Joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) describes an abnormal increase in the range of movement in different joints of the body. JHS is a hereditary condition and people often experience recurrence of sprains, strains, bruising, and/or dislocations as a result. Those who have the condition often notice its effects in their fingers, knees, or elbows. When the soft tissues are more lax and mobile, however, the same pliability applies to the skin and the support system of our internal organs. Furthermore, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS) refers to the group of disorders that consequently affect the different organs. The only proper way to diagnose EDS is to be evaluated in an extensive history-taking and physical examination that includes orthopedic, neurologic, and dermatologic analysis, to name a few.
In their article, Colombi, Dordoni, Chiarelli, and Ritelli (2015) discuss the clinical spectrum of JHS and EDS. The spectrum expands to include the skin, joints (including flat footedness, ability to do the splits, bending the thumb to the forearm, bending and touching hands to the floor), muscles, gastrointestinal system, urogenital system, cardiovascular system and neuropsychiatric symtoms (fatigue, disturbed sleep, anxiety, etc.).
In addition to understanding the breadth of the disease, recognizing the co-mobilities is beneficial to properly diagnosing JHS and/or EDS.
There have been several studies that show the correlation between hypermobility and gastrointestinal symptoms, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). One study found that those who suffer from the constipation sub-type of IBS show much higher symptoms of JHS. This could be due to the biomechanics of the connective tissue that lead to slower transit, or, movement, in the colon, also known as colonic inertia (Zweig, Schindler, Becker, van Maren, Pohl, 2018).
In another study by Castori, Morlino, Pascolini, Blundo, and Grammatico (2015), the gastrointestinal indicators of JHS/EDS were broken into structural anomalies (hernias, organ prolapse, intestinal intussusceptions) and functional alterations (recurrent abdominal pain, constipation/diarrhea, reflux).
Postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) and other cardiovascular conditions both at rest and sudden positions changes (orthostatic) has been shown to be more prevalent in those with EDS (Roma, Marden, Wandele, Fancomano, Rowe, 2018).
As with many others who have chronic conditions, recognizing the psychosocial function of a patient with JHS/EDS is highly important because people with these conditions generally do not respond to typical biomedical approaches (Baeza-Velasco, Bulbena, Polanco-Carrasco, Jussaud, 2018).
There is evidence that women with JHS could be more prone to pelvic organ prolapse. Pelvic organ prolapse occurs when one or more pelvic organs, which includes the bladder, urethra, uterus, vagina, rectum, and small bowel, droop or descend into the vaginal opening. Additionally, many women with JHS/EDS tend to suffer from pelvic floor muscle tightness and shortening, causing pain with the use of tampons, intercourse and/or in a pelvic exam. This could be explained by the fact that hypermobility in other parts of body causes the pelvic muscles to tense up for better postural support.
The physical therapists who specialize in pelvic floor rehabilitation have the expertise to perform a complete evaluation of the mechanical and musculoskeletal systems, enabling them to better understand complex diagnoses for conditions like JHS and EDS. Their skills allow them to create a sustainable, effective treatment plan that aims to make everyday life more functional and pain more manageable.