Does Being Fat Make Fibromyalgia Worse?

Maybe, Maybe Not

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Some research shows that being overweight or obese may make fibromyalgia pain worse, while more recent research may throw that into doubt. Further, our weight doesn't appear to impact how we react to treatment.

Research published in August 2014 states:

"There are not differences among normal weight, overweight and obese patients with [fibromyalgia] regarding their response to a multidisciplinary treatment program for [fibromyalgia] which combines pharmacological treatment, education, physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy." -Castel A, et al., Body mass index and response to a multidisciplinary treatment of fibromyalgia.

Researchers found this by testing the same treatment protocols on fibromites with different body types. What's more, they also found no significant differences between the groups before treatment.

That appears to contradict previous research suggesting that the heavier we are, the worse our symptoms are likely to be. That study, from December 2010, stated that:

"…[O]besity in FMS was associated with greater pain sensitivity, poorer sleep quality, and reduced physical strength and flexibility." -Okifuji A, et al., Relationship between fibromyalgia and obesity in pain, function, mood, and sleep.

From that, they concluded that obesity may exacerbate symptoms and suggested that weight management is incorporated into treatment plans.

However, this study didn't address whether the heavier participants had been heavy before developing fibromyalgia or gained weight after they were sick. To me, it seems logical that people with more severe cases would become especially sedentary and therefore more prone to gaining significant amounts of weight.

Regardless, we know that being overweight is hard on our bodies in multiple ways. Some experts say that we have a much harder time losing weight than healthy people do, but so far that's not supported by research.

If you want to lose weight, be smart about it. Fad or extreme diets may be too much for your body to handle and could trigger a symptom flare.

Exercise, as well, can kick up symptoms if you're not careful to stay within your bounds. Be sure to talk to your doctor to see what weight loss options are safe for you, taking into account all your diagnoses and your current fitness level.

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Sources:

Castel A, et al. Rheumatology International. 2014 Aug 1. [Epub ahead of print] Body mass index and response to a multidisciplinary treatment of fibromyalgia.

Okifuji A, et al. Journal of Pain. 2010 Dec;11(12):1329-37. The relationship between fibromyalgia and obesity in pain, function, mood, and sleep.

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