Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome

Yesterday’s Facebook Status:

‘For years I have blamed my many sports related injuries (torn ACL’s, multiple ankle sprains, a broken ankle, cartilage tears, peroneal tendonitis, hip bursitis, etc.) on being some sort of an athletic clutz. As it turns out, I have a condition called Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome. In my doctor’s words, “Your problem is that you are a very loose woman.” Explains so much!’

Until college, when I first became an athletic person, I had never known the agony of a broken bone or experienced the painful tear of soft tissue.  Casts and crutches were never a part of my regular wardrobe.  Other than having tight hip-locks as an infant, joint, bone and muscle issues had never required a visit to the doctor.  When I began running in college, I would experience pain after working out, but always attributed it to the normal wear and tear of being active.  When I tore my ACL playing flag football I blamed it on trying to speed up too fast and hitting my foot at a weird angle.  When I broke my ankle playing ultimate frisbee, I blamed my misfortune on the muddy terrain.  Hip bursitis was from over training, a second ACL tear was from taking a corner too fast during Softball, torn cartilage was from clumsy dancing and too many plyometrics and the list goes on and on and on.  I’ve always been a bit knock kneed and so assumed that added to my susceptibility for leg/knee/foot injuries.  After multiple pregnancies my doctor told me that my joins were a bit loose from the pregnancy and nursing hormones so when peroneal tendonitis struck, too many miles too soon after giving birth was to blame.  Being injured has become such a normal part of my training that my friends have told me that I should wrap myself in bubble wrap before lacing up my shoes.  I’ve tried maintaining good muscle tone, Yoga, cross-training in every way I can to try and improve my athletic ability and as it turns out, so called “athletic ability” isn’t the problem.  Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome is.

So what is this BJHS I speak of?  Benign Hypermobility Joint Syndrome  is a connective tissue disorder with hypermobility in which musculoskeletal symptoms occur in the absence of systemic rheumatologic disease.  Or, as Web MD explains,

“Benign hypermobility joint syndrome — or BHJS — is a common source of joint or muscle complaints by children and young adults. Benign hypermobility describes looseness of joints that may be associated with daytime pain, nighttime awakening, or discomfort after exercise. People with the condition generally report prolonged pain. In the past, this type of general pain often was called “growing pains” or “limb pain,” which can be similar. Both, though, are different disorders. The term “benign” has been used to differentiate the BHJS from other similar disorders that also involve other organs such as the eyes and heart.

As irony would have it, my Orthopedist never discovered this.  It was my Rheumatologist, who happened upon it.  Some of the things doctors check off when making a diagnosis of BHJS are:

  • 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.

My doctor believes my case is benign, but is running bloodwork to be sure it’s not a part of something larger.  Meanwhile treatment for the condition includes exercise to keep the muscles strong and physical therapy if necessary.  Luckily I’m used to strength training and well versed in PT, so I should be able to maintain this disease on my own.  The great news is that I can still run and now that I know I have this condition, I’ll be more aware of it  and careful to prevent further injuries!

Now, off to go get stronger!

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