FMS and Falls

A new study tells us that folks with fibromyalgia have a greater tendency for falls. This is due to balance issues. The study is only a small one but may have important implications in fibromyalgia management and treatment.

Kim Dupree Jones, PhD, of Portland's Oregon Health & Science University says that this research points to the idea that fibromyalgia patients can derive benefit from exercises that serve to improve balance. "Balance is what we can try to manipulate to reduce falls, just like we try to manipulate cholesterol levels to reduce heart disease," says Jones.

Jones and her research team looked at 25 fibromyalgia patients with an average age of 50 along with 28 healthy control subjects of the same age. During a period of six months, the average number of falls for participants with fibromyalgia was 3.48 in comparison to an average of 0.15 falls for those in the control group.

Mysterious Condition

According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, around 10 million Americans, most of them women, suffer from fibromyalgia, a mysterious condition that is characterized by fatigue and chronic pain. A report of this new study was given at the yearly meeting of the American Pain Society.

The research team chose to concentrate on middle-aged participants to exclude the possibility that the falls could be attributed to old age. The researchers decided to explore whether balance issues might be the culprit in causing the falls. To that end, they used a computerized balance platform. "It tests the three components of balance—visual, vestibular (spatial) and somatosensory," says Jones.

The participants stand on a platform as they watch a visual target. The platform is mounted on pressure gauges that can record body shifts as the person is placed under conditions that could cause him to lose his balance. "How much you sway gives you information about balance," she says.

Every Aspect

The participants with fibromyalgia did worse on every aspect of the test when compared to the healthy subjects. On the visual part of the balance test, the fibromyalgia sufferers had an average score of 0.68 while the control group averaged 0.87. The numeral one would represent a perfect score.

On the spatial aspect of the test, the fibromyalgia group scored an average of 0.41 compared to 0.67 in the control group.

The somatosensory part of the test generated scores of 0.91 in the fibromyalgia group and 0.98 in the control group.

Healthy Seniors

Jones comments that the scores of the average 50 year-old who suffers from fibromyalgia are worse than those you would expect to see in a healthy senior aged 70-80.

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