Pediatric joint laxity is common without any other diagnosis or condition. It is simply a property of some genetic makeups. Most of the time, these little developing bodies adapt to the stress they subject themselves to and even if laxity is seen, it is often remedied by the body without any intervention. However for some, it is more than a passing state. For these children, the collagen fibers that comprise ligament, fascia, tendon and muscle may be lacking density or may have been subjected to a prolonged period of stress through hyper activity, inactivity, and even can be brought on due to the increased lever arms of a body that has recently gone through a significant growth spurt. In some rare cases, connective tissue disorders, chromosomal disorders may also indirectly affect ligament stability and contributes to orthopedic problems.
In all these cases, the result of ligament laxity is the same: it allows greater accessory movement and physiological movement around the joints. This alters mechanics through the joint and can result in overuse injuries, progressive joint breakdown, muscle imbalance, and growth disturbance. Early detection and intervention is key to limiting the effect of laxity and to halt further progression or reverse it.
Treatment for joint laxity will vary depending on the region of the body affected however is based on a three tier approach.
- Externally stabilize the area affected with bracing, strapping, clothing or in the case of ankle and foot laxity, using an orthotic and proper footwear.
- Identify activity, positions and patterns that feed into that laxity must be identified and altered to eliminate continued stress that contributed to the problem in the first place.
- Specific exercise and stretching must be done consistently to stabilize the area through muscle support. Often improving muscle function puts the bones into a position where they are able to resume their intended position and mechanics.
In these cases, no further treatment may ever be needed. However in other cases, some form of external support in combination with a consistent exercise program may be needed. Consultation of a team of orthotists, orthopedic doctors and physical and occupational therapists usually results in the best long term outcome and solution for these children.