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Is there any connection between hypermobility in joints and arthritis?

Q) Is there any connection between hypermobility in joints and arthritis? I'm 43 and I've suffered knee pain for years and have also herniated two discs in the last 10 years. This seems to be a lot of problems for someone my age. Saying that, I did get knocked down by a car in 1985 and was told I would get arthritis early on. I would appreciate your opinion please.
Sue, Halesowen, West Midlands (Summer 2011)

A) Professor Howard Bird, who has just recently retired after a long career working as a rheumatologist in Leeds, spent much of his early career looking at the relationship between hypermobility (bendy joints) and arthritis. He found that hypermobility predisposed people to a number of rheumatic complaints, one of which was a tendency to develop osteoarthritis at a younger age. Although the term hypermobility covers a 'mixed bag' of diagnoses, those people who inherit the tendency can get other problems such as varicose veins, piles and slipped discs. This may be because the 'tissue scaffold' is weaker than normal. Although people with generalised hypermobility are born like that, it's possible to acquire hypermobility in just one or two joints with use (or abuse if you like). There's no doubt that hypermobility can convey advantages in certain activities such as ballet, music and gymnastics, but it's a double-edged sword and it requires careful management to avoid future problems.

This answer was provided by Dr Philip Helliwell for the Summer 2011 edition of our magazine, Arthritis Today, and was correct at the time of publication.

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