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Study Links Obesity to Greater Pain, Weakness in Fibromyalgia Patients
Date:1/6/2011

p>The study, reported in the December 2010 issue of The Journal of Pain, said the poorer sleep quality affecting obese fibromyalgia patients appears to contribute significantly to their fatigue and pain. Obesity is also a risk factor for shorter sleep duration in the general population, according to the study.

Study participants had suffered from fibromyalgia for an average of 12.7 years and were an average of 45 years old, with a mean weight of 184 pounds. Only 47 of the 215 patients had body-mass indexes (BMIs) in the normal range, with four below normal.

In addition to a tender point exam, the participants underwent a home sleep assessment and physical performance tests that included treadmill walking, leg raises, standing push-ups and range-of-motion flexes.

Vitaly Napadow, an assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School who was not connected to the study, said the link between obesity and greater pain in fibromyalgia creates a "vicious cycle" because the pain poses a barrier to exercise, which could reduce weight.

"I think the study was interesting in that it was a larger sample size than the authors studied in the past," said Napadow, also an assistant in neuroscience at Massachusetts General Hospital. "It needs to be recognized that there are these subpopulations in fibromyalgia, and obesity is another burden that needs to be dealt with."

Okifuji said study participants were not asked which condition they had developed first, obesity or fibromyalgia, but noted that each one is a risk factor for the other. Researchers also noted that the study did not determine causality and that its definition of obesity was based on the BMI, which doesn't take into account age or ethnic differences.

"I think the study ended up bringing up more questions than answers," she said.

Both Okifuji and Napadow said a multi-pronged approach to treating obese fibromyalgia patients, including medication, proper nutritio
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