[Note: Other research indicates hypermobile joints and migraine are also highly associated with ‘chronic fatigue syndrome’ (ME/CFS) and fibromyalgia, and other problems frequent in both.*]
Most people see ‘double-jointedness’ as a common, harmless condition. But in people with joint hypermobility syndrome (JHS) - a condition where joints easily move beyond their normal range - it could be the precursor and cause of migraines and other problems, reports Vincent Martin, MD, a headache expert at University of Cincinnati Health Center who himself has hypermobile joints and migraine.
A study by Dr. Martin & colleagues, published in the April issue of the journal Cephalalgia (to read the abstract, click HERE), established that people with hypermobile joints have a much greater chance of suffering from migraines. And further studies will investigate associations for those with less marked joint mobility.
There is a genetic component to the illness, which often affects women, and it tends to run in families. Genes that are responsible for the production of collagen, an important protein that helps glue tissues together, are suspected to play a role.
The syndrome often causes other joint pain, leading to misdiagnosis.
"Joint hypermobility syndrome is very common and affects roughly 10% to 15% of the entire female population,” says Dr. Martin.
"Preliminary studies suggested that headache disorders are more common in patients with joint hypermobility syndrome,” he notes, and “We wanted to determine if the prevalence, frequency, and disability of migraine differ between female patients with the syndrome and a control population.”
Using interviews and written questionnaires, researchers compared 28 women with the syndrome with a ‘general patient population’ - 232 women patients of two primary care practices.
They found that
• 75% of patients with joint hypermobility syndrome also got migraines while only 43% suffered from migraines in the comparison group.
• After assessing age and gender differences between the groups, those with joint hypermobility had three times the risk of migraines.
• Women in this group also experienced migraines nearly twice as many days each month and were more likely to experience visual disturbances called ‘aura’ preceding the pain of a migraine attack.
"The results show that this common clinical disorder is strongly associated with an increased prevalence, frequency and disability of migraine in females,” Dr. Martin says.
Next Step – Analysis of Less Severe Cases
"The patients in the study were selected from a specialty connective tissue clinic, so our next step is to test whether or not this is the same in less severe cases by using patients in a regular primary care clinic, Dr. Martin adds. "In bringing attention to this link, we hope that patients can be diagnosed earlier, leading to quicker treatments.”
Other Problems That Can Be Related
In addition, the researchers say, individuals who are double-jointed might want to consider seeing a specialist if they have recurrent, debilitating migraines or experience the following:
• Moderate to severe arthritis.
• Dislocation and sprains in joints.
• Anxiety and depression.
• Neck pain or herniated discs.
• TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder), or inflammation of the temporomandibular joint which connects the mandible to the skull.
• Leaky heart valves.
"There are treatments that can greatly improve the quality of life for those with the syndrome, but the correct diagnosis needs to be made first,” says Dr. Martin.
Source: University of Cincinnati news release, Mar 16, 2011
* A few examples:
• “Migraine Headaches in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Georgetown University, Mar 2011
• “Flexible Joints Associated with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, Sep 2002
• Internet survey of 2,596 FM patients by Robert M Bennett, et al., reported in Mar 2007 issue of BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, found that 47% had recurrent headaches – the most common symptom after low back pain (63%).
• Hudson N et al. “Diagnostic Associations With Hypermobility In New Rheumatology Referrals.” ACR Annual Meeting 1995, Abstract #571. (Canadian researchers found 30% of patients with hypermobility had fibromyalgia.)