What is Hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS)?
Pilates is commonly known as a practice that can improve movement and flexibility. While many people seek to increase their range of movement, it is not uncommon to see people who have an excessive range of movement too!
Hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) are connective tissue conditions categorised by excessive joint movement. Common symptoms of hypermobility or EDS include unstable joints, dislocations, joint pain, skin hyperextensibility, scarring, and muscle pain. Hypermobility and EDS can limit functional movements and lead to reoccurring injuries.
Hypermobility presentations can typically be placed on a spectrum from mild to severe, depending on the extent and impact of the hypermobility. Every presentation is different, but common areas of the body which are affected include the knee, hip, shoulder, and ankle. The condition can be heritable and is significantly more common in women. Learn more about Pilates and hypermobility-specific exercises and how they can be beneficial for people with EDS.
How Pilates Can Help
While the condition cannot be cured, it can be managed using Pilates for hypermobility.
The first step is to diagnose and understand the presence of hypermobility. Whether or not you started Pilates for hypermobility, it will be one of the first things a Pilates instructor observes in your movement.
Once the instructor is aware, they can work with you to understand your individual hypermobility and make a Pilates management plan. Pilates exercises build body awareness and connection. This allows a client to increase their understanding of their hypermobility and improve their ability to simulate correct muscle recruitment. Over time, you can increase your control over your hypermobility and increase muscle and joint stability.
Pilates breathing technique is another important aspect that supports a client with hypermobility. Breath-holding is linked to overall muscular holding patterns. By practising optimal and controlled breathing, this has a calming effect on hypermobile anxiety, leading to greater mind-body connection and calmer nervous system response.
We provide a movement health score and personalised action plan for under two minutes. You can get it for free here.
At Pilates Can we see wide presentations of hypermobility from mild to severe. One of our Pilates instructors, Merina, both experiences and treats hypermobility!
#1 Merina is hypermobile in her left hip and shoulder, leaving her joints ‘locked up’.
She loves to surf and snowboard but finds her hypermobility limits her ability to control her boards. Merina has successfully used Pilates hypermobility treatment exercises to become ‘in tune’ with her deep stabilising muscles around her joints. This allows her to increase her movement control when practicing speed or agility.
As an instructor, Merina has seen how hypermobility impacts the movement and sporting ability of other clients; including joint injuries and limited proprioception (awareness of body position and movement).
“Untreated hypermobility may eventually lead to more injuries as well as lack of confidence with our own body because we are unable to feel where we are in space which in turn would trigger all other pathological conditions associated with inactive physique” – Merina.
Merina recommends that anyone experiencing hypermobility should consider Pilates and/or physiotherapy. Physiotherapy can be a great diagnostic tool for hypermobility and adding Pilates to an exercise routine can significantly improve movement and associated health outcomes.
As everyone experiences different symptoms and restrictions with hypermobility, it takes an individualised approach to reduce the impact on someone’s movement and life. Pilates Can offers private and semi-private Pilates sessions, including a thorough assessment of movement conditions and a personalised Pilates program. The experienced instructors can then work with you individually to improve your movement control and reduce injury risk long term.
“I would recommend that they first see a physiotherapist specialising in diagnosing hypermobility/EDS. Once we have the correct diagnosis, then we, the Pilates instructors, can optimise the Pilates exercises for the prospective client.” – Merina
#2 Kerry started doing Pilates to build whole body strength and stability in a low impact environment
She did ballet when she was young and was always flexible, but Kerry is also known for her clumsiness and ability to sprain her ankle on a flat path. She had never heard of hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome and just thought she was "special". As a result of her “clumsiness”, she never exercised as an adult as it always resulted in injury.
Little did she know that her body was always “gripping” to stabilise, which is the reason why she was always tired and never had the energy to do anything extra. Kerry’s condition affected her everyday life, such as having to think about how to get out of bed or how to bend over to wear shoes. It also held her back from doing her hobbies like line dancing because she had to be conscious of all her movements to reduce the possibility of dislocating a joint.
“Hypermobility and Ehlers-Danlos can be a bit of a contradiction when it comes to movement. I am extremely flexible but when my body is gripping to stabilise a joint that doesn't have the muscle strength to do so. I will get stiff, and my movement will be restricted. It is a balance between too flexible and too stiff.” - Kerry
Seven years of Pilates has helped Kerry manage her hypermobility/Ehlers Danlos syndrome and exercise allowed her to build muscle strength and stability in a non-impact way. She credits Pilates for giving her the ability to stretch out stiff and gripping joints, as well as get relief from pain. Kerry recommends this program to anyone with the same condition and who are looking for the best Pilates exercises for hypermobility.
“It was the best thing I did for myself. I have built strength and stability in my body and reduced my overall pain. It has allowed me to get back to my line dancing which i had to stop due to pain and exhaustion.”- Kerry
Is Hypermobility and Eds affecting your daily life?
If you would like to know more about Pilates for hypermobility or find a Pilates program that is right for you, please contact our friendly team at 0419 777 477 to discuss further.