A study published in the Revista Brasileira de Reumatologia (English Edition) revealed that middle-aged women suffering from fibromyalgia show gait parameters that resemble the ones found in the elderly population. The study is entitled “Gait characteristics of women with fibromyalgia: a premature aging pattern.”
Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread chronic musculoskeletal pain, with other symptoms being fatigue, tenderness, headaches, sleep disorder, mood alterations, stiffness and numbness in certain parts of the body. Fibromyalgia can affect the ability of individuals to conduct simple daily tasks, compromising their quality of life. Women are also known to be more likely to develop fibromyalgia than men.
Gait problems have been previously reported in middle-aged fibromyalgia patients, referring to a reduced walking speed, stride length and cycle frequency — most likely attempts to prevent the muscle pain and discomfort generated by the exercise. The gait pattern observed is, however, similar to the one found in the elderly.
In this study, researchers assessed 25 volunteer women, with 10 being middle-aged and suffering from fibromyalgia and 15 belonging to the elderly population and without fibromyalgia. Studies were conducted using a six-meter walkway by a 3D kinematics system to evaluate the motion, trajectory, velocity and to establish the spatial gait parameters.
When comparing both groups, no differences were observed in terms of the speed, cadence, stride length, and ankle, knee and hip joints range of motion. Pelvic rotation was however different, with the middle-aged fibromyalgia group showing a greater rotation. Researchers believe that this greater pelvic rotation in patients with fibromyalgia could represent a compensatory strategy to increase the stride length. Pelvic rotation was also found to have a negative correlation with gluteus pain in the fibromyalgia group.
Researchers concluded that middle-aged women with fibromyalgia present a gait pattern similar to the pattern generally found in the elderly population, suggesting that FM patients suffer a decline in mobility relatively early in life. These findings can also explain why the number of falls has been reported to be greater in middle-aged patients with fibromyalgia compared to the elderly. Further studies are required to determine the possibility of developing special physical activity programs that may improve gait parameters in fibromyalgia patients.