Symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Obesity
Fibromyalgia symptoms can overlap with autoimmune diseases and other musculoskeletal conditions making it difficult to diagnose. The defining symptoms of fibromyalgia are often associated with other subjective and objective symptoms which occur in combination. It is estimated that fibromyalgia syndrome affects about 2 percent of the U.S. population.
How Fibromyalgia is Diagnosed
In 1990, the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) listed two primary criteria for the classification of fibromyalgia. 1) A history of widespread pain involving all four quadrants of the body (right side, left side, above waist, below waist) for a period of at least 3 months. The second criteria from the ACR which points to fibromyalgia is, upon physical examination, the presence of pain in at least 11 of 18 tender points when touched or pressed with force amounting to the equivalent of 9 lbs. More recent data indicates that there may be an increased sensitivity to pain throughout the body, pain may be migratory (move around) or may exist as chronic regional pain. Most experts are said to believe fibromyalgia results from abnormal central nervous system function. Response to stress may also contribute to fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia primarily occurs in women of childbearing age. Children, the elderly, and men can also be affected. Besides the defining symptoms of pain and tenderness, there are many non-defining symptoms associated with fibromyalgia including:
- Fatigue, night sweats, and sleep disturbances.
- Memory difficulties and cognitive difficulties.
- Tension or migraine headaches, rib cage pain, chronic pelvic pain, or heel pain.
- Fluctuations in weight, heat or cold intolerance, subjective feeling of weakness.
- Ear-nose-throat complaints, multiple chemical sensitivities and a wide array of allergic symptoms.
- Hearing, vision, and balance abnormalities.
- Heartburn, palpitations and irritable bowel syndrome.
- Mood disorders such as depression and anxiety occur more commonly in people who have fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia and Obesity
Yet another study has pointed a finger at something pretty obvious; a lot of patients with fibromyalgia are also obese. Researchers say the obese participants had more pain, worse sleep, less sleep and poorer flexibility. It’s not surprising that, as a group, fibromyalgia patients overweight. Most patients are far less active that we used to be. Some of them take medications that cause weight gain and a lot of doctors and researchers believe we have some sort of metabolic problem. Additionally, fibromyalgia patients are prone to sleep disorders, and a sleep-deprived body won’t lose weight. Researchers in the study didn’t look at whether obesity was a cause or effect. This is, likely, because fibromyalgia patients have prior research indicating that obesity is a risk factor for fibromyalgia and vice versa. Instead, they were trying to gauge the effect.
The Effect of Obesity in Fibromyalgia Patients
It makes sense that excess weight makes symptoms worse. It puts more strain on one’s body. It’s harder to get comfortable to sleep and obesity can lead to sleep apnea, which can seriously disrupt one’s sleep. Unfortunately, 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 these other health problems can also cause weight gain. Nonetheless, 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.
Choosing A Responsible and Safe Weight Loss Program
Experts agree that the best way to reach a healthy weight is to follow a sensible eating plan and engage in regular physical activity. Weight loss programs should encourage healthy behaviors that help you lose weight and that you can maintain over time. Safe and effective weight loss programs should include:
- Healthy eating plans that reduce calories but do not rule out specific foods or food groups
- Regular physical activity and/or exercise instruction
- Slow and steady weight loss of about ¾ to 2 pounds (no more than 3 pounds per week but may be faster at the start)
- Medical care if you are planning to lose weight by following a special formula diet, such as a very-low-calorie diet
- A plan to keep the weight off after you have lost it