If you’ve never heard of the X-Men you don’t know what you’re missing. A bunch of men and women who have extraordinary abilities thanks to genetic mutations, a leap forward in human evolution. Abilities such as super-fast healing, psychic powers, or shooting frickin’ laser beams from their eyes! They are of course a work of fiction from Marvel Comics, and have spawned a whole franchise of cartoons, films etc. This little blog is about the X-Men who live amongst us.
I talk all the time about a “normal spectrum of human variation”. What I mean is that people come in all shapes and sizes. In the world of Physio we can be far too obsessed with saying that you need to be a certain posture or you need to run a certain way when, in reality, variation is fine. Lots of people move and stand and have anatomy that is not ‘text book’, but we are supposed to, we really are all different. So I try to reassure people and not feed into myths or insecurities, if something looks different from ‘the normal’ it’s usually still fine and just part of that normal spectrum of how different all humans can be. One thing that varies a lot is human flexibility. It can depend on your genetics, activity levels, environment, and other lifestyle factors. Genetic flexibility mostly involves how tight or loose your ligaments are, but also relates to muscular flexibility, bone/joint geometry, and how elastic your other tissues are. Some people are loosey-goosey and others are tight as a drum. For those that are very loose (or you may hear it referred to as hypermobility or double-jointed) it can be a benefit – particularly for those that want to do activities that require a lot of flexibility like dance or gymnastics, but flexibility is only your friend if you can control it.
“So how do we control hypermobility”
So how do we control hypermobility? Well the simple answer is with strength. Resistance training, and particularly weight training, can reap big rewards for someone who keeps dislocating their kneecaps or over stressing their spinal joints. More muscle control to make up for the lack of joint control. It’s a simple idea but very hard to get right every day, week, month…
Some people are so flexible that they fall outside the normal spectrum. Recently I’ve had more patients who have genetic tissue conditions than I saw in the last 10+ years. Some of these people tell me “I’m a freak”. They’re being funny and laughing about it but they know they’re not like other people. Their extreme flexibility causes regular dislocations of joints, pain, damage, inflammation, arthritis, and plenty more. It is usually caused by a genetic mutation… just like the X-Men.
“Staying in bed and being upset are valid responses to dealing with a challenging genetic condition”
So everybody has their own baggage, right? We all have these problems and issues that we carry around with us, making life tough. Well I took a little inspiration from these people, that problem is not going away for them but they are wearing a smile and visiting the Physio to see what more they can do. Staying in bed and being upset are valid responses to dealing with a challenging genetic condition but these folk are looking for answers, finding ways around the problems. Their mutations may not be a leap forwards in evolution but their state of mind is, and it shows true strength of character. Of course the same is true for so many people who deal with all kinds of physical, mental, or emotional challenges. Life is not easy but meeting people who have that fighting spirit and strong will inside them certainly helps me dig deep for my own challenges.