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Prehabilitation and Recovery strategies for Hypermobile joints

Hypermobile joints can be both a blessing and a curse for athletes. The increased flexibility can offer a competitive edge in sports requiring a broad range of motion, but it also comes with less control and stability, meaning an increased risk of injury. Dislocations, sprains, subluxations, and strains are all common injuries people with hypermobile joints might see.

 

It’s important that athletes with hypermobile joints take extra care when training to avoid these injuries. Prehabilitation (prehab) and recovery strategies are crucial to manage hypermobile joints effectively. It can take a lot more work to stabilise and learn to control hypermobile bodies compared to athletes without any hypermobility, but the effort is well worth it.

middle split stretching

Understanding Hypermobile Joints

Hypermobile joints occur when the connective tissues, including ligaments and tendons, are more elastic than usual. This condition allows joints to move beyond the normal range of motion. With this increased natural range of motion, it also becomes harder to control and stabilise your joints at your maximum range of motion.

 

It's important to note that there is a different between joint hypermobility and hypermobility disorders, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Joint hypermobility can be present in as little as one joint, whereas hypermobility disorders can affect the whole body, and have a range of other symptoms present too. If you think you may have a hypermobility disorder, we recommend speaking to a medical professional.

 

Prehabilitation for Hypermobile Joints

Prehab focuses on preventing injuries by strengthening the muscles around the joints and improving overall stability. Some key prehab strategies for hypermobile joints include:

  1. Strength Training: Building strength in the muscles surrounding hypermobile joints is essential. Focus on low-impact, high-repetition exercises that target stability. Depending on what joints you are focusing on, exercises such as squats, lunges, planks, and resistance band work can enhance muscle support.

  2. Proprioceptive Training: Proprioception is the body’s ability to sense joint position and movement. Enhancing your body awareness can improve joint stability and coordination.

  3. Controlled Flexibility: While hypermobile athletes may naturally be flexible, it’s important to learn how to control your flexibility to prevent overstretching. Focus on dynamic stretching and controlled range of motion exercises rather than static stretching. For example, working on leg lifts and holds rather than sitting in a split.

tricep stretching

Recovery Strategies for Hypermobile Joints

Recovery is just as important as prehab in managing hypermobile joints. Effective recovery strategies help prevent overuse injuries and support overall joint health.

  1. Rest and Active Recovery: Rest is essential for muscle and joint recovery. Incorporate active recovery activities such as light walking, swimming, or yoga for increased blood flow and to reduce muscle stiffness without placing extra stress on the joints.

  2. Hydration and Nutrition: Proper hydration and nutrition support tissue repair and overall joint health. A balanced diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats can do wonders for muscle recovery!

  3. Physical Therapy: Working with a physical therapist who understands hypermobility can provide personalised recovery plans. They can offer manual therapy, corrective exercises, and guidance on proper movement patterns to support joint health.

  4. Massage and Myofascial Release: Regular massage and myofascial release techniques can help alleviate muscle tension and improve circulation. Foam rolling and trigger point therapy are also effective self-care techniques to use in your routine.

  5. Monitoring and Adjusting Training Load: Pay close attention to how your body responds to training. It’s common for those with hypermobile joints to see fluctuation in their body control and awareness. Continuing your normal training load when you’re struggling to maintain control and stability in your hypermobile joints can lead to injuries, so adjust your training load as needed.

 

Managing hypermobile joints requires a lot of work, with a major focus on strengthening the stabilising muscles to gain more control. By strengthening these muscles, enhancing proprioception, maintaining controlled flexibility, and supporting overall joint health through proper nutrition, hydration, and recovery techniques, athletes with hypermobility can reduce their risk of injury and optimise their performance.

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