Is There a Relationship Between Obesity and Fibromyalgia?

Is There a Relationship Between Obesity and Fibromyalgia?
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I was curious about the relationship between body mass index (BMI) and fibromyalgia (FM), so I decided to research it. The connection intrigued me, partly because I’ve always straddled the fence between being overweight and obese.

According to a 2015 study on the effects of BMI in people with fibromyalgia:

“Compared with normal-weight patients, obese FM patients are more disabled, report more medical comorbidities, exercise less, have a higher incidence of abuse, report increased depressive symptoms, and take more medications for FM. Bivariate analysis showed association of increasing BMI with the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index (not FM impact questionnaire) and depression. We confirm that the prevalence of overweight and obesity is high in FM and believe that physicians treating FM should be aware of our bivariate linear correlations and discuss weight loss with their FM patients. Even if increasing BMI is not intrinsic to FM, it contributes to poor mood and functional outcome and should be a treatment goal.”

Several doctors have discussed weight loss with me, but between my age, my medications, and my other illnesses, it’s difficult to lose a significant amount of weight. I know that I’m not alone in this frustrating struggle. I guess it makes sense that if we’re overweight, we’d experience more pain, a greater sense of depression, and an inability to exercise. Basically, it would affect our quality of life in a variety of negative ways. 

Several years ago, research suggested that obesity was commonly comorbid with fibromyalgia and could potentially be related to the severity of the disease. A more recent study evaluated the relationship between fibromyalgia and obesity in a variety of areas, including hyperalgesia, physical abilities, and sleep. Researchers discovered that obesity was significantly related to increased sensitivity to pain, especially in the lower body areas. Obesity was also related to a reduction in physical strength and lower body flexibility, as well as greater restlessness throughout the night. These relationships have all proved true in my own life.

It’s possible that obese women are at risk of developing fibromyalgia. Maybe we have more inflammatory markers, or maybe the stress on the body caused by excess weight impacts the disease process. I don’t know. But I do know there needs to be more education. The medical community needs to be more proactive and less judgmental with regards to fibromyalgia, especially when it comes to weight management.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

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14 comments

  1. Peggy says:

    So now you are blaming the victims!!!!!! I belong to several groups with people of all sizes and they all have the same symptoms. I would not have expected this from this source, very disappointed!!!!! This is not helpful, you should be ashamed!!!!

    • Robin Dix says:

      Peggy, I write from my personal point of view and experience as a woman with fibromyalgia. I also do research online to learn as much as I can. I apologise to you if I have caused offence, it was not my intent

  2. Rebecca Gavin says:

    It isn’t blaming the victim to explore ways in which excess weight may contribute to any health condition. Fat leads to inflammation in the body. I am obese myself. It’s in my best interest to understand how weight plays into both fibro and arthritis. That doesn’t mean the weight causes either or that it’s my fault that I have them.

      • Valarie Higley says:

        I have fibromyalgia, and I had weight loss surgery two years ago. While I lost 110 lbs., I would still be considered overweight. I have noticed a significant improvement in my overall health since losing the weight, although my fibromyalgia is still a daily struggle. My knees no longer hurt, and I can just generally get around easier … not to mention that I can cross my legs for the first time in 15 years! What I have noticed improves my fibromyalgia pain and fatigue is eating clean. A friend of mine who is a Doctor of Naturopathy recommended that I try the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. This diet essentially eliminates carbohydrates. If I eat this way, I feel so much better. While I struggle to eliminate carbs completely, I try to only eat carbs at dinner time, and that alone really improves my fibromyalgia pain and fatigue. Research the Anti-Inflammatory Diet and you will see how much it helps you if you stick to it. Nothing has helped me as much as eating like this … no medication at all!

  3. Susan Silton says:

    Fibromyalgia causes depression and being depressed makes me crave sweets.Its like feeling sorry for myself. I am overweight and not making excuses for this but the pain causes depression and it’s a cycle that I live with!

    • Valarie Higley says:

      I totally agree! When I’m in a lot of pain, all I want to do is eat things that are bad for me. Food totally becomes my friend and my coping mechanism. It’s also a way for me to check out and try to manage the symptoms that I’m feeling. It’s totally not healthy, but it’s just a way that I cope. Trying to be honest with myself about my relationship with food and use coping mechanisms other than food. I had weight loss surgery two years ago, and I really don’t want to gain back the weight I lost. The bottom line is that if you have emotionally eating issues it is a life-long struggle.

  4. Kathlene in Ohio says:

    My weight gain did not begin with FM. It began with Lipitor for high cholesterol. Within a year, i was diagnosed with diabetes. From there, things have gone to more challenges including chronic pain, chronic regional pain syndrome and arthritis.

  5. Meg says:

    I find it Impossible to lose weight now because of low activity level. I need to avoid the pain. I was always disciplined, but prone to weight gain, but could stick to a diet to lose 20 pounds. Only thing I can do is watch portion size. Limited number of foods I can eat as well. So I am 76 and doubt that I can lose much. Wish it were different.

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