Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes (EDS) are hereditary disorders that impact the connective tissues in our bodies due to a lack of sufficient collagen, or structurally inept collagen. There are thirteen variations of EDS, and they predominantly affect the skeleton, muscles, skin, and blood vessels. Fresh from completing a musculoskeletal bid, it seems appropriate to raise awareness of one of the most prevalent types, hypermobility.
What is Hypermobility?
Hypermobility is the ability to move joints beyond the usual range of movement and according to NHS Inform, ‘estimates suggest that around one in every five people in the UK may have hypermobile joints.’
Can it be painful?
Hypermobility is a condition that can cause huge discomfort across the body. A vast proportion of the pain is caused by insufficient strength in ligaments due to the incompetent collagen produced in the body. Consequently, hypermobility increases the likelihood of dislocation and instigates chronic pain and fatigue. Unfortunately, the pain is not easy to treat; painkillers will not do the trick forever and massages are far from convenient when the pain affects you daily. Longer-term, though, exercise plans help to strengthen the affected areas by building muscle and reinforcing ligaments, making mobility feel less strenuous.
Accessing help services for hypermobility can be difficult and expensive, especially without a diagnosis. In February 2021, Healthwatch Calderdale finalised a report into hypermobility in response to negative feedback regarding pathways and slow diagnoses. Only 13% of respondents described obtaining a diagnosis as ‘easy’ or ‘very easy’. Crucially, an improved focus on hypermobility symptom identification and signposting are needed throughout the healthcare system, specifically for GPs and physiotherapists.
Does it impact Mental Health?
The excruciating physical pain that hypermobility causes can have a detrimental effect on mental health. Aside from the upset of constant discomfort, the inability to complete everyday tasks and withdrawing from physical activities are two examples of the degrading nature of hypermobility, no matter how minute they seem. It impacts 7 – 10 % of children in the UK (NHS GGC) and restricts equal opportunities. For example, whilst having hypermobility can prove advantageous in sports like gymnastics and swimming, contact sports are off the cards, especially when the affected areas are the shoulders or knees – avoiding dislocation at all costs. By raising awareness of the condition, we can promote inclusivity throughout healthcare, education, and recreation, whilst improving safety and negating a prolonged impact on mental health.
Finding the right care for your hypermobility is crucial, as it can lead to arthritis as well as psychosomatic disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). If you feel your life is being impacted negatively by hypermobility, or any condition related to EDS, there are a range of organisations providing education and support, striving to improve your access to the correct healthcare pathway. Hyperlinks to relevant pages can be accessed throughout.
At HealthBid, we identify opportunities for care organisations to improve their accessibility and refine their referral processes for specific health groups, recognising the benefits of seamless integration. Enhancing the diagnosis process of hypermobility will alleviate pressure on GP practices and ensure patients are receiving accurate and speedy treatment.
The Healthwatch Calderdale report can be accessed through this link.
Written by Sam Gillespie, Bid Writer