4 Common Questions Regarding Hypermobility In Dancers

Dancing, in its many different forms, places a large amount of pressure on the joints in the body. Over time, this can lead to problems with joint degeneration and dislocation, which can be exacerbated if hypermobility is present in any one of the joints. However, many people are confused about what actually constitutes hypermobility and why this can be problematic in dancers. As such, below are four common questions related to hypermobility and the truth behind them:

What Is the Difference between Hypermobility and Flexibility?

Hypermobility can oftentimes be misinterpreted as a high degree of flexibility; however, the two are very different. Flexibility relates to the ability to stretch the muscles beyond what an untrained body can achieve. Hypermobility, on the other hand, is related to an over-rotation of the joints that can force them into unnatural positions.

The difference is very easy to understand when you consider specific muscle groups or joints. If you try to touch your toes and are unable to do so, regular hamstring stretches will, over time, increase your flexibility and allow you to reach lower down. However, if you extend your arm outwards and try to bend your elbow the wrong way, you won't get very far unless you have hypermobile joints. No amount of stretching will be able to counter this, which highlights the difference between the two conditions.

Additionally, flexibility is considered to be a positive trait as it loosens up the muscles and keeps them in good shape. Hypermobility, however, is considered to be a potentially dangerous condition that can cause overloading of the joints.

Where Is Hypermobility a Bad Thing?

While many people can live happily without addressing their hypermobility, the condition does lend itself to some uncomfortable symptoms, such as:

  • Joint and muscle pains.

  • Joint dislocations.

  • Pain when walking.

  • Degeneration of the joints.

Problems associated with hypermobility are usually limited to the lower spine, where the lumbar region connects to the pelvis. This is because the lower spinal region has far less restraint from the surrounding areas. The thoracic spine (mid-back) is restrained by the rib-cage, which typically limits any excessive movement around this region. Similarly, your cervical spine (neck) has a limited range of motion due to the large tendons that offer support to this area. Your lower spine, on the other hand, has a fairly unrestricted range of motion, which makes it a prime spot for hypermobility problems.

Why Is Hypermobility a Problem with Dancers?

It is often difficult to understand the cause and effect of hypermobility in dancers. On one hand, people with naturally mobile joints are attracted to dance as they can move their body in ways which others cannot. On the other hand, exerting continuous pressure on your joints can cause them to become slightly more mobile over time. This shouldn't be considered the same as stretching muscles; rather, it is excessive, repeated force on the joints that can cause them to move outside of their natural range.

In any case, hypermobility can be dangerous for dancers, as the excessive pressure placed on these joints can lead to misalignment and injury in the spinal column. Any existing problems with hypermobility can quickly become exacerbated due to the difficult positions dancers force their body to adopt. If you are unaware of your hypermobile joints, you may be accidentally aggravating the issue any time you twist at the lower spine.

What Can Be Done to Help Dancers with Hypermobility?

The best treatment against the potential dangers of hypermobility is proper realignment of the spinal column. By fixing any existing imbalances, the spine can be restored to its natural S-shape, protecting against over-rotation of the lumbar region.

As such, it is recommended that any dancers who have hypermobility undergo a thorough course of chiropractic treatment. Chiropractors have expert knowledge of the musculoskeletal system and are able to adjust any existing realignments (referred to as "subluxations") in order to restore the spine to its natural shape.