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What is Hyperextension?

By J. Beam
Updated May 17, 2024
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Hyperextension is the movement or extension of joints, tendons, or muscles beyond the normal limit or range of motion. When this happens, it may cause an injury, especially in athletes. Unlike hypermobility, which refers to being double-jointed, hyperextension is the stretching of a body part beyond what is normal. A person who is double-jointed has misaligned or abnormally shaped joints, and their hypermobility is a result. Extending a body part beyond its normal range is not intentional and often results in orthopedic injury.

Injuries due to hyperextension can occur in any part of the body and as a result of sports injury or accident. The most common joints affected by it are the knees and elbows. Depending on the extremeness of the movement, a joint or muscle may be temporarily injured and improve with time and physical therapy, or it may be a permanent injury. Most cases require only acute treatment such as cold compresses, rest, and brace support. In some cases, the over-extension may result in permanent injury that can only be corrected with surgery.

Many people who suffer this type of injury and visit a healthcare provider are given a brace to wear. This not only provides support to the injured joint, but also alleviates further pain while the injury heals. Extremely physical and contact sports are the most common culprit of such injuries. When the elbow, knee, finger, or even neck joints are bent the wrong way and extended beyond their normal range of motion, the result is painful. Some athletes wear braces as a preventative measure to either prevent the straining of a joint or to avoid aggravating an old injury.

Hyperextension can cause joint pain, swelling, and immobility. If the injury was moderate to severe, a medical professional will likely order imaging tests like X-rays or an MRI to assess the damage to the affected area. A patient might be referred to a physical therapist or an orthopedic specialist. Treatment depends upon the severity of the injury.

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Discussion Comments
By anon977079 — On Nov 07, 2014

I think I hyper extended my right elbow can not straighten out the arm the elbow will not go all the way down I can see that the left and right side are different when looking at it. It hurts in the elbow and shoulder. Should I see a doctor?

By BallIsLife — On Jan 05, 2014

I hyperextended my elbow about almost a month ago and it still hurts really bad when I straighten or bend it to far. Should I wear a brace? Should I see a doctor? How long will it hurt? What should I do? Please help!

By anon284678 — On Aug 10, 2012

@Toni G.: I have similar issues. All my fingers are hyper-extended at the last knuckle making the tips of my fingers curl up when I try to make them straight. I also have a knee cap that "pops" if I bend in an odd position. It gives me a warning (usually)-especially if I am sitting cross legged (Indian style) on the floor. My knee/leg will cramp and when I muster the strength to straighten in out, I can feel the muscles loosen and my knee cap "pops" back into place.

A cousin of mine also has this issue, so I am assuming it is genetic. Also I can make my hips and knees "crack". It is nice to know I am not alone in this. Thank you for your post; it really made me feel better! --Denise

By anon253585 — On Mar 09, 2012

I was told recently by my fiance's physiotherapist that I have actually got hyperextended joints, and I realized I've had it since I was a kid, my fingers bend back slightly more then normal. my arms over stretch when I stretch them out straight, and the physio guy said I had a perfect arched back when I bend to touch my toes, and that my hips actually move with it. I can touch the floor too. I dislocated my left kneecap a fair few years back. It popped out and then popped straight back in again. It gives me warning signs every so often. If I move the wrong way, it can give me a little pain as if to say 'don't do that again'.

For the past couple of months, I've been getting pains when I do the washing up and that sort of thing, and it generally affects all my left side of my back with a horrible, achy pain. Apparently, part of my back is strained muscle, and now I've got certain exercises to do, so hopefully that will help along with helping my neck, which can hurt if I'm looking down too long.

The physio guy was ecstatically impressed when I told him I thought I had hyper extended joints when I explained that I can click pretty much all my joints, due to loose joints being able to release gases that make the 'click' noise, which made me ask him 'is it or isn't true that clicking joints cause arthritis?' and he said no, so that's good.

I will see him again to check about my bad kneecap since I can't pick certain things up like say, a light to medium heavy box. If I pick it up correctly, which is to bend the legs, I can't get back up again, so I end up always doing it the naughty way of bending the back which I know is not really a good idea, but to be honest, overall my hyper extending joints are just fine. I barely notice it, just as peeps who don't have it, barely notice they have normal type joints.

Hope this has been somewhat helpful and insightful. Toni G., 21 years old, UK

By anon252991 — On Mar 07, 2012

I was born with hyper-extended legs. Since last year my right joint started hurting when I would stand for a good half an hour or more just washing dishes (ticked me off!) I noticed that my right leg would extend much farther than my left leg (my left leg is hyper-extended as well) and that is when my right joint would ache with pain.

Sometimes I couldn't stand on it because the pain was that bad, so I would shift ALL my body weight on my left leg so my right leg would relax from the pain. Thankfully, my left leg is pain-free still. However, just yesterday i was walking around on campus at my college in the cold for two or three hours with my friend when I started to get that horrible aching pain in my right knee cap. I told my friend that "I think i need a brace for my right leg. Gosh I hope this is not arthritis. How come my left knee cap is not behaving this way?"

I also think that my left kneecap always turned to the left every time I would stand up (from my childhood up till now) could also have caused this knee-cap-joint problem for me? I also can't recall having experienced this pain in the summer time. So I wonder if this kneecap pain occurs during the cold, when I unintentionally overworked my right kneecap? I am only 25 years old.

By anon246920 — On Feb 11, 2012

I hyperextended my wrist and it hurts like crazy. If I go to the doctor, what are they going to do?

By anon167300 — On Apr 12, 2011

I hyperextended my knee yesterday when I fell back and my leg was underneath me. It's not swollen, but when I bend it backward, it really hurts and if I straighten it, it hurts. What should I do, rest or see a doctor? Thanks.

By anon123667 — On Nov 03, 2010

I have hyperextension in all my joints due to complications when I was born. It doesn't affect me too much other than I regularly sprain my wrists and ankles, and it hurts to stand for too long. But I was told by my physio to stop doing ballet as it can cause problems (e.g., arthritis) later in life.

By anon90554 — On Jun 16, 2010

I was born with hyper extended knees and elbows. I have always looked funny standing because my knees don't lock in place like they should (they have more of a c shape).

Because of this, i have never been able to run correctly and sort of walk funny. It hurts me to stand for more than 20 minutes. This also affects my lower back because my body is trying to compensate for itself.

I have too much of a curve in my lower back, which at one point in time, caused extreme pain in my hips and legs when lying down. I now work at a chiropractor's office so that has resolved. My elbows are the same way but don't give me much problems other than appearing broken.

By anon83178 — On May 09, 2010

it's weird because i think i have this.

my dad diagnosed it but he's a paramedic. but no website seems to find it happening to toes.

three of my toes are like this. it happened because i was running and ran into the corner of a landscaping cement border so i think that's what it is, but who knows?

I can't walk well. It really, really hurts if i run and to wiggle my toes. Ouch! Won't do that again.

By anon71241 — On Mar 17, 2010

Back in November, I hyper extended my knee playing basket ball. There is still swelling and it hurts to walk on, even though I've iced it, been taking Ibuprofen regularly, and been working in physical therapy.

I don't know what to do, because my doctor hasn't really fully explained it to me. Can a doctor, or someone else please help me?

By anon61719 — On Jan 21, 2010

I hyper-extended my back muscle skiing a couple weeks ago and yesterday i think i did the same thing to my neck. should i see a doctor?

By anon51696 — On Nov 08, 2009

I know for sure that in ballet, hyper extension in the knee is one of the things you need in order to become a ballerina. But does it really make you get injured more often?

By anon40218 — On Aug 06, 2009

One of my friends thinks she has hyperextended her elbow and I wanted to know if there is any way to dull and/or stop the pain quicker than natural healing and without using medication?

By anon39848 — On Aug 04, 2009

OK i have a 180 turnout and can plie, but when we sit down to stretch, my legs won't open as far as they should. people even try to move them more and they can't. my instructor said it was hypoextension, but i'm confused

By anon21835 — On Nov 22, 2008

I hyperextended my leg during basketball. can I keep playing?

By Bop66 — On Sep 07, 2008

Hi, My son is 17 and has torn his Ulnar ligament in elbow. I am wondering if anyone knows how long this takes to heal or if with a good hinged brace it offers enough protection that he can play football? Should he not play until completely healed. Thank you, Worried Mom

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