Flexible Kids Require Flexible Care: Managing Your Child's Hypermobility Joint Disorder

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Has your child recently been diagnosed with hypermobility joint syndrome (HJS)? Are you wondering how the diagnosis will affect their future and whether or not you'll need to secure any special equipment and/or medical care? Get answers to your questions with the information below.

A Condition With Many Possible Outcomes

HJS is a very common condition in which the joints of those affected extend beyond the normal range of motion. Often described as "double joints", the condition can affect anywhere from a single joint in the body, to all joints in the body. As many as 40 percent of school-aged children have HJS, but only 10 percent of them experience pain from the disorder. 

Children who do not experience pain require no medical treatment. Their joint mobility is usually restored to a normal range of motion as their growing muscles gain mass and strengthen. Children whose HJS is accompanied by pain, however, report varying degrees of pain and require varying degrees of medical treatment and special equipment.

Maintaining Range Of Motion

The pain associated with HJS can be attributed to irritated tissue surrounding the joints. As the joints operate, they extend too far and bump and bang the surrounding tissue. Depending on what activities cause the joints to swing too far, sufferers can experience anything from short bouts of mild pain to constant, severe pain that lowers their quality of life. 

Children with severe pain may train their bodies to operate in ways that lessen their symptoms; however, this altered body movement comes at the cost of poor posture and misalignment of the neck, shoulders, hips, and spine.

The goal of treatment for children with HJS is to limit the over-extension and under-extension of their joints. You don't want your child to partake in activities in which their joints will bend beyond the normal range of motion, but you also don't want to limit them so much that they forfeit their mobility, lose independence, or can't participate in social activities.

Listen To Your Child

While swelling sometimes does occur in children with HJS, it is usually brief and not accompanied by skin redness or heat. This makes it difficult for parents to pinpoint what activities are causing irritation and what joints, specifically, are over-extending.

Ask your child frequently if they are experiencing any pain, and try to build a correlation between that pain and the activities they've recently participated in. Once you've found a correlation, focus on creating a normal range of motion for the associated joint during the associated triggering activity.

Pain Management And Mobility Aids

For instances of brief, mild to moderate joint pain, look for over-the-counter paracetamol pain killers; paracetamol can be found under several different brand names. If over-the-counter medications aren't cutting it, your child's doctor may be able to prescribe a stronger pain-killing medication. Children who experience sleep loss because of their pain may be prescribed a combination pain killer/sleep aid. 

If prescription pain medication doesn't ease your child's pain, or if their pain is persistent, it may be necessary to provide them with some mobility aids.

Upper-Extremity Discomfort. Splints can be beneficial in limiting the movement of upper-extremity joints during triggering activities, but some sufferers experience so much pain that the rigidity of splints would cause them discomfort. If this is the case for your child, support their sore joints with soft Lycra medical gloves or medical tape, instead.

Lower-Extremity Discomfort. If your child suffers from lower-extremity discomfort, have them wear knee-braces and supportive shoes while participating in triggering activities. If their pain is severe or constant, it may be necessary to talk to your doctor about having them fitted for crutches or a wheelchair. Unless absolutely necessary, these walking aids should not be used constantly, but instead to provide your child's joints with periods of rest in between activities or when they're experiencing a flare-up. 

There is no one single treatment option for HJS, nor is there a list of mobility aids that your child might need. The condition varies so greatly from individual to individual that each case requires a thorough analysis of the sufferer's needs. If your child has been diagnosed with HJS, monitor them carefully, schedule routine visits to their doctor, and work to manage their pain as it arises with pain medication and appropriate mobility aids.

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