top of page
  • Fay Smith

Joint Pain and Autism: Understanding the Link

Autistic people are those who fall within a broad spectrum. Some of them don’t speak at all and have a difficult time being in society at all. There are others who can talk with people and have personality traits. Overall, they may have conditions like ADHD, insomnia, dyslexia, anxiety, depression, or OCD.


Those are mental conditions. There are some physical ones to look out for - many of these autistic people may have something in common: joint pain. One way to pinpoint joint issues in autistic people would be to use MRI scans. Know more.


AMPS

AMPS means Amplified Musculoskeletal Pain Syndrome and people who have it feel non-inflammatory pain. Autistic people show that they feel pain in a different way than non-autistic people do, so it can be hard to diagnose properly.


Joint Hypermobility/Ehlers-Danlos

Autistic people may have joints that are too flexible or pain when they move the joints around. This can lead to injuries like hyperextension, which is when a joint bends too far in one direction beyond what it’s supposed to. People who have Ehlers-Danlos often have to worry about this happening to them.


There are two types of joint hypermobility: localized or generalized. If a doctor says that it's localized, then it usually means one or two joints are affected. Generalized means that it's in more than five joint locations. People who have this are likely to also have ADHD, so doctors should have patients screened for that too if they find hypermobility.


Toe-Walking

Another reason that autistic people can have joint pain is because they often walk on their toes. This puts a lot of stress on the toes and ankles. It’s not just confined to those with autism, though. Other groups of people toe-walk, including those who have cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. If you have a short Achilles tendon, then that can keep your heel from touching the ground.


If you notice that your child is toe-walking, it’s important that you get medical intervention as fast as possible. Talk to their doctor about ways to manage it and keep them from having too much pain.


If you notice that your child is toe-walking, it’s important that you get medical intervention as fast as possible. Talk to their doctor about ways to manage it and keep them from having too much pain.


Family Connections

Some research has shown that women that have Ehlers-Danlos might give birth to autistic children, which might lead to them both having joint issues. This can lead to the autistic child possibly having chronic pain as well. That's because they might have a higher chance of accidentally dislocating joints, especially if they're not aware of how their body reacts while they walk or run.


Girls mask a lot more than boys. They can change their behavior so that they can seem “normal” to other people around them. Doctors might want to take a closer look at girls that have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, though, since they might be able to diagnose them more thoroughly.


Misdiagnosis

Doctors can have a really hard time accurately diagnosing both the joint pain issues and the autism connection. That’s because it’s not something that happens all of the time. Joint pain, not autism, could make a child have difficulty staying still. As a result, a medical professional might incorrectly diagnose them as being on the autistic spectrum.


There’s going to have to be a lot more research done to find a true connection between the two conditions. Until there is indisputable evidence, the cases have to be looked at one by one as being unique. Otherwise, it can lead to unnecessary stress.


Solutions?

One solution could be for the child to wear leg braces or other braces to keep the joints moving in a certain route while they walk or do other activities. This can greatly reduce the chances of hyperextending or dislocating any joints.


Having an autistic family member can be a really challenging thing, even without having to worry about their possible joint issues. Fortunately, there are a lot of trained professionals out there who will be able to help. All you need to do is look at your local resources to find ones for you.


Being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos isn't the end of the world. There are a lot of people who have joint hypermobility issues or autism that go on to lead very good lives. It just takes a lot of work and preparation. Ultimately, it's all worth it. All you need to do is have early intervention. Then you can all enjoy your lives.


Photo from Pexels

180 views

Recent Posts

See All

ADHD and Driving

The team at Shamieh Law invites you to review our guide to ADHD and driving to learn more. 

Comments


bottom of page