Think You’re ‘Double-Jointed’? You’re Not. Here’s What’s Actually Going On

You know those people that can like flip their
elbows backwards or touch their thumb to their forearm or whatever? Body parts shouldn’t move like that! These people are often referred to as being
“double-jointed” but that’s actually a misnomer. They don’t really have twice as many joints
as the rest of us. This trait is formally called joint hypermobility. And it gives people’s bones an extended range
of motion without any immediate pain or discomfort. To understand how hypermobility works, we’ve
gotta start with the structure of joints. Joints themselves are the points in the body
where two bones meet. Again you can’t have two joints in the same
spot. It just doesn’t make sense. Most joints are wrapped in ligaments, which
connect bones to other bones. These ligaments contain collagen, the main
structural protein of connective tissue throughout the body! But, some people’s collagen has a different
structure than most. These structural variations result in weakened,
less stable (and therefore more flexible) ligaments. I.E. – joint hypermobility. While many see this condition as a cool party
trick or an advantage for gymnasts or dancers, it can have some pretty crappy long-term side
effects. Joint hypermobility has been linked to increased
risks for chronic joint pain, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, but also surprisingly things
like anxiety and exaggerated fight-or-flight responses, which can be debilitating. It has to do with blood flow — I can’t
get into it all now, but it’s interesting. Joint hypermobility affects about 20% of the
population and is thought to be genetic. However, people can grow out of the condition
as their connective tissues fully develop. And those who don’t grow out of it can do
exercises to improve muscle strength and stability. So if you can bend your knees backwards or
other weird things, add a bit of trivia to your party sideshow, and remind your friend
that you’re not double-jointed, you’ve just got hyperflexible ligaments and strange
collagen. No big. Our bodies do a ton of weird things… like
get goosebumps when we’re cold or scared. But why does this happen? Find out from Tara in this video here. Are you hyperflexible? What’s your favorite party trick? Our associate producer likes to flip her elbow
upside-down, it’s disgusting. Tell us in the comments, subscribe if you
haven’t already and thanks for watching Seeker

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