Women with fibromyalgia have altered trunk posture and are unable to maintain trunk position, a Spanish study shows.
The symptoms of fibromyalgia, including chronic widespread musculoskeletal pain, joint stiffness, chronic fatigue, and altered postural control, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, contribute to poor static posture in these patients.
Past studies have explored the link between altered trunk posture and the onset of fibromyalgia. Specifically, research has shown that patients with fibromyalgia have a higher percentage of spinal positional alterations, namely hyperkyphosis, commonly referred to as hunchback, and forward-pitched posture.
Although fibromyalgia is normally characterized using questionnaires or scales, trunk posture can be assessed with objective tools. Evaluating a person’s trunk posture could help doctors design more appropriate therapeutic strategies, the study’s authors said. Also, treating postural disorders could ease muscular and articular rigidity of the spine, which would limit pain and improve patients’ ability for daily and work activities.
The research team compared the postures of 118 women with fibromyalgia with 110 healthy controls to determine whether posture assessment could help characterize the condition. Scientists also evaluated the impact of sedentary behavior on trunk posture.
Researchers assessed the participants’ thoracic kyphosis (curvature), forward head position, and shoulder position. Also, they evaluated maximum shoulder protraction, or reaching forward, and the ability to maintain the cervical and thoracic angles, which is a strategy to assess if trunk muscles are able to maintain a sitting position.
Results showed that fibromyalgia patients have larger thoracic kyphosis and static shoulder protraction, as well as a lower craniovertebral angle – positioning the head abnormally forward – along with maximum protraction.
Patients with fibromyalgia also showed an impaired ability to maintain cervical and thoracic angles, or an upright trunk position, over the five-minute period they were required to remain seated while performing a distracting task. These results agree with earlier findings and may correlate with pain, the authors stated.
Having a sedentary lifestyle did not affect trunk posture in fibromyalgia, the study found.
To better understand the mechanisms involved in altered trunk posture in women with fibromyalgia, the authors suggested that relating trunk posture impairment with muscle activity and properties could be important.
Fibromyalgia patients “present an altered trunk posture and an inability to maintain trunk position,” the researchers wrote. They added that the lack of influence of lifestyle draws attention to the relevance of developing specific treatment programs for these women.
“Our data speculatively support that a posture of alertness sustained by certain postural muscles when a subject persistently maintains such posture, may – at least in part – be responsible for the painful symptoms,” the team wrote.