A paper by Akiko Okifuji from the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, just published in the Journal of Pain, examines the relationship between fibromyalgia and obesity in pain, function, mood, and sleep. This has pointed a finger at something pretty obvious — a lot of us with fibromyalgia are obese. Researchers say the obese participants had more pain, worse sleep, less sleep and poorer flexibility.
The study examines the impact of obesity on hyperalgesia, symptoms, physical abilities, and sleep in 215 fibromyalgia patients, who also underwent tender point examination, physical performance testing, and 7-day home sleep assessment.
Almost 50% of participants were obese and an additional 30% were overweight.
It’s not surprising that, as a group, fibro sufferers are overweight: most sufferers are far less active than they used to be; some take medications that can cause weight gain; a lot of doctors and researchers believe fibro patients have some sort of metabolic problem; and prone to sleep disorders, and a sleep-deprived body won’t lose weight. So yes, often times fibro sufferers gain weight more than others.
Researchers in the study didn’t look at whether obesity was a cause or effect — likely because we have prior research indicating that obesity is a risk factor for fibromyalgia and vice versa. Instead, they were trying to gauge the effect.
It makes sense that excess weight makes symptoms worse: it puts more strain on our bodies; it’s harder to get comfortable to sleep; obesity can lead to sleep apnea, which can seriously disrupt your sleep; both fibromyalgia and obesity make exercise more difficult, which leads to less strength and flexibility.
Of course, it can also go the opposite way. A lot of patients develop fibromyalgia secondary to other health problems, especially chronic pain, thyroid problems, and blood-sugar issues — all of which can cause weight gain. And let’s face it, obesity is an epidemic all it’s own.
So regardless of why fibro patients are overweight, this study shows that it makes fibromyalgia symptoms worse. That’s bad. So what can we do about it?
The researchers concluded that weight management may need to be incorporated into treatment regimens. The really great doctors out there are probably already working on that, by encouraging a healthy diet and appropriate levels of activity.
I think what we need to take away from this research is that it doesn’t really matter whether you have gained weight because you are sick or you are sick because you’re overweight — the extra pounds makes the condition worse and also puts you at risk for other health problems. Do what uou can to improve your health overall, but remember that it’s likely to be a journey and not a sprint.
Have you been able to improve your symptoms through weight loss?
What helped you lose weight?
Have you lost weight, only to have your symptoms stay the same or get worse?
Share your weight loss stories by leaving a comment below!
Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20542742 , drsharma.ca/obesity-compounds-pain-in-fibromyalgia.html, chronicfatigue.about.com/b/2011/01/11/fibromyalgia-obesity-cause-effect-or-vicious-cycle.htm