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Obesity increases the risk of fibromyalgia by 60 percent to70 percent, according to study

Fibromyalgia is a chronic (persistent) disorder characterized by widespread bodily pain lasting more than three months. It is associated with unexplained fatigue, sleep problems, headache, mental difficulty and mood disturbances. On examination, tender (painful when palpated) points are spread out to the neck, shoulders, back, hips, arms and legs.

The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases cited links to stressful or traumatic events, such as car accidents, repetitive injuries, illness and certain diseases, although fibromyalgia can occur spontaneously. Some studies attribute susceptibility to a person’s genes. It is estimated that five percent of the U.S. population, mostly women, are afflicted by this syndrome.

A recent study that appeared in The Journal of Pain, official publication of the American Pain Society, looked into the aggravating effect of obesity on the resultant disability in fibromyalgia. In a clinical trial of 215 women with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), about half (47 percent) of them were obese and an additional 30 percent were overweight. Results showed these patients were highly sensitive (hyperalgesia) when tender points were touched, had reduced physical strength and lower-body flexibility and experienced shorter or restless sleep.

The study noted that, as recent evidence suggests weight loss improves fibromyalgia symptoms and overall quality of life. This finding seems to agree with a Norwegian research, published in Arthritis Care and Research of the American College of Rheumatology, associating improvement of fibromyalgia with physical exercise and future risk with obesity.

Results from the 11-year follow-up, involving 380 women with fibromyalgia, revealed that those who exercised four times a week had a 29 percent lower risk of developing fibromyalgia compared with inactive women. Also, overweight or obese women had a 60 percent to 70 percent higher risk compared with those of normal weight. But the risk was much higher for overweight or obese women who also reported low levels of physical exercise.

Although fibromyalgia can happen in men, it is common in women and risk increases with age.