Loose joints, loose guts?
From time to time osteopaths come across people whose joints are hypermobile, meaning that they are more flexible than the average. The joints are sometimes described as ‘double jointed’, though that is not really the case. Interestingly, it is not unusual to find such people are also more prone to abdominal symptoms from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome or reflux disorders. They may also have urinary symptoms.
A research project looking into this has recently been published in the Journal of clinical gastroenterology and hepatology. Prof Aziz’s team studied 708 patients who suffer from a range of conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, reflux disorders stomach pain constipation bladder problems and gynaecological issues. The patient group was divided into those with gastrointestinal disorders (e.g. irritable bowel syndrome), those with a reflux disorder (often related to a weak ‘valve’ or sphincter at the top of the stomach/hiatus hernia) and those with an organic diagnosis (e.g. stomach ulcer where there is some structural damage). All of the patients were then assessed with regard to hypermobility of their joints.
The number of people with hypermobility was highest in the groups of those with functional gastrointestinal disorders (38%) and reflux disease (40%), as compared to those with organic GI disease (26%) and patients without GI disorders (26%). Hypermobile patients were also found to be more likely to have pain after eating, bladder problems and stomach pains.
Hypermobility in joints appears to be related to abnormally loose or elastic connective tissues such as ligaments that hold the joint together. It is suggested that such gut and urinary symptoms may also be related to loose connective tissue in the walls of the gut and bladder, leading to poor function. The hope is future research will investigate the links between hypermobility and gut disorders more fully so that more effective treatments can be developed.
A prospective Evaluation of Undiagnosed Joint Hypermobility Syndrome in patients with Gastrointestinal Symptoms. A Fikree et al. Clnical Gastroenterology and Hepatology DOI:10.1016/j.cgh.21014.01.014 published online 21 Jan 2014