Fibromyalgia Impacts Fear of Falling and Number of Falls

Fibromyalgia Impacts Fear of Falling and Number of Falls

Researchers report that women with fibromyalgia (FM) have a strong fear of failing, and that such fear — in a disease with a significant impact on patients’ balance — is associated with an increased number of falls. The study, entitled “Fear of Falling in Women with Fibromyalgia and Its Relation with Number of Falls and Balance Performance,” was published in the BioMed Research International journal.

FM is a complex chronic disease, mainly affecting women, and characterized by widespread pain and symptoms that include fatigue, impaired cognition, stiffness, depression, and impaired balance. These largely impact FM patients’ health-related quality of life and daily activities.

Researchers studied a total of 240 women, 125 diagnosed with FM (by a rheumatologist and according to the criteria of the American College of Rheumatology) and 115 without FM, to investigate balance performance, fear of falling, and frequency of falls in these two groups. Additionally, they examined the relationship between fear of falling, number of falls, pain, impact of FM, age, body mass index (BMI), health-related quality of life, and FM-associated symptoms.

Study participants were submitted to a body composition analysis (using Tanita body composition analyzer BC-418 MA), after which they were asked to perform two physical tests (the Clinical Test of Sensory Integration of Balance or CTSIB, and the 30 s chair stand test), and balance and lower limb muscle strength tests, followed by questionnaires. To determine participants’ number of falls within both the last six months and last year, the EQ-5D-5L questionnaire was distributed, a standard and widely used health-related quality of life questionnaire. Moreover, patients were asked to answer the Visual Analog Scale (VAS) that measures fear from a scale of 0 (no fear) to 100 (extreme fear) to determine participants’ fear of falling.

The results revealed that FM patients not only have a higher number of falls, but are also more afraid of falling when compared to those without FM (in this group, such fear was largely age-related). In contrast, FM patients’ fear was associated with the number of falls experienced, and with such issues as stiffness, balance problems, FM impact, and health-related quality of life. The actual number of times FM patients fell was most closely associated with patients’ balance with eyes closed, and with pain, tenderness to touch level, anxiety, and self-reported balance problems, as well as FM impact and health-related quality of life.