What is ligamentous laxity?
Ligaments connect and stabilize the bones. They’re flexible enough to move, but firm enough to provide support. Without ligaments in joints such as the knees, for example, you wouldn’t be able to walk or sit.
Most people have naturally tight ligaments. Ligamentous laxity occurs when your ligaments are too loose. You might also hear ligamentous laxity referred to as loose joints or joint laxity.
Ligamentous laxity can affect joints all over your body, such as your neck, shoulders, ankles, or knees.
What are the symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of ligamentous laxity tend to occur in or around the affected joints. Possible symptoms near your joints include:
- pain, numbness, or tingling
- muscle spasms
- frequent injuries or joint dislocation
- increased range of motion (hypermobility)
- joints that click or crack
What causes it?
Having one or more loose joints isn’t uncommon, especially among children. In some cases, ligamentous laxity doesn’t have a clear cause. However, it’s usually due to an underlying medical condition or injury.
Several genetic conditions that affect your body’s connective tissue can cause ligamentous laxity. These include:
Several nongenetic conditions can also cause it, such as:
Injuries and accidents
Injuries can also cause ligamentous laxity, especially muscle strains and repetitive motion injuries. However, people with loose ligaments also have a higher risk of injury, so it’s not always clear whether an injury caused loose ligaments or vice versa.
Are there any risk factors?
Some people are more likely to have loose joints, regardless of whether they have an underlying condition. For instance, ligamentous laxity is more common in children than adults. It also affects women more often than men.
In addition, ligamentous laxity is more common among athletes, such as gymnasts, swimmers, or golfers, because they’re more prone to injuries like muscle strain. Having a job that requires a lot of repetitive movement can also increase your risk of an injury that might cause loose ligaments.
How is it diagnosed?
The Beighton score is a common screening tool for joint hypermobility. It involves completing a series of movements, such as pulling your fingers backward or bending over and placing your hands flat on the ground. Your doctor might use this test to assess whether ligamentous laxity appears in more than one area of your body.
In rare cases, ligamentous laxity is a sign of a more serious condition, such as Ehlers-Danlos or Marfan syndrome. Your doctor might decide to conduct additional tests if you have other symptoms of a connective tissue condition, such as fatigue or muscle weakness.
How is it treated?
Ligamentous laxity doesn’t always require treatment, especially if it isn’t causing you any pain. However, if it does cause pain, physical therapy can help to strengthen the muscles surrounding your joints for added support. In severe cases, you may need surgery to repair the ligaments.
The bottom line
Ligamentous laxity is a medical term for loose ligaments, which can lead to loose joints that bend more than usual. While it doesn’t always cause problems, ligamentous laxity sometimes causes pain and can increase your risk of injuries, such as dislocated joints.