Why losing weight is key to decreasing fibromyalgia pain
Have your ever seen or experienced that particular feeling of pain? The pain that just won’t go away, where even the slightest touch drives you nuts. That kind of pain which gives you, those perpetual cramps as if you just ran a marathon dehydrated even though you just sit on the couch all day long. Along with that feeling… do you also feel depressed or moody most of the time? Do you have trouble focusing or even sleeping? You’ve been to the doctor and apparently all is well with you… Chances are you might be suffering from fibromyalgia.
Fibromyalgia is a medical condition affecting around 2 – 4% of the population with symptoms of widespread pain and a heightened and painful response to pressure. Doctors usually consider this as a musculoskeletal disorder or a neuropsychiatric disorder. Chances are you might have experienced this at one time or know someone who is suffering from it.
Now we Americans are known for being exceptional heavy weights compared to lets say… our French brethren (with their healthy Mediterranean lifestyle and all), and the consequences this has on aggravating fibromyalgia is a cause for concern. Recent studies published in the Journal of Arthritis Care and Research now show that the more obese you are, the worse the symptoms of fibromyalgia, and that those with a body mass index (BMI) greater than 35 experience the worst symptoms off all.
The author of this recent study, Dr. Terry H. Oh from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Mayo Clinic says that this recent finding scientifically
confirms the suspicion that the more obese you are, the worse are your symptoms.
Now the study they did, divided and tracked for 3 years, 888 adults with diagnosed fibromyalgia into four groups. Each group was classified into the non-obese, overweight, moderately obese, and severely obese. At the end of the study, they were reassessed physically, and asked to answer specific surveys.
Their study found that higher BMI’s meant more severe symptoms, and that those in the highest BMI group have the most work absenteeism due to fibromyalgia symptoms. They complained of more fatigue, pain, and stiffness compared to the other groups. They also tended to have more tender points and they’re physical functioning was much less compare to the less obese or non-obese.
Now you may be wondering why the higher BMI’s tend to have more severe symptoms relative to the other groups? Dr. Oh believes that several factors such as increased pain receptors in fat tissue, higher levels of inflammatory cytokines, poor overall fitness, and higher physical loads due to heavier weight increase the severity.
This now causes that all too familiar vicious cycle of pain, leading to inactivity, which then leads to a more sedentary lifestyle, which then results to turning to food as a comfort zone, which then increases BMI and therefore aggravates fibromyalgia symptoms.
The study shows that if you have fibromyalgia, then you should find a way to stay active. Discuss with your doctor appropriate weight loss strategies. This particularly applies if you are severely obese, as the severely obese often need more help in weight loss.
An earlier study, separate from Dr. Oh’s, was also done by professor and psychologist, Akiko Okifuji, PhD at the Pain Research and Management Center which also shows the same results, that obese fibromyalgia patients experienced more pain, less physical strength and sleep problems.
She adds that Dr. Oh’s study proved scientifically, what people have intuitively known already. She also says that, nutritional education is essential to the management of weight loss, as those who don’t move around too much tend to make food as a comfort zone. She emphasizes that people should know how to maximize burning off those calories while minimizing intake. The key issue for the scientific and clinical community is to come up with an effective [weight management plan] for people who can’t move that much. It’s a tricky thing.”
Now there is no definitive cure for Fibromyalgia, and treatment is usually limited to managing the symptoms of pain. Such treatments can involve physical therapy, cardiovascular exercises, and possibly medication. Some rehabilitation experts advise the use of functional exercises such as suspension training under the supervision of a trained fitness specialist.
One thing is for sure though, a proper diet, staying active, and starting a progressive exercise program is a necessity. Involving your doctor and a fitness trainer in all of this is sure to be a very good investment.