I’ve known I have Hypermobility Syndrome*(edit about reclassification below) since I was 16, so I’m fairly lucky. Many people suffering with this condition don’t get diagnosed until much later in life and damage (both physical and mental) is already done. It can cause chronic pain and fatigue, amongst a lot of other things.
For me, I’m on the milder end of the spectrum and so I have learnt how to manage my condition quite well. You have to be very disciplined with your exercise routine and pacing your day is key (I’m still trying to get the hang of this!)
I have a few go to tools which really help me with exercises and pain relief.
I don’t know what I did before I discovered foam rolling. I think everyone should be using a foam roller (*if it is physically possible for them to). A roller can be a valuable part of exercise warmup and cool down routines.
Rolling improves circulation, which gets the body ready for a workout and helps it recover afterward. Also, because rolling breaks down knots that limit range of motion, it preps muscles for stretching.
I find it an invaluable tool to get rid of tightness in the muscles in my legs especially.
These are popular in yoga and I can see why. I find the spiky yoga balls really helpful to target niggling knots around my shoulder blades. If you don’t have one, tennis balls are also great. All you have to do is lean back on them against a wall and move around until you find the point which is bothering you. Since discovering self trigger point massage, I’ve suffered a lot less with back pain.
I recently bought the stick with the balls on it, which is amazing if you’ve got knots in both should blades! I bought the one above from Tiger.
I get pain around my shoulder blades because I’ve let myself become deconditioned recently. As my ligaments are lax in my shoulders and back, I have to make sure my muscles are as strong as the can be. To get my strength back I do a lot of exercise using resistance bands. The key to using these is to do lots of reps regularly, rather than doing something that uses a lot of heavy weight.
Light Hand Weights
As well as using the resistance bands, I also like to use light hand weights to tone my arms. Using light weights and doing lots of reps can elongate the arm and get rid of bingo wings (I’m still waiting for mine to go!).
If you suffer with any sort of instability or pain I highly recommend kinesio tape. Kinesio Tape alleviates discomfort and facilitates lymphatic drainage by microscopically lifting the skin. This lifting affect forms convolutions in the skin thus increasing interstitial space and allowing for a decrease in inflammation, reducing pressure while enabling a more effective flow of blood and lymphatic fluid in and out of the target area. It also adds a bit of stability to your joint, which is great if you subluxate them or just feel a bit wobbly!
One thing about hypermobility is that it can affect your proprioception. Proprioception is the concept of knowing where your body is in space (body awareness) and the ability to safely maneuver around your environment. It also includes the use of heavy work activities and the ability to stimulate the joint receptors. Therefore, practicing your balance can help with this. Just sitting on a swiss ball and lifting your legs one at a time can really help with this. I also like to do planks on the swiss ball and use it to aid squats against the wall. Doing this means you’re engaging your core, and you won’t be pushing the weight too far forward on your knees.
Heated Bean Bags
As much as you strengthen your muscles and massage out knots, sadly most people with hypermobility are chronic pain sufferers. I am very keen to not go down the medication route (although for some people, it is unavoidable). I find putting heat on my back helps ease it a bit.
Meditation can help with distracting yourself from mild pain. I enjoy meditating to help with sleeping if I’m in pain at night and struggling to drift off or if I’m at the osteopath. One thing I would say is, I’ve heard from friends with chronic pain issues and their doctors have told them they’re ‘not trying hard enough to meditate’, if they are still feeling pain. This is nonsense. Realistically, sometimes pain is just too bad to meditate away.
These things really help me, but it must be noted that for some people with Hypermobility Syndrome or Ehlers Danlos Type 3* it is not possible for them to use some of these techniques, as they are in severe pain and suffer very frequent dislocations. I am extremely grateful that I am able to manage my condition as well as I do, and hope one day that there will be more therapies and medicines to help those who suffer so badly with this syndrome.
Edit*As of March 2017, Hypermobilty Syndrome has now been replaced by ‘Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders’. Ehlers Danlos Type 3 is a different condition separate from HSD and is know as hEDS. There are also now more types of Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Read here for more information.