Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is a connective tissue disorder where you experience an increase in joint flexibility, along with chronic joint pain. This condition is often associated with other conditions, such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. However, it can also be a genetic condition. Generally, hypermobility of the joints is more commonly found in children and young adults. Kids with this condition may consider themselves “double-jointed.” The joints will often lose this flexibility with age, and operate as normal. Unfortunately, some adults continue to feel the effects of joint hypermobility syndrome and will continue to experience the pain from overextending.
What is the Difference Between Joint Hypermobility and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome?
While joint hypermobility is fairly common, it doesn’t usually have chronic pain. Generally, someone with this condition is “double-jointed,” and doesn’t cause pain within the joints or ligaments. On the other hand, someone living with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome has similar levels of flexibility but suffers from chronic pain in those joints. In both cases, the most commonly affected joints are the elbows, wrists, fingers, and knees.
Joint Hypermobility Syndrome is often genetic. It is more commonly found in those assigned female at birth (AFAB). Additionally, those of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent are more genetically disposed to the condition. While most commonly seen in children and young adults, some people do not outgrow it. For adults living with this condition, the pain and other symptoms can make daily tasks harder.
Is Hypermobility Syndrome a Disability?
Because of the chronic pain and additional symptoms, Hypermobility Syndrome can be a debilitating condition. If your joint pain, fatigue, and other symptoms are severe or frequent enough that they hinder your daily life, they might be a disability.
When filing a long-term disability insurance claim for this condition, your disability attorney can help you navigate the complex application process. Overall, you and your attorney will need to prove to the insurance company that your condition is real and debilitating enough to be considered a disability. In order to do this, you will need to present objective proof of how your condition affects your daily life and limits your capacity to perform at your job. Below, we will discuss some of the most important aspects of building your claim.
What are the Symptoms of Hypermobility Syndrome?
While chronic joint pain and hyper-flexibility are the main symptoms of this condition, there are a number of other symptoms that are commonly associated with it. Many of these symptoms are a result of the pain and joint hypermobility themselves. Common additional symptoms include:
- chronic fatigue
- muscle soreness or stiffness
- bladder and/or bowel issues (IBS)
- joint dislocation
- a proclivity to sprains and strains
In addition to these symptoms, you may be living with other symptoms. However, some symptoms, such as thin, stretchy skin, maybe a sign that your hypermobility syndrome is a part of a more serious condition.
Potential Underlying Conditions
There are a number of conditions that include Joint Hypermobility Syndrome as a symptom. As such, it may be an indicator of a larger issue. Often, when you go to a physician with this syndrome, they are likely to test you to rule out the below conditions.
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) is a group of conditions that affect joints, bone, cartilage, skin, blood, and fat. It is a defect in the body’s collagen, which helps control the body’s flexibility and resistance. People living with EDS suffer from hyper-flexibility, chronic joint pain, stretchy skin, poor wound recovery, and more.
Marfan syndrome affects the connective tissues in the body. It is associated with the gene in control of building fibrillin and the elastic fibers of the body. This can affect not just the joints, but the elasticity of a number of organs, such as the heart and stomach.
Down syndrome is a genetic disorder that is often found at birth, as it is caused by the existence of an extra chromosome. As such, it can alter the way your body naturally develops. This can affect growth, cognitive development, and more. If you have Down syndrome, you may experience Joint Hypermobility Syndrome as a part of the altered growth changes.
While Arthritis is often associated with limited mobility, the joint pain you are experiencing may be a sign of developing arthritis. Because of this, it is common for doctors to test for arthritis, to at least rule it out.
Diagnosing Joint Hypermobility Syndrome
A proper diagnosis of your condition is necessary for your disability claim. Because of this, your doctor will need to provide you with it. Like many conditions, this starts with a physical. Your doctor will test to see your range of motion. As part of the assessment, they may use the Beighton test. The Beighton test assigns a 9-point scale to evaluate your flexibility. Each point tests your physical capability and the flexibility of your joints. If you score four or more points and have chronic pain in four or more joints for at least three months, you may have joint hypermobility syndrome.
Then, they may send you for blood testing. This will allow them to check for possible genetic conditions. Genetic testing and tissue biopsies can help rule out conditions such as EDS. X-rays of your affected joints can provide medical evidence of your condition, as well as provide screening for Arthritis.
Appropriate Treatment for Hypermobility Syndrome
While there is no cure for this condition, there are ways to mitigate symptoms and manage pain. Often, the long-term disability insurance company will want to see that you are seeking appropriate treatment for your condition. This usually means following doctor’s orders, taking medications, and actively seeking out treatments. This includes going to appointments and scheduling follow-ups. If the insurance companies do not believe that you are undergoing appropriate treatment, they may not approve your claim. Additionally, they may terminate benefits after approval if you aren’t continuing treatment.
Generally, treatment for this condition includes a number of treatment options to improve joint and muscle strength, in addition to pain management. You may be referred to a physiotherapist or occupational therapist. Therapy treatments often involve pain reduction, reducing dislocation risks, improving posture, strength training, and balance. If your knees, ankle, or foot joints are affected, you may need to see a podiatrist. Pain management often includes the use of anti-inflammatory painkillers.
Because joint hypermobility syndrome can also affect the bowels and bladder, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes to help mitigate them. This will often include exclusion diets to check for dietary intolerances. Gluten, lactose, and low-FODMAP (fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) diets are often employed. Additionally, regular exercise can help with IBS and other symptoms of this condition.
Proving Disability for Joint Hypermobility Syndrome
Unfortunately, a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment aren’t usually enough to prove your disability to the insurance company. It is the adjuster’s job to scrutinize and trivialize aspects of your claim in order to minimize payouts. Because of this, it is important that your claim provides significant evidence of how your condition affects your job performance. Doctors’ statements can be an important part of this. Additionally, your disability attorney may ask you to provide a journal of your symptoms and how they impact your daily life.
Functional Capacity Evaluation
A Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) is a physical test that provides objective medical evidence of your physical abilities. The evaluation tests your ability to sit, stand, lift, carry, push, and pull. It also tests fine motor skills. If your fatigue from your condition is often severe, it may be beneficial to opt for a 2-day FCE. This can help provide quantifiable evidence of how your fatigue affects your ability to work.