Flexibility in Older Women Lowers Arthritis Risk

SEPTEMBER 01, 2005

A study conducted at St. Thomas' Hospital in London, England, suggests that older women who are "double-jointed" (have super-flexible joints) are less likely to have arthritic knees than other women. Although it was not clear whether the women were born with their extra flexibility, or if it came from a lifetime of exercise and stretching, the findings suggest that retaining flexibility in later years can ward off arthritis.

People who have hypermobile joints have an expanded range of motion. The looseness of the structures surrounding the joints allows them to have more motion. In some cases, hypermobility is a sign of inherited connective tissue or bone disease, and some previous studies had suggested that it might actually increase the risk of osteoarthritis (OA).

The study involved 716 women aged 53 to 72 years old, 79 of whom had some degree of joint hypermobility. The investigators found that bone mineral density (BMD) was 3% higher in the hips of the hypermobile group than in the other women. No difference was noted in spine (BMD) between the 2 groups, however. The researchers also looked at OA in the hands, knees, spine, and hips. A reduced risk of OA was found in only the knees of the hypermobile group.