Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Arthritis Research & Therapy and BioMed Central.

Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Postural control deficits in people with fibromyalgia: a pilot study

Kim D Jones1*, Laurie A King2, Scott D Mist1, Robert M Bennett1 and Fay B Horak2

Author Affiliations

1 Fibromyalgia Research Unit, Schools of Nursing & Medicine, Oregon Health & Science University, 3455 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97229, USA

2 PT Balance Disorders Laboratory, Neurological Sciences Institute, Oregon Health & Science University, 3455 SW US Veterans Hospital Road, Portland, OR 97229, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

Arthritis Research & Therapy 2011, 13:R127  doi:10.1186/ar3432

Published: 2 August 2011

Abstract

Introduction

Postural instability and falls are increasingly recognized problems in patients with fibromyalgia (FM). The purpose of this study was to determine whether FM patients, compared to age-matched healthy controls (HCs), have differences in dynamic posturography, including sensory, motor, and limits of stability. We further sought to determine whether postural instability is associated with strength, proprioception and lower-extremity myofascial trigger points (MTPs); FM symptoms and physical function; dyscognition; balance confidence; and medication use. Last, we evaluated self-reported of falls over the past six months.

Methods

In this cross-sectional study, we compared middle-aged FM patients and age-matched HCs who underwent computerized dynamic posturography testing and completed the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire-Revised (FIQR) and balance and fall questionnaires. All subjects underwent a neurological and musculoskeletal examination. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the sample and explore the relationships between variables. The relationships between subjective, clinical and objective variables were evaluated by correlation and regression analyses.

Results

Twenty-five FM patients and twenty-seven HCs (combined mean age ± standard deviation (SD): 48.6 ± 9.7 years) completed testing. FM patients scored statistically lower on composite sensory organization tests (primary outcome; P < 0.010), as well as with regard to vestibular, visual and somatosensory ratio scores on dynamic posturography. Balance confidence was significantly different between groups, with FM patients reporting less confidence than HCs (mean ± SD: 81.24 ± 19.52 vs. 98.52 ± 2.45; P < 0.001). Interestingly, 76% to 84% of FM patients had gastrocnemius and/or anterior tibialis MTPs. Postural stability was best predicted by dyscognition, FIQR score and body mass index. Regarding falls, 3 (11%) of 27 HCs had fallen only once during the past 6 months, whereas 18 (72%) of 25 FM patients had fallen at least once. Fifteen FM patients (60%) reported falling at least three times in the past six months.

Conclusions

In this study, we report that middle-aged FM patients have consistent objective sensory deficits on dynamic posturography, despite having a normal clinical neurological examination. Further study is needed to determine prospective fall rates and the significance of lower-extremity MTPs. The development of interventions to improve balance and reduce falls in FM patients may need to combine balance training with exercise and cognitive training.