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Arthritis and Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome

How Is Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome Diagnosed?

Assessment of children or young adults suspected of having BHJS does not require special equipment. Testing the range of motion of your child's joints will determine if they are more loose than normal. Several specific mobility tests are used for diagnosing BHJS, including:

  • The wrist and thumb can be moved downward so the thumb touches the forearm.
  • The little fingers can be extended back beyond 90 degrees.
  • When standing, the knees are abnormally bowed backward when viewed from the side.
  • When fully extended, the arms bend further than normal (beyond straight.)
  • When bending at the waist, with the knees straight, the child or adult can put his or her palms flat on the floor.

Since the symptoms of hypermobility can sometimes mimic arthritis, laboratory tests may be required to ensure that your child does not have a more serious disorder (such as juvenile arthritis or other inflammatory conditions). Rarely, X-rays may be required.

How Is Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome Treated?

Treatment for BHJS is specialized for each child or young adult, based on his or her overall health, medical history, severity of pain or discomfort, and presence of other symptoms. It can include:

  • Exercise. Basic strengthening and guided exercise programs can help your child reduce flexibility and increase muscle strength to help prevent future injury. Strengthening exercises and conditioning activities -- such as swimming, walking, and skating -- help improve joint strength. Inactivity should be avoided. In addition, being overweight worsens the problem. Splints, braces, or taping may be recommended to protect affected joints during activity.
  • Joint protection. Practicing the following joint protection techniques can help your child avoid overstretching the joints at risk:
    • Avoid sitting cross-legged with both knees bent ("Indian style").
    • Bend the knees slightly when standing.
    • Wear shoes with good arch supports.
    • Decrease those unusual joint movements that hypermobile children often use to entertain their friends.
  • Medications. Since the underlying problem with hypermobility is joint looseness rather than inflammation, most medications provide only limited relief. Joint discomfort after activity can be reduced with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen or ibuprofen.

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