John Walker's Electronic House

I have a Syndrome.

by on Aug.14, 2005, under The Rest

I went to see a GP on Friday, after finally growing fed up of the constant pain in my left little finger. For the last few months, I have found that bending my left elbow at all causes pins and needles to build in the finger instantly, and if the arm is not frequently straightened fully, it quickly becomes painful. Obviously when writing, and indeed when existing at all, the left arm needs to bend halfway down, so this is rather irritating.

I also decided it was about time to try again with my right knee, which if not clicked about once a minute develops a horrible ache. This is the bane of my life, meaning I spend about 25% of my time ensuring I have enough space to straighten my leg to feel the satiating click. Pub tables are frequently peaked under to find a route through which the limb can stretch, planes and trains need to provide me with aisle seats if journeys are not to be absolute torture, and I will try to go to the cinema at off-peak times so that I can put my leg over the chair in front. Indeed, sat at this desk where I spend half my life, my right leg is not underneath, but sticking out the side so it can be frequently clunked into submission. It’s funny how all this fuss has become something I live with, to the point where I’d forgotten it was a fault worth addressing. I remember mentioning it to a GP once when a teenager, and he said, “Yes, it clicks. I don’t know why,” which was just fabulous. I think I grew resigned to it then.

So Friday’s visit about the increasingly uncomfortable elbow afforded me the opportunity to mention the knee as well. The idea that they might be connected, for reasons I cannot fathom, had never occurred to me. The doctor dismissed RSI immediately, and recognised that it was something in the elbow plucking at my ulna nerve – the nerve that provides feeling in the little finger, and half of the ring finger. He held my elbow and then bent and straightened my arm, feeling the clunk with each straightening. And then suddenly his interest appeared piqued. He took hold of my fingers and bent them backward. This is no terrible thing – my fingers are able to bend backward until they are parallel with the back of my hand – it’s quite disgusting for the uninitiated, but a source of novelty joy for me. The fingers on both hands are able, without aid, to bend backward far enough to appear as if… oh, it’s much easier if I just show you.

The natural backward-curve. About half a foot away from the stuff in the background, despite looking as if it’s resting on them.

The extent to which my fingers can bend back on themselves. Loses nothing in the flattening of a photograph : )

But this has only ever been a pub trick – a way to scare the squeamish. My fingers do all manner of other disgusting tricks – the knuckles so adequately demonstrated as bending equally in both directions in the photo also bend disturbingly on the x-axis, meaning my hands can sort of fold in half lengthways as well. This is brilliant for reaching inside Pringles tubes and similar, as they bend in half to become cylindrical. This is, I think, far more disgusting when wobbled about in front of people. Which is what it’s really all about. In fact, the even joints in each finger bend amusingly, allowing me to contort my hands into all manner of awful positions. And the backward cupping makes for a neat trick while juggling.

So the doctor was bending my fingers about, and then asked me to lie on the bench and began trying similar experiments with my legs. Now, I’ve always been able to put my toes to my mouth – a common enough trick amongst flexible girls, so something I’ve never thought much of. I can get my heel to my forehead, in fact, but have little use for this. Again, it never occurred to me that this might be at all unusual in an overweight male.

And then he called me “fascinating”. Something with which I’m sure people would be hard-pushed to disagree. It turns out I have ‘Hypermobility Syndrome’.

This means little more than that most of the joints in my body don’t know when to stop. And it’s of little cause for concern – it generally cures itself with age. But at worst, it can cause secondary arthritis, and with the trapped ulna nerve, and the accompanying pain, I’m being referred to a rheumatologist for Experiments.

It’s a funny thing, how what you’re used to is what you assume to be normal. I remember once my mum exclaiming in disgust at how my toes were pointing upward with my feet flat on the floor – just a normal fiddly thing for me. I ignored it then. And it’s only this weekend that I’ve learned it’s not normal for your wrist to bend past a right angle from your arm in either direction. Mine always have – I just thought all of them did that. And as I write this, I remember explaining to a chiropractor how if I didn’t click the vertebrae in my neck like this, “CRACK-ACK-ACK-ICK-ACK” and like this, “CRICK-ICK-ACK-ACK-ICK-ACK”, about once an hour, I get nasty headaches. He said to me looking slightly unnerved, “You’re neck isn’t meant to bend that far.” For some reason neither of us thought any more of it.

I asked the doctor if perhaps I ought to be in the circus. He didn’t think it was necessary. But I realise that were my back to demonstrate this ability (and it doesn’t to any interesting extent (so for all you foul people who were thinking that, no, absolutely not)) I would probably qualify as the “Indian Rubber Man” of days past.

So now I look forward to discovering what other joint-based things I can do that others can’t, and add them to my list of new-found super powers.

8 Comments for this entry

  • KM

    I have a similar thing, although far less disgusting. My tendons are stretchy. That’s why I was prone to shoulder dislocation. Oh, and your pictures are ew because I’m squeamish. You need a warning label on that thing.

  • pharoahe_monch

    okay now, this is creepy :D also, i am jealous to not be the only human with superpowers.

  • antichaos

    Am I the only one who put ‘Hypermobility Syndrome’ into Google, clicked the first link for the Hypermobility Syndrome Association and became rather concerned about what the people on the left in the banner graphic are doing to each another?

  • John W

    I was going to write about them, but the entry was already a bit long.

    I must say it’s good to learn that I’ll still be able to enjoy a sociable meal with friends, even with this condition. The stupid attention-seeking hyperchondriacs.

    By the way, I score 7/9 on their test. I believe this makes me a real proper one.

  • bob_arctor

    Your comments about your crazy hands made me laugh. Sorry if that offends you.
    Well I learnt something today. I was hoping it might shed light on my clicky knees (young people’s knees shouldn’t click when bent really. I blame too much crouching playing lego as a child) but I am not flexible so it’s not that.

    Anyhow hope it remains benign and good.

  • Victoria

    I could have told you that: I had a colleague once who had it too. Very boring woman, went on about it all the time.

  • KM

    Please clear up that clicking thing before you go to America. We don’t tolerate that sort of stuff over here. You’d be taken out back and shot.

1 Trackback or Pingback for this entry