Should I Stretch If I Am Hypermobile?

Should I Stretch If I Am Hypermobile?

Hypermobility is a connective tissue disorder with individuals having unusually flexible joints,  leading to various challenges. Hypermobility and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome are connective tissue disorders with some differences that I explained in a blog you may wish to read.  I am often asked by my patients with hypermobility if stretching is helpful or harmful so this blog is all about stretching and what I find to be beneficial for my hypermobile patients.

What Is Hypermobility?

Hypermobility, being described as “double-jointed,” happens due to a faulty protein called collagen, causing the laxity of ligaments as one of its presentations. This means that the bendy individual has more stretchy ligaments which means more unstable joints. That is why people with hypermobility may experience joint pain, and instability, and are at a higher risk of injuries. This is also the reason why you may describe yourself as ‘clumsy’ because it is the tension in the ligaments that allows the brain to be more precise with proprioception- the knowledge of where you are in space at any given time.

Why Is Stretching Important?

Generally speaking, stretching is a common practice to improve flexibility, enhance physical performance, and prevent injuries. I am against isolating an area to stretch though once holding a pose with the principles of movement in place, those areas that are tight will stretch and the weak ones will be challenged to get stronger!

Let me explain, your body parts have to be able to work with the rest of you so when holding a pose or going through a movement with the right principles in place, (Developmental Movement principles), then the tight area not only gets the opportunity to get stretched but also works with the rest of your body to learn the patterns of movement. This simple and common sense fact is what is missed in the world of physical rehab. in my opinion.

For those with hypermobility, the approach to stretching requires careful consideration to avoid exacerbating joint instability.

The video below talks about the principles of movement which is true for every case of instability, hypermobility, pelvic floor dysfunction, and joint stability.

Should Hypermobile Individuals Stretch?

This all depends on many factors that I will try to answer by categorizing the relevant questions I am asked often by my hypermobile patients.

Can Stretching Worsen Hypermobility?

You are not imagining the feeling of tension! This comes from the muscles having to do more than they were designed to do to hold the joint in place. Stretching joints in you overstretch the ligaments because your joints lack the structural support needed to prevent overextension. Excessive stretching can weaken the muscles and ligaments that provide this support.

What Types Of Stretching Are Safe For Hypermobile Individuals?

Not all stretching is created equal. Passive stretching, when someone else stretches your joints is not a good idea, and active stretching, when you do it yourself is much better but not all active stretching is the same!! Isolating the area to stretch is not a good idea either.

Dynamic stretching, involving controlled movements that mimic activities or sports, is safe because it improves muscle function and coordination. The ones that make sense are the movements we have learned by studying human babies or Developmental Kinesiology; the Developmental movement protocol I teach and follow is called Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization or DNS.

How Can Strength Training Complement Stretching?

For hypermobile individuals, incorporating strength training into their fitness routine is crucial. Strengthening the muscles around hypermobile joints can provide the necessary support and stability. Exercises that focus on the core, hips, and shoulders can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Combining strength training with stretching can create a balanced approach that maintains flexibility while ensuring joint stability.

bird dog pose on a cliff

Once again, the best and safest strength training exercises are those of DNS because think about it, if babies go from being helpless when they are born to becoming running toddlers, they have learned great strength, balance, and coordination in movement without getting any training.

We are hard-wired to move a certain way and those ways ARE the safest ways so why reinvent the wheel when the whole world shows that this method produces the best results over and over.

Best Practices For Stretching With Hypermobility

  • See The Right Provider

Before starting any stretching routine, make sure the rehabilitation provider you are seeing follows the methods of DNS. Not every physical therapist or Rehab. chiropractor knows DNS or treats patients with hypermobility.

It is so important to only see providers that treat patients with hypermobility or Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. The second best are those providers who are interested in treating patients with hypermobility and are eager to learn more.

  • Focus On Active And Dynamic Stretching

As mentioned earlier, active and dynamic stretching is preferable for hypermobile individuals. These types of stretches engage the muscles and support joint stability. Incorporate movements that involve muscle contraction and controlled motions with the whole body being involved in the move.

  • Avoid Overstretching

Pay attention to your body’s signals and avoid pushing your joints to their extreme limits. Overstretching can lead to joint instability and increase the risk of dislocations and injuries. Gentle, controlled stretches are more beneficial than forcing your body into extreme positions.

I can’t emphasize enough to seek the right provider who can help you see and understand what you are doing. You can consult EDS Society website for the list of providers near you.

  • Strengthen Surrounding Muscles

Complement your stretching routine with exercises that strengthen the muscles around your joints. Focus on low-impact, weight-bearing exercises. Start with the Developmental Exercises Once you understand and can follow the principles of movement, then exercises like Pilates or resistance training that target the whole body will be great. Strong muscles can help stabilize hypermobile joints and reduce the risk of injuries.

  • Use Proper Technique

Proper technique is essential when stretching. Avoid using momentum to force a stretch and instead move slowly and deliberately. Ensure that you maintain proper alignment and posture during stretches to prevent unnecessary strain on your joints.

Benefits Of Safe Stretching For Hypermobile Individuals

So is stretching okay if you are hypermobile? Yes, it is but keep everything I mentioned above in mind. Stretching when done as a part of a pose or baby movements provides the following benefits.

  • Improved Muscle Function
  • Enhanced Joint Stability
  • Reduced Pain and Discomfort
  • Better Posture and Alignment

If you are hypermobile, are ready to safely become active, or continue being active without injuring yourself, contact me.

Dr. Shakib

Recommended Reading:

How To Prevent Joint Injuries In Hypermobility: Expert Tips And Effective Strategies

Who Diagnoses Hypermobility?