woman holding her shoulder in pain

Hypermobility and Subluxations: Could You Be at Risk?

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Hypermobility and subluxations commonly occur together. In fact, frequent subluxations is a key part of the diagnosis criteria for hypermobility.

One of the most common subluxations people with hypermobility have is in the shoulder. One study found that two-thirds of people with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD) report shoulder subluxation, instability, and/or laxity.

If, like me, you hadn’t heard of subluxations before being diagnosed with hypermobility, don’t panic. Read on to find out what a subluxation is, what a subluxation feels like, and what causes them.

What is a subluxation?

A subluxation is a partial dislocation of a joint. They occur when the two bones that form the joint partially move out of alignment. Subluxations can be painful and can lead to further damage to the joint, such as arthritis.

Which joints are subluxations most likely to occur in?

Subluxations can occur in any joint. But the most common parts of the body where subluxations occur are the shoulders, fingers, thumbs, ankles, and knees.

What causes subluxations?

Many things cause subluxations, including:

Physical trauma

Physical trauma is one of the most common causes of subluxations. When the body experiences a sudden and forceful impact, such as a fall or a car accident, the joints can be knocked out of alignment. This can result in subluxations, which can be very painful and limit the range of motion in the affected joint.

Poor posture

Poor posture is another common cause of subluxations. When the body is not aligned properly, the joints can become misaligned over time. This can lead to subluxations in the spine, hips, and other areas of the body. 

Poor posture can be caused by a variety of factors, including sitting for extended periods, carrying heavy backpacks or purses, and wearing high heels.

Repetitive stress

Repetitive stress may also lead to subluxations. This type of stress occurs when the same motion is performed repeatedly over time. For example, people who work in jobs that require them to perform the same motion over and over again, such as typing on a keyboard, can develop subluxations in their wrists, hands, and fingers.



Poor nutrition

Poor nutrition can also result in subluxations. When the body is lacking in nutrients, the bones weaken and they’re more susceptible to subluxations. People who don’t eat well are also more likely to have muscle weakness. As a result, the risk of trauma rises.

A diet high in fatty, calorific foods can also cause subluxations as people that carry extra weight put their joints under excess stress.

Dehydration

Dehydration reduces the body’s ability to produce synovial fluid. Synovial fluid is a lubricant that reduces friction and wear in the joints. When the body is dehydrated, it produces less synovial fluid, which makes the joints stiff and less flexible. This stiffness puts pressure on the joint, leading to misalignment and subluxation.

Dehydrated people also experience more inflammation in their bodies. This inflammation causes tissues to swell, which puts pressure on the joints and puts them at risk of subluxation.

Hormonal imbalance

When there is an imbalance in hormones, such as estrogen or testosterone, it affects bone density and leads to a loss of calcium in the bones. This makes the bones weaker and more prone to subluxations. In addition, hormonal imbalances cause muscle weakness, which also contributes to subluxations.

What is the Link Between Hypermobility and Subluxations?

The link between hypermobility and subluxations happens for many reasons. These include:

  • Hypermobility puts more stress on the ligaments that hold the joints together. When these ligaments are stretched beyond their limit, they can’t keep the joint in place, resulting in a subluxation.

  • People with hypermobility often have weak muscles, which can’t support the joints effectively. This lack of support can cause the joint to move beyond its normal range of motion and result in a subluxation.

  • Hypermobility causes joint degeneration, making the joint more prone to subluxations.

Does everyone have subluxations?

The short answer is yes. Subluxations don’t just occur to hypermobile people – anyone can have them.

Our bodies are not perfect, and our joints are constantly exposed to stress and strain. Even if we don’t experience any pain or symptoms, subluxations can still be present in our bodies.

In fact, chiropractors believe that subluxations are widespread and often go undetected, which can lead to a host of health problems over time. This is because subluxations can interfere with the proper functioning of the nervous system, which can affect various organs and systems in the body.

What does a subluxation feel like?

Subluxations are often described differently by affected individuals. Typically, you’ll feel a large amount of pain and discomfort in the joint. Swelling is normal too. You’ll feel like the joint isn’t in place properly and your bones might pop in and out of the socket too.

I usually describe subluxations as a loud click, pop, or snap that takes your breath away. I usually yell out when I have them.

How to manage subluxations caused by hypermobility

While subluxations can be painful and uncomfortable, there are ways to manage them:

Physical therapy – A physical therapist can create a personalized exercise program that focuses on strengthening the muscles around the joint. This added support helps to prevent subluxations.

Braces or tapeWearing a brace or taping the joint provides additional support and reduces the risk of a subluxation.

Avoiding certain activities – Certain activities, such as contact sports or activities that require repetitive joint movements, increase the risk of subluxations. Avoiding these activities may help prevent subluxations.

Surgery – In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to correct a subluxation.

What are the symptoms of a subluxation?

The most common answer to this question is pain.

Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Tenderness
  • Reduced mobility
  • Joint instability
  • Balance issues
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Stiffness
  • Altered gait

Do subluxations need treatment?

Not all subluxations require treatment. Some people may have subluxations without experiencing any discomfort, and in such cases, chiropractic care may not be necessary. It’s always best to consult a healthcare professional if you have concerns about your joint health.

Do subluxations heal themselves?

Subluxations can sometimes resolve on their own, but it is not always the case. The body has a natural ability to heal itself, and this process can sometimes correct subluxations. However, this usually depends on the severity of the subluxation and the body’s natural healing ability.

Mild subluxations, caused by everyday activities such as sleeping in an awkward position or performing repetitive motions, may heal on their own with rest, ice, and stretching. However, more severe subluxations, such as those caused by trauma or accidents, may require medical intervention.

It is crucial to address subluxations promptly because they can cause other health problems if left untreated. For instance, chronic subluxations can lead to muscle spasms, nerve damage, and joint degeneration.

Author

  • Amy

    Amy lives with hypermobility spectrum disorder (HSD). She spent years not knowing what was wrong with her body, before eventually being diagnosed in her 30s. She has two young children - both of whom are hypermobile.