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Study links obesity to fibromyalgia

The number of chiropractic patients diagnosed by medical doctors as having "fibromyalgia" is increasing rapidly, as are the number of patients suffering from the effects of obesity.

A study in The Journal of Pain has found that the two increases aren't coincidental but there is actually a close association between obesity and disability in fibromyalgia patients.

Afflicting nearly five percent of the US population (mostly women), fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain and range of function problems. The purpose of the study, conducted by University of Utah researchers, was to evaluate the relationship between fibromyalgia and obesity. They hypothesized the obesity significantly adds to the disease and disability burden of the condition.

The study evaluated 215 fibromyalgia patients and gave them several physical tests to measure strength, flexibility, range of motion, and strength. Heart rates and sleep quality also were assessed.

The authors reported that consistent with previous studies, obesity is common among those with fibromyalgia. Half the study sample was obese and another 30% were overweight.

Also consistent with previous findings, obese patients in this study showed increase pain sensitivity, which was more pronounced in lower body areas. The obese patients also had impaired flexibility in the lower body and reduced strength.

The study concluded that obesity is a common co-morbidity of fibromyalgia that may compromise clinical outcomes. The adverse impact of obesity is evidenced by hyperalgesia, disability, impaired quality of life and sleep problems. The authors also noted that recent evidence suggests weight loss improves fibromyalgia symptoms, perhaps resulting from patients adopting healthier lifestyles and taking more positive attitudes toward symptom management and overall quality of life.

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Source: "Relationship Between Fibromyalgia and Obesity in Pain, Function, Mood, and Sleep," The Journal of Pain, Volume II, No. 12, December 2010.

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