Billie Eilish has opened up about her diagnosis with hypermobility. The 21-year-old said she felt like her body was “gaslighting” her, while discussing the injuries she sustained as a teenager in a new cover story for Vogue.
“Going through my teenage years of hating myself and all that stupid s**t, a lot of it came from my anger toward my body, and how mad I was at how much pain it’s caused me, and how much I’ve lost because of things that happened to it,” she said.
After a growth plate injury in her hip at age 13, she shifted her focus from dancing to music. Following a series of misdiagnoses, Eilish discovered she had a condition called hypermobility – and she says she now has a more positive relationship with her body.
“I felt like my body was gaslighting me for years,” she said. “I had to go through a process of being like, ‘My body is actually me. And it’s not out to get me’.”
Here’s everything you need to know about hypermobility…
What is hypermobility?
“Hypermobility is a condition of having an unusually or abnormally flexible range of movement in a joint or joints,” explains physiotherapist Sammy Margo from muscle and joint care specialists Deep Freeze and Deep Heat.
“People with hypermobility are often described as ‘double jointed’. Hypermobility of the joints occurs when the tissues holding the joint together, particularly the ligaments and joint capsule, are ‘too loose’.
“Weak muscles around the joint often contribute to hypermobility; this is due to changes in the type of and lack of collagen. The joints mainly affected are knees, shoulders, elbows, wrists, and fingers.”
Who might suffer from hypermobility?
“About one in 10 people (but perhaps as many as one in five) have hypermobility,” Margo suggests. “Hypermobility is more common in women and children, and people of Afro-Caribbean and Asian descent.”
She also suggests it is common in “gymnasts, athletes, dancers and musicians” – like Eilish. “Children sometimes grow out of it or [it] improves with age,” Margo adds.
According to Margo, there is “no clear cause” for hypermobility, but “it may be linked to family history, bone shape or bone socket depth, and muscle tone or strength”, she suggests. “In some cases, it is linked to rare genetic conditions.”
What are some of the key symptoms?
While some with hypermobility experience no symptoms, Margo continues: “In some people, hypermobility causes joint pain, joint and ligament injuries, poor balance, clumsiness, dizziness, thin, stretchy skin, tiredness (fatigue), and bowel and bladder issues. Joint hypermobility can lead to dislocated joints and locked joints.”
The Vogue interview details how Eilish had various misdiagnoses before discovering she had hypermobility. Margo suggests this is a relatively common scenario, saying: “Hypermobility causes so many symptoms – it is easy to misdiagnose, because it is simply not recognised. It is also associated with some rare genetic conditions, which are easy to miss.”
How is it treated?
There is no cure for hypermobility, so for many sufferers, the best course of action is protecting their joints and managing any pain they might be experiencing.
“You can protect your joints by strengthening your muscles through exercise. Before exercise it’s important to warm up properly,” advises Margo, who recommends using a topical product from the Deep Heat range “to warm cool muscles” before working out.
She continues: “Other important things I’d recommend include maintaining good posture; wearing shoes with good arch support; using orthotics to correct flat feet; standing with your knees slightly bent when exercising and avoiding extreme ranges of movement.
“Consider seeing a physiotherapist to help reduce pain, increase muscle strength, and improve posture and balance.”