Double-jointed teens risk musculoskeletal pain

Young people who are double-jointed (joint hypermobility) are more likely to experience joint pain in their teenage years, according to new UK research.

A team from the University of Bristol studied 3,000 people and found that those with hypermobility when nearly 14 years old were about twice as likely to have pain in the shoulder, knee, ankle and foot when they were 18 years old. And young people who were obese were 11 times more likely says that study, published in Arthritis and Rheumatism.

Some experts believe that the ability to bend and stretch the joints outside of the normal range may result in pain or arthritis in later life. Half of teenagers experience muscle or joint pain lasting for a day or longer but in some this continues into adulthood.

“We believe that establishing joint hypermobility as a contributory factor to musculoskeletal pain in older teenagers is significant, and may lead to better treatment for affected youngsters, including physiotherapy and exercise programmes,” says Prof Jon Tobias who led the team.

“Our results also suggest that joint hypermobility only predisposes to pain at certain joints, presumably reflecting the role of local mechanical factors. For example, joints such as the knee are exposed to relatively large forces during locomotion; the same mechanical factors may explain the predilection of these sites to the development of osteoarthritis in later life.”

More studies will determine if the increased risk of joint pain in double-jointed teenagers has long-term consequences, including a greater risk of osteoarthritis.