Wondering why you or your autistic loved one is always complaining about aches and pains in their joints or often dislocating something, spraining an ankle? In this post we briefly discuss hypermobility, which — as the headline says — is quite common for autistic people.
Hypermobility is when you have very flexible joints (you may think of yourself as being double-jointed) which makes us feel kinda loose-limbed and floppy and can lead to joint pain if not managed over the long term.
One of the main causes is thought to be related to collagen.
Collagen is in skin and ligaments (the tough bands of connective tissue that link two bones together at a joint).
If collagen is weaker than it should be, tissues in the body will be fragile, which can make ligaments and joints loose and stretchy. As a result, the joints can extend further than usual leading to the damage and pain experienced.
Here's how hypermobility manifests in me:
Achy and stiff as soon as I wake up — even after a good, long night's sleep.
A sagging loose kind of energy that means my posture is not naturally upright — I have to pay attention and be mindful or suffer potential neck stiffness.
Pain/damage in joints if I am not careful and have been over extending myself over and over unknowingly — just because I am able to doesn’t mean I should go so far. Especially when it comes to yoga poses!
Luckily there are a few things we can do to help ourselves.
What’s helpful for hypermobility?
Strengthening muscles around the joints because they will help hold the bones together in relationship at joints, rather than relying on the ligament — which is too weak and stretchy.
Strengthening the muscles helps also with controlling our movements. The exercise helps us to practice feeling inside our bodies and become aware of what we are feeling. You are also working on your proprioception (where our body is in space) — this all helps brain and body connection, integration.
For me, weight bearing works. These photos are an acknowledgment of what I’ve been able to achieve after over a year-and-a-half of training. 6kg dumbbell and 30kg farmers walking (my body weight is 43kg). When I started I was worried I wouldn’t even be able to lift 1kg weights!
Strengthening using weights has been a game changer for me. Combining this with yoga, I feel less achy and much stronger physically and mentally. I definitely get the rush of dopamine and endorphins afterwards too.
It’s been wonderful to help with interoception (recognising internal feelings/sensations inside the body), allowing me to gain more self-awareness and experience sensory feedback.
It should also hold me in good stead against osteoporosis too as I’m heading towards menopause.
Do you have hypermobility?
What do you find helps?
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