Double-jointed teens at risk for later pain

Adolescents who have hypermobile joints or are "double jointed" are more likely to develop moderate to severe joint pain in later years, show study findings.

Some previous studies have suggested that joint pain is common in older adolescents who are double jointed, but others have shown no difference in rates of joint pain between those with and without hypermobile joints.

"Our study provides the first prospective evidence that adolescents who display joint hypermobility are at increased risk of developing musculoskeletal pain as they get older, particularly in the shoulder, knee, ankle or feet," commented lead author Jonathan Tobias (Southmead Hospital, Bristol) in a press statement.

As reported in Arthritis and Rheumatism, the team analyzed data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) on 2901 adolescents (1267 boys) to assess links between hypermobility at an average age of 13.8 years and joint pain at a mean of 17.8 years.

They found that 4.6% of the participants had hypermobile joints in early adolescence, as defined by having a Beighton score of 6 or more. Musculoskeletal pain of at least moderate intensity in the lower back, upper back, neck, shoulder, knee, and ankle/foot was reported by a respective 16.1%, 8.9%, 8.6%, 9.5%, 8.8%, and 6.8% of the cohort at 17.8 years.

Following adjustment for various confounders such as gender, maternal education, and body mass index, having hypermobile joints significantly increased the risk for developing at least moderate joint pain in the shoulder, knee, and ankle/foot by 68%, 83%, and 82%, respectively, compared with having normal joints. However, other areas such as the spine, elbows, hands, and hips were not noticeably affected by hypermobility.

"Further investigation of increased joint pain in teens is warranted to determine if the long-term effects of joint hypermobility puts them at risk for developing osteoarthritis later in life," said Tobias.

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