This is the story of the Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Mascot and Logo.

Zebras are the adopted symbol of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS).  The story goes that at medical school, future doctors are taught to look for conventional explanations: “If you hear hoof beats look for horses.”

This communicates the idea that common symptoms are usually due to the most common explanation.

The zebra represents more rare conditions (such as EDS) and the idea that “When you hear hoof beats, if you only think of horses, you will be missing the zebras.”

Zebby, the Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services Mascot
Zebby, the Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services Mascot

It encourages the medical community to think outside the box, and consider EDS/connective tissue disorders as a possible underlying diagnosis

It is also described in the famous EDS slogan:

“If you can’t connect the issues, think connective tissues.”

Now regardless of whether we consider hypermobile-EDS “rare”, the Zebra has stuck as the mascot of the movement.  The mascot for Not Just Bendy Hypermobility services is the lovable Zebby, created by the artist Chloe Wigg.

The original Zebby was the first zebra I bought as an adult, and still sits on the desk watching me write this blog.  I bought him when I first began to feel connected to the EDS community – firstly as a “bendy” myself, secondly as the mother of some, and finally as a physiotherapist to many.

Next, Zebby became art.

Chloe Wigg (who is a client of mine) asked to paint my portrait for a competition on “influential people of Brisbane.”  Portrait painting is not Chloe’s usual creative category. Recently her preferred genre is acrylic medium pouring painting; she struggles with more traditional painting formats due to her own H-EDS. 

Chloe Wigg in her studio
Chloe Wigg in her studio

In exciting upcoming news, Chloe is holding her first solo art show “Natural Resilience” from 19th January 2021 at Logan Art Gallery.

A little more info about Chloe.

She took up art as therapy after a career-ending arm injury when she was a young paramedic. She took up art while having rehabilitation in hospital as a way to cope with crippling pain: often referred to as Art Therapy. 

When I met Chloe, she knew she was hypermobile, but had never heard of the complexity of it all. Over time we began to deal with many of her issues associated with that hypermobility. Despite all the challenges Chloe has faced she always remains positive, and a ray of happiness for those around her.  I am so proud of her for continuing with her art, raising her family, and remaining so positive about whatever is around the corner. 

To support Chloe you can follow her blog, Facebook or Instagram. Or if you see/hear her in the waiting room – please introduce yourself as she loves making connections.

Original Zebby in inks by Chloe WIgg
Original Zebby. Watercolour on Rag by Chloe WIgg

Anyway, let’s say the portrait was never entered in the competition, but a cute little Zebby in the corner became legend (see above).  It is the combination of Zebby and the zebra patterned hand that together signify the goals of the Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services. Cradling the zebra with our hands and helping support and help anyone with hypermobility.

Zebby was then redrawn, and developed into vector art to be the official logo for Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services.

But it turned out he was just too cute to be on our cards and letterheads especially as we are an adult physiotherapy service, and most of the people I asked didn’t understand the Zebra reference anyway (even those with EDS). It broke my heart to figuratively go back to the drawing board (and literally send Chloe back to her drawing board) and find a different image to represent Not Just Bendy but as I have discovered over the last six months there were many tricky business decisions to make every week.

Chloe was not discouraged and sketched us a new image based on the zebra patterned hand from the original painting. On the third go she produced the drawing that was turned into our logo.

Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services Logo
Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services Logo

I love our logo – it signifies,to me, someone who is moving happily but is also finding it hard to keep their head, body, and legs all connected.  Just like Chloe and so many of my other clients who also inspire me on a daily basis. The overlapping purple, blue, and green coloured body parts signify the multiple layers of muscle that need to co-ordinate their activation patterns to allow functional, efficient and pain-free movement. It also reminds me of maintaining alignment while standing on one leg (which most of my clients know is much more difficult than you would think).

Read more about Chloe Wigg: How art saved her life

To learn more about Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services you can read about us here.

Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services is a physiotherapy service dedicated to Hypermobility Brisbane
Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services is a physiotherapy service dedicated to Hypermobility Brisbane

When I meet people socially at a BBQ and they ask me what I do, I take a deep breath as I know it is going to be an interesting conversation.  I am the founder of a physiotherapy practice in Brisbane called Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services.  All our physiotherapists have a special interest in complex hypermobility, including Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder – some of them even have these conditions themselves.

I would like to answer a few common questions I am asked socially about hypermobility and by the end of the article you will understand why the practice is called Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services.

What is hypermobility?

The term hypermobility is used to describe a person who has more than the usual amount of movement in a joint.  This is present in around 20% of the population.  For many people having increased joint flexibility is an advantage for some sports including swimming, tennis and gymnastics.

Collagen is the building block of connective tissue and there are several different types of collagen – some are firmer and some types are stretchier (similar to how different types of rubber bands have different stretchiness).  It is thought that hypermobile individuals have a higher proportion of the stretchier collagen in their ligaments.  This can allow the joints to move through an increased range of motion.

Hypermobility is generally assessed with the Beighton Criteria, which is explained here:

Beighton Criteria for assessment of hypermobility used at Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services

If you are an adult and you score 5 or higher then you are considered hypermobile – for children it is 6 or higher.  It is important to remember that not everyone with hypermobility will have issues because of it – in fact many of our Olympic swimmers and track & field athletes are hypermobile.   

Some of those with hypermobility encounter pain and injury associated with increased movement and if this pain becomes long lasting and in multiple areas then they can be diagnosed with Hypermobility Spectrum disorder.  As the name suggests it is a spectrum from generally coping with a normal lifestyle with occasional pain to quite severely affected. 

Connective tissue/collagen is not only present in your joints/ligaments but also in many other parts of the body. This is why, other issues can be associated with hypermobility. Issues can include: digestive issues (IBS, reflux, constipation, nausea, bloating etc), circulatory issues (dizziness, brain fog, racing heart, fainting), sleep issues, anxiety/depression, bladder issues (frequency, loss of urine), hormonal issues (painful/heavy periods, endometriosis), frequent bruising, stretch marks and clumsiness.

When there is a family history and other specific characteristics then a medical specialist can diagnose Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome  Incidence of Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome is estimated to be as high as 1% of the population. 

Yet despite this, Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder and Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome are both generally poorly managed and poorly diagnosed even in Australia.

If hypermobility is so common why should we care?  If it is that common and normal why should we bother to do anything about it anyway

My answer to that question is – heart disease and diabetes are very common – but we don’t ignore those conditions.  Prevention and management are offered to those with heart disease and diabetes and in the same way those with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder / Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome deserve fast diagnosis, understanding and management.

At Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services in Brisbane, Australia, we receive referrals from medical specialists who have recognised that hypermobility should be assessed and managed.  This include Rheumatologists, Geneticists, Cardiologists, GPs, Sports Physicians and Pain Specialists.  We also see many patients that find us through online support groups and google searches.  With our new patients we do a specific screening assessment to assess if hypermobility is present (or was present in the past) and screen for and explain the theorised linkages to some other common conditions.

We then explain why all these things seem to occur together with hypermobility.  It is one of the proudest parts of my life – when I help to put all the pieces of the puzzle together for people.  It is a really significant moment for many and I must admit sometimes a get a chill down my spine when the penny drops for them.  Then together we can start to put a plan together on how to approach things going forward.

Back at the BBQ by now the chat has gone one of two ways – either my companions eyes have glazed over and they are trying to get away from me or the penny has dropped for them and they say “That’s just like me,” or “That’s just like my sister/mother/friend.” Who knows? Maybe the same thing has happened to you.

What can physiotherapy do to help those with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder / Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome?

I am glad you asked this!  There is so much that a physiotherapist that understands hypermobility can offer.  Even though the ligaments are a little extra stretchy, we all have another wonderful system known as Muscles which support the joints and provide stability and support to the deeper ligaments.  Muscles are the key to management/improvement with Hypermobility Spectrum Disorder/Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome.

I will list a few things we provide at Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services:

  • Pain management techniques including safe stretches, postural changes, and massage gadgets.
  • Deeper “stability/postural” muscle retraining to reinforce the ligaments and provide support to the joints.
  • Retraining of simple movements such as getting out of a chair, standing, walking and balancing on one foot to use more efficient postural patterns.  Hypermobile individuals often use excessive muscle gripping/stiffness to hold themselves rigid which can actually be very tiring and may increase pain.  Learning to use the right muscles for the right task can be challenging but worthwhile.
  • Strength and conditioning training including modified pilates and the development of safe, paced, gym-based programs.
  • Problem solving of complex conditions and coordination with other medical professionals with a special interest in the area.
  • Assistance with dislocation plans, correspondence to school, pacing advice, joint protection education and brace/taping advice.

Due to the complexity of each individual with Hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome it is important to take a long-term view of rehabilitation.  We are available for regular review or less frequent treatment, as everyone’s circumstances are unique.  We prefer to start with two one-hour sessions for a full assessment and to develop a management plan. Most of our clients are complex and have seen multiple physios/medical professionals in the past.  We offer telehealth for patients across Australia and home visits for those in Brisbane. 

When you call Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services to make an appointment ask to see one of the growing Not Just Bendy team – Sharon Hennessey, Dr X. Chen, Marlisa Kwan, Belinda Breust, Lucy Yan, April Meggs and Maria Yee.  Our practice is located inside the PhysioTec practice building so be sure to ask for Not Just Bendy when you are booking your appointment for hypermobility Brisbane. Contact Us.

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Sharon Hennessey Hypermobility Physio

This blog was written by Sharon Hennessey, the founder and principal physiotherapist at Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services Physiotherapy clinic in Brisbane, Australia.  Sharon is a dynamic Physiotherapist with over 23 years’ experience and a special interest in treating those with hypermobility. 

It is time to welcome to the world – Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services. Located within the Brisbane, Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services, is an expansion of the high quality, consistent service that physiotherapist Sharon Hennessey has provided to those with hypermobility over the last ten years.  It is located within the prestigious PhysioTec physiotherapy practice.

Hypermobility physiotherapists Sharon Hennessey, Dr X.Chen & Marlisa Kwan
Hypermobility physiotherapists Sharon Hennessey, Dr X.Chen & Marlisa Kwan

As medical engagement and understanding about connective tissues issues is improving there have been a large amount of people diagnosed with hypermobile- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome and generalised hypermobility syndrome. What was once thought to be a rare condition is perhaps a lot more common than previously thought.

Not Just Bendy has been established by Sharon Hennessey to respond to this avalanche of people (mostly women) searching for therapists who will work with them collaterally, without blame or judgement.

Joining Sharon’s team are physiotherapists Dr X.Chen and new staff member Marlisa Kwan. The goal is to provide physiotherapy assessment, advice, exercises and services for those with complex needs associated with generalised hypermobility and the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes.

Be assured that these changes will improve our patient care and allow us to focus on delivering high quality care in a variety of settings including in-rooms, telehealth (online) and consultations in your own home (home visits).

Working from within the highly respected physiotherapy clinic of Dr Alison Grimaldi, PhysioTec allows our clients access to highly advanced technology, equipment, Pilates gym, strengthening gym, private consultation rooms and friendly reception staff.

Not Just Bendy Brand personality

PhysioTec and Not Just Bendy Hypermobility Services will work collaboratively to ensure the best outcome for all hypermobility issues. PhysioTec will continue to provide specialist care for dancers, cyclists and sports people, those with more specific hip/pelvic issues and supervised equipment Pilates classes.

Your Not Just Bendy physiotherapists will let you know if you require input from these PhysioTec specialties and also recommend other allied health practitioners and specialist doctors. We believe strongly in multi-disciplinary care and have spent years in Brisbane developing relationships with these other professionals with an interest and understanding in hypermobility.

As our name suggests we know that hypermobility is Not Just being Bendy. And we want to make your life more than just being bendy too. Learn more about hypermobility here.

To make an appointment please call (07) 3342 4284 and ask for an appointment with Not Just Bendy or Contact Us.

I am a physiotherapist in Brisbane with a special interest in hypermobility related connective tissue disorders so most of the clients I see have hypermobile-Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, Hypermobility spectrum disorder or Asymptomatic Generalised Hypermobility

I have observed in my clinical practice that around 90% of symptomatic hypermobility clients have hip or pelvic issues.  Common complaints are locking, giving way, clunking, popping, incontinence and pain. There are many different structures that contribute to these issues including the joints (Hip, Sacro-Iliac Joint (SIJ) and Pubic Symphysis), the soft tissues (muscles and their tendons), the nerves and also referred pain from the low back and other structures.

It is not overly surprising that hip/pelvic complaints are common, as many hypermobile people have lots of painful areas throughout their body but in my opinion, rehabilitation of the muscular control around the hip, pelvis and low back is pivotal to improved quality of life and maintenance/improvement of function in simple and complex hypermobile clients…..

To read more please visit my guest blog on great Australian site Hypermobility Connect