By Mary Anne Dunkin
Being able to bend your joints beyond their natural range of motion may do more than make you the life of the party. Research has suggested this ability (called joint hypermobility) might up your odds of developing fibromyalgia — or at least a "fibromyalgia-like syndrome."
In a 2001 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology, researchers looked at 178 people — about half of whom had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, the other half with no fibromyalgia symptoms. They found that people with fibromyalgia who met American College of Rheumatology (ACR) diagnostic criteria, which include the presence of tender points and widespread musculoskeletal pain, were slightly more likely to have joint hypermobility than the healthy people.
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The biggest difference researchers found, however, was in people who had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia but who didn't meet the ACR criteria for the syndrome. Thirty-one percent of those people had joint hypermobility, compared to just 6 percent of those who did not have fibromyalgia.
Why? "It seems reasonable to hypothesize that repeated minor trauma [from moving the joints past their intended range] may result in musculoskeletal pain that may eventually amplify into a more diffuse pain syndrome recognizable as fibromyalgia," says Mary Ann Fitzcharles, M.D., associate professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal.
"Clearly hypermobility is not the only or the major factor in the development of widespread pain or fibromyalgia, but rather a contributing mechanism in some [people]," explains Dr. Fitzcharles.
Source: The Arthritis Foundation (www.arthritis.org).
Study reference: Journal of Rheumatology, Vol. 27, No. 7