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Obesity Makes Fibromyalgia Worse



Obesity certainly isn't doing fibromyalgia sufferers any favors, new research shows. According to a report published in the February issue of Arthritis Care & Research, obese people with fibromyalgia suffer worse symptoms and have a lower quality of life than normal weight people suffering from the disorder.

Scientists from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota and Kyungpook National University in Daegu, South Korea investigated links between body mass index (BMI) and severity of symptoms and quality of life in fibromyalgia patients.

For the study, they selected 888 patients who were enrolled in a fibromyalgia treatment program. All of the patients suffered from fibromyalgia but were separated into four groups according to body mass index according to the following distribution:

  • 252 nonobese patients BMI <25.0 kg/m2
  •  238 overweight patients BMI 25.0 - 29.9 kg/m2
  • 197 moderately obese patients BMI 30.0 - 34.9 kg/m2
  • 201 severly obese patients BMI greater than or equal to 35.0 kg/m2

Each of the patients completed a Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire and health form survey which, along with the BMI measurements, were used to assess the impact of obesity on fibromyalgia symptoms and quality of life.  

The results of the study revealed that obesity negatively impacts the lives of fibromyalgia patients. Obese patients with fibromyalgia reportedly missed more work, suffered more pain and were less physically active than non-obese fibromyalgia patients. Moreover, their symptoms were much worse than patients with lower BMI.

Obesity worsens fibromyalgia symptoms and lowers patients' quality of life.  

Fibromyalgia is a medical disorder that is characterized by a variety of symptoms including chronic pain and diffuse pain throughout the entire body, heightened pain sensitivity and joint stiffness. Although the joints of fibromyalgia patients don't become inflamed, the disorder is known to cause severe pain within affected joints.


Why The Pain?

To date, medical science is unable to pin down a specific cause for fibromyalgia. But obesity and fibromyalgia share a common link: cytokines - the chemical messengers that are often associated with the body's immune system.

It's a fact that adipose tissue releases cytokines which helps produce the constant inflammation associated with obesity. Likewise, fibromyalgia patients release proinflammatory cytokines which increases their pain sensitivity. So it would be logical to conclude that since obese patients are always suffering from inflammation, it will only aggravate fibromyalgia symptoms. 

Some scientists actually looked into this. They measured levels of proinflammatory cytokines in fibromyalgia patients with high BMI, but found that release of inflammatory cytokines was independent BMI. 

So what could explain the link between obesity and worsened fibromyalgia symptoms? Fibromyalgia patients suffer intense pain. Pressure can induce pain. Excess weight can increase joint pressure and thereby cause intense pain.  

Chul-Hyun Kim and colleagues from the Mayo Clinic concluded that "...severe obesity is associated with higher levels of fibromyalgia symptoms and lower QOL."

Their study addresses the need for implementation of weight loss programs as a means of easing some of the symptoms of fibromyalgia. At the very least, bringing fibromyalgia patients' weight down may reduce some of their pain which could have a profound effect on their quality of life.


For more information about fibromyalgia, visit the  National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases which is maintained by the National Institute of Health.


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Article Source 

Kim, C., Luedtke, C., Vincent, A., Thompson, J., & Oh, T. (2012). Association of body mass index with symptom severity and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia Arthritis Care & Research, 64 (2), 222-228 DOI: 10.1002/acr.20653  

Hernandez, M., Becerril, E., Perez, M., Leff, P., Anton, B., Estrada, S., Estrada, I., Sarasa, M., Serrano, E., & Pavon, L. (2010). Proinflammatory cytokine levels in fibromyalgia patients are independent of body mass index BMC Research Notes, 3 (1) DOI: 10.1186/1756-0500-3-156  

Vick, M., Adams, A., Murphy, B., Sessions, D., Horohov, D., Cook, R., Shelton, B., & Fitzgerald, B. (2007). Relationships among inflammatory cytokines, obesity, and insulin sensitivity in the horse Journal of Animal Science, 85 (5), 1144-1155 DOI: 10.2527/jas.2006-673


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