facing forward and elbows close to your torso. Curl the weights towards your shoulders, then lower them back down. This exercise strengthens the biceps, important for elbow joint stability.
3. Gentle squats
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your body as if sitting back in a chair, keeping your knees behind your toes. Then, rise back up. This strengthens your thighs and glutes, which are key for lower body support.
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Flexibility and balance exercises
While it might seem counterintuitive to work on flexibility when you're already flexible, the focus here is on controlled, safe stretching. It's about maintaining your range of motion without overextending.
Balance exercises, like standing on one leg or using a balance board, also play a crucial role. They improve your proprioception – your body's ability to sense its position in space, which is often a challenge in hypermobility. Here are some example of Flexibility and balance exercises that good for hypermobility:
1. Controlled stretching
Focus on gentle stretches without pushing to the point of pain. For example, a hamstring stretch where you reach towards your toes, but only until you feel a mild pull, not pain.
2. Balance board exercises
Standing on a balance board helps improve proprioception. Try to stand on the board, maintaining balance for as long as possible. This enhances your body’s ability to sense its position and movement, which is often compromised in hypermobility.
3. Tai Chi or gentle yoga
These practices involve slow, controlled movements and poses that enhance flexibility, balance, and body awareness. They're excellent for maintaining a safe range of motion and improving joint stability.
Low-impact cardio exercises like swimming, cycling, or walking can be great for overall fitness without putting too much strain on your joints. They also help in improving endurance and cardiovascular health, which is essential for a well-rounded fitness regime.
A low-impact exercise that doesn’t put strain on the joints. It helps in building endurance and overall muscle strength.
Another low-impact cardio option. It strengthens the leg muscles without putting excessive pressure on the knees and hips.
A simple yet effective low-impact cardiovascular exercise. It can be done anywhere and helps in building endurance and leg strength.
4. Elliptical trainer
This machine offers a low-impact cardiovascular workout that minimises stress on the joints while providing a good aerobic exercise.
When incorporating these exercises into your routine, it's important to start slow and listen to your body. Hypermobility means your joints are more prone to injury, so it's crucial to focus on form and alignment. Working with a physical therapist or a trainer who understands hypermobility can also provide you with personalised guidance.
Tips & Guidelines for Strengthening
When it comes to strengthening exercises for hypermobility, it's not just about what you do, but how you do it. Here are some essential tips and guidelines to ensure your strengthening journey is both effective and safe.
Quality Over Quantity: Focus on the quality of each movement rather than the number of repetitions or the amount of weight. It's better to do fewer reps with correct form than more reps incorrectly. This approach reduces the risk of joint strain and helps build true strength.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race: With hypermobility, your joints are more vulnerable to injury, so avoid rushing through exercises. Slow, controlled movements ensure that your muscles, rather than your joints, are doing the work. This deliberate pace also helps in building muscle endurance.
Consistency is Key: Regular, consistent exercise is more beneficial than sporadic, intense workouts. Aim for a balanced routine that you can maintain over time. Consistency helps in gradually building strength and reduces the risk of injury.
Listen to Your Body: Hypermobility can vary greatly from person to person, so what works for one individual may not work for another. Pay attention to how your body responds to different exercises. If something causes pain or discomfort, modify the exercise or seek advice from a physical therapist.
Avoid Overstretching: While stretching is important, be cautious not to overstretch. Your joints are already more flexible, so focus on stretching to maintain mobility rather than increase it. Gentle, controlled stretches are more beneficial than deep, forceful ones.
Incorporate Core Stability: A strong core is vital for overall stability and balance. Incorporate exercises like planks or pelvic tilts that strengthen your core without putting undue stress on your joints.
Seek Professional Guidance: If you're new to exercising with hypermobility, consider consulting a physical therapist or a certified trainer. They can help design a program tailored to your needs and ensure that you're performing exercises correctly.
Balance Rest and Activity: Rest is just as important as exercise. Ensure you're giving your body enough time to recover between workouts. Overworking your muscles can lead to fatigue and increase the risk of joint instability.
The goal of exercising with hypermobility isn't to push your body to its flexible limits, but to nurture it towards strength and stability. The exercises and tips we've discussed are not just routines; they're stepping stones towards a more balanced and comfortable life. By focusing on stability, strength, and controlled movements, you can turn hypermobility from a potential challenge into a definite advantage.
It's important to acknowledge that every hypermobile body is different. What works for one person may not work for another, and that's perfectly okay. The key is to listen to your body, respect its limits, and gradually build up your strength and stability.
And remember, it's always wise to seek advice from healthcare professionals, especially if you're just starting out or if you experience any discomfort.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. What is hypermobility?
Hypermobility is a condition where your joints move beyond the normal range expected for a particular joint. It's often due to the elasticity of the connective tissues, like ligaments and tendons, around the joints.
2. Is hypermobility the same as being double-jointed?
While hypermobility is often colloquially referred to as being double-jointed, the two aren't exactly the same. Double-jointedness typically refers to the ability to move joints in unusual ways, while hypermobility is a medical term for joints that can move beyond the normal range of motion.
3. Can hypermobility be cured?
There's no cure for hypermobility as it's often a genetic trait. However, its symptoms can be managed effectively through targeted exercises, lifestyle changes, and, in some cases, medical intervention.
4. Can hypermobility improve or worsen with age?
Hypermobility may change with age. In some cases, the flexibility decreases as you get older, which might reduce some symptoms. However, the wear and tear on overly flexible joints over time can sometimes lead to increased pain or joint problems.
5. Should I avoid any specific types of exercise if I have hypermobility?
High-impact sports or exercises that put excessive strain on the joints, such as heavy weightlifting or contact sports, might need to be modified or avoided. It's best to choose low-impact activities that focus on controlled movements.