Joint Hypermobility Syndrome: Recognizing a Commonly Overlooked Cause of Chronic Pain

Am J Med. 2017 Jun;130(6):640-647. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2017.02.013. Epub 2017 Mar 10.


Joint hypermobility syndrome, also known as benign hypermobility syndrome, is a connective tissue disease characterized by joint instability, chronic pain, and minor skin changes. It shares many clinical features of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Hypermobility Type; enough so that many authorities consider them as one disease process. Approximately 3% of the general population is believed to have joint hypermobility syndrome, but despite this high prevalence, due to lack of awareness, heterogeneity of clinical presentation, and reliance on physical examination for diagnosis, it is largely overlooked by primary care physicians as well as by specialists. This leads to delayed or missed opportunities for diagnosis, and inappropriate interventions that frustrate both providers and patients. We review the literature regarding the pathophysiology, diagnosis, treatment options, and prognosis of joint hypermobility syndrome, and advocate for primary care physicians to consider it in the differential diagnosis of patients with chronic pain.

Keywords: Chronic pain; Connective tissue disease; Musculoskeletal condition.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Pain / etiology
  • Chronic Pain / etiology*
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / epidemiology
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome / therapy
  • Fatigue / etiology
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Mitral Valve Prolapse / etiology
  • Musculoskeletal Pain / etiology
  • Pelvic Pain / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Primary Dysautonomias / etiology

Supplementary concepts

  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome type 3