School of Nursing - Make a Gift

Archived news

Excess Weight in Women with Fibromyalgia may Aggravate Symptoms and Impair Quality of Life

Posted: April 17, 2013

Dr. Gayle Timmerman

Dr. Gayle Timmerman

Fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) is a debilitating, chronic disorder with no cure that is characterized by fatigue, sleep disturbances and widespread musculoskeletal pain. Excess weight may adversely impact both fibromyalgia symptom severity (e.g., pain) and quality of life in women with FMS, a new study suggests.

“We wanted to look at the relationship between weight and the severity of symptoms and see how it might affect quality of life,” said Gayle Timmerman, associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing and lead author. “Our findings support the growing body of evidence that excess weight is negatively related to quality of life and pain in these women.”

The study’s findings were published in the article “Correlates of Body Mass Index in Women With Fibromyalgia” in the March/April 2013 issue of Orthopaedic Nursing.

In this latest study, researchers examined the relationship of body mass index (BMI) to the quality of life (QOL) of a sample of 179 women between 24 and 74 years of age and diagnosed with FMS. They found that those participants with a greater BMI suffered increased symptom severity. For instance, they found statistically significant increases in pain (or tender points) between normal weight participants and overweight/obese participants.

Furthermore, because higher BMI was associated with lower physical functioning, participants with higher BMIs reported more barriers to engaging in health promotion activities that make it even more difficult for them to engage in successful weight management.

“It’s a vicious cycle: Excess weight seems to increase the pain and fatigue these women already suffer, and because they are tired and in pain, it’s more difficult for them to engage in weight management, which requires a fair amount of effort in order to be successful,” Timmerman said.

Because there is no known cure for FMS or treatments that completely alleviate its symptoms, identifying factors that exacerbate or improve FMS symptoms is essential, according to the authors. The study suggests, therefore, that innovative interventions for weight management that take into account their fatigue level, such as changing the food environment, may need to be recommended for those with FMS.

Authors of the article “Correlates of Body Mass Index in Women With Fibromyalgia” include Gayle M. Timmerman, PhD, RN, CNS, FAAN; and Alexa K. Stuifbergen, PhD, RN, FAAN, Dean, School of Nursing; and Nicolina A. Calfa, MC, doctoral candidate, Counseling Psychology, all at The University of Texas at Austin.