Obesity is one of the risk factors associated with Fibromyalgia (FM), a condition characterized by widespread aches and pains all over the body. Now researchers find that obesity may be more than just a marker for the disorder, it seems to make the condition worse.
Fibromyalgia (FM) affects approximately 1 in 50 Americans, mostly women (about 80-90%). In addition to pervasive pain, symptoms may also include: cognitive and memory problems, headaches, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, temperature sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome.
Risk factors for FM are being female, being overweight, and having a family history of FM or a rheumatic disease such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
The study found that obese people with fibromyalgia experienced more severe symptoms than those who were of normal weight and that symptoms worsened as weight increased.
In conducting the study, the researchers measured symptom severity and body mass index (BMI) of 888 patients with fibromyalgia. The BMI measurement takes into account height and weight. A BMI score of 30 or greater is deemed obese, and about half of the patients were in this category. One-quarter of the participants were considered severely obese with a BMI score greater than 35.
The patients answered questions about their fibromyalgia symptoms and ability to function in daily activities. The researchers found a direct correlation between the patients' weight and the severity of their symptoms. Those who were severely obese reported the most severe symptoms. Not surprisingly, participants reported that quality of life dropped as symptoms intensified.
Chicken and Egg Paradox
The study noted that the higher rate of obesity among people with fibromyalgia may be due to chronic pain and inactivity, posing the eternal question, which came first, weight gain or chronic pain. More research will be needed to answer this question.
"BMI has already been singled out as an independent risk factor for fibromyalgia," study author Dr. Terry Oh. "Our results underscore the importance of incorporating weight management strategies in treatment programs for fibromyalgia patients."
Moving Through the Pain
If you have fibromyalgia, pain and fatigue may make exercise and daily activities difficult, but it is crucial to be as physically active as possible. Research has shown that regular exercise is one of the most effective treatments for fibromyalgia. If you have too much pain or fatigue to do strenuous exercise just begin to move more and become more active in routine daily activities. As you move into exercising, start with walking (or other gentle exercise) and build your endurance and intensity slowly.