What does being ‘double-jointed’ mean?
When superstar Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes went down with a patella (knee cap) dislocation following a QB sneak two weeks ago, it looked like a major setback to the dynamic playmaker’s repeat-MVP campaign.
As you can imagine, it’s pretty important for your patella to be in the right place. Normally, it sits in the front of your knee in what’s called the patellofemoral groove, where your thigh bone (also called your femur) meets your shin bone (your tibia).
When your patella dislocates, whether due to a direct blow or by planting your foot and rapidly twisting, there’s a high likelihood of damage to the surrounding ligaments and tendons. Oftentimes, this soft tissue damage requires season-ending surgery. In the very best case scenarios, the kneecap is coaxed back into place quickly and then rested for several weeks while swelling and inflammation return to normal.
Luckily, Mahomes’ injury and recovery was of the latter variety. And while he didn’t suit up against the Packers last night, he’ll be back on the field quickly thanks to what reporters keep referring to as being “double-jointed”.
“Mahomes is double-jointed, giving his knee built-in protection. That’s why when the kneecap dislocated, it only compromised one ligament, which is crazy, which is something that rarely happens. The bottom line is, it’s led to an incredibly quick recovery.”
–Ian Rapoport, NFL Sportswriter
Double-jointed doesn’t really mean double-jointed
The term double-jointed implies that a person with unusual flexibility has twice the average number of joints, which allows for their increased range of motion. But (of course) that’s anatomically impossible. Everyone has the same number of joints – the points in the body where two bones meet.
People with “double-jointedness” actually have something called hypermobility, a condition that allows them to move joints farther than the average person.
What makes a person seem double-jointed actually has more to do with the soft tissue that surrounds the joints than the actual joints themselves. Most joints are wrapped in a ligament capsule, which connects bone to bone. Everyone’s joints are designed to have the same range of motion, but the flexibility of a person’s ligaments and tendons determines a person’s ability to, say, flex at the hips in order to touch their toes.
Sometimes hypermobility isn’t a problem – many with “double-jointedness” never experience the pain and discomfort that the average person experiences when extending a joint beyond its normal range. And sometimes, like in Mahomes’ case, it can actually help avoid more serious injuries. However, for the majority of the population, ligament laxity and joint instability are a real problem.
If you’re a patient at our office, you may have heard me refer to it as joint “sloppiness”. It’s something that’s overlooked by many primary care physicians, physical therapists and chiropractors, but it’s a huge factor in why we approach musculoskeletal treatment the way we do at Ascent Chiropractic.
Our goal has always been to correct joint function and alignment with chiropractic treatment and then to stabilize those structures via physiotherapy techniques, whether that be soft tissue manipulation, taping or targeted exercises. Here’s the reason why we get results most don’t: it’s vital that the correction part of the process is done without over-manipulating and causing even more ligament laxity and instability.
That’s why I cringe when I see people self-manipulate, contorting their neck to get an audible “crack”, or when chiropractors adjust using high-velocity, non-specific rotation adjustments. Or even worse, when they use devices like the Y-strap to adjust.
Much like a rubber band, if you stretch your ligaments too much by over-manipulating your neck or back, they’ll eventually elongate and deform, losing the ability to provide the stability your joints need to maintain proper alignment. This is called Over-Manipulation Syndrome, and unfortunately it’s something I see way too often.
The Ascent Chiropractic Difference
There’s a right way and a wrong way to treat joint pain and dysfunction. At Ascent Chiropractic our unique evidence-based approach to treatment allows us to correct spinal biomechanics, restore normal function, and get you out of pain and on the road back to optimal health – for good.
Suspect you’re dealing with hypermobility syndrome and looking for a Brookfield chiropractor? Schedule an appointment by calling us at 262-345-4166 or use our online scheduling app.