The Difference Between Flexibility, Hyper-mobility & Instability

The Difference Between Flexibility, Hyper-mobility & Instability

Hyper-mobility and flexibility are not the same and instability is where the difference girl with elbows hyper-extended in quadrupedlies. While some may mistake hyper-mobility as flexibility, especially in children, the difference is seen in movement and musculoskeletal function. In this blog you will learn how flexibility is a sign of health while hyper-mobility is instability, requiring extra measures to prevent injury and dysfunction. 

Flexibility vs Hypermobility 

Flexibility is a term that refers to the ability of a joint or joints to move without any restrictions. This requires muscles to lengthen allowing for movement. For example, if someone cannot reach and touch their toes this can be due to tight and short muscles of the hamstrings and tension in the lower back. Otherwise, someone whose muscles are overly tight, restricting mobility, may be considered inflexible.  

Hypermobility, however, refers to the excess laxity of the joints/ligaments. For example, this would be a person who:

  • Is considered “double-jointed”
  • Can hyperextend their elbows
  • And can manipulate their fingers beyond what the normal range of motion is

While being hypermobile, especially when you’re young, can seem like a cool thing and is sought after in certain sports, it can literally hurt you.

Hypermobility Affects Movement and Pain

When it comes to hypermobility, what is often ignored is the impact on movement, posture, and joint health. Because the ligaments and structure of a hypermobile joint allow for excess movement, the following must be considered:

  • Increased risk for joint dislocation
  • Postural instability 
  • Dysfunctional movement 
  • Increased risk of musculoskeletal injury 
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction 
  • Pathological breathing patterns 
  • Lack of coordination and balance 

When it comes to my practice, patients tend to come in with “unrelated issues” in their minds and we help connect the dots! At that point, it becomes obvious that their hyper-mobility either adds to their problem or is the root cause of their issue(s).

The most logical and effective way to create stability in otherwise unstable joints of the hyper-mobile individual is through  Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization and Postural Neurology. That is duplicating the methods with which the limber, helpless infant is able to become the strong, running toddler.

Hypermobility, Instability, and EDS 

Hypermobility can be present on its own or can be associated with other conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). If you have EDS, it is important to know the impact of hypermobility on your musculoskeletal system (bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments) and how its impact on movement can lead to pain. This is explored more in detail in the blog Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Pain, and Posture.

Best Exercises for Hypermobility and Instability 

For someone who is hypermobile, full body stabilization exercises with attention to detail are crucial. You see, a hypermobile person can easily trick the untrained eye and appear to be performing the exercise correctly. This is because they have learned to function with joints in an extreme position, but it is holding a neutral position that becomes challenging. In fact, the biggest challenge is keeping stable in movement becomes the ultimate test.

Hyper-mobile individuals are no strangers to doctor’s offices; from gastrointestinal issues to headaches and neck pain. Even with injuries and re-injuries; they are typically great in sports such as gymnastics, cheer, ballet, and acrobatics. When it comes to those injuries, it is easy for them to see physical therapists and chiropractors and be treated the same way as others without hypermobility. That is where the continuous visits will continue.

Unless the rehab. provider, chiropractor, or physical therapist is familiar with functional rehabilitation such as Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS), those with hyper-mobility can suffer from pain, frustration, and disappointment.

Below is an advanced Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization exercise that when done correctly, points to the improvement of stability in our hyper-mobile patients and is a great milestone that we celebrate together.

Working with hypermobile individuals is different than those without hypermobility and there are specific ways to achieve the milestones of stability. Don’t hesitate to contact us when you are ready to start your adventure to a more stable world. You may also visit us on YouTube for Functional Movement Exercises and join our over 100K followers on Instagram for daily tips and tricks.

Dr. Shakib