November 13, 2019

New way to diagnose fibromyalgia: Just look at someone’s gait!

Chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia are notoriously difficult to diagnose, and often, symptoms are characteristic of other conditions. People may live with fibromyalgia for years, never knowing why they are suffering with such severe pain. What may be worse is that they can be diagnosed with another condition entirely and not receive the medical attention they need. Their work, relationships, and daily lives can be adversely impacted, with no answers or relief. Now, a researcher from the University of Grenada has developed a new tool to accurately diagnose fibromyalgia. The unlikely method concentrates on the way a person walks, and when combined with specific diagnostic criteria, is very reliable in diagnosing the condition.

An individual’s walk is examined using various parameters, including: step length, time on each foot, time on both feet, walk spend, and sole pressure on the ground (Eureka Alert). The lead researcher believed that people living with fibromyalgia had decreased motor skills and also showed low performance in strength tests, body constitution, and psychological evaluations. From this belief came his theory that people with this disability have altered motion parameters that are then linked to decreased physical and psychological abilities, thereby limiting their quality of life. He decided to test whether fibromyalgia could be diagnosed on these altered motion parameters reliably.

The study focused on sixty-four women and twelve men diagnosed with fibromyalgia, as well as forty-five women and twelve men who were healthy and had no signs or symptoms of the disability. The participants underwent various tests regarding their medical and physical conditions. They found that those individuals who lived with fibromyalgia presented with definite altered motion capabilities compared to those who did not have the condition. Moreover, the fibromyalgia sufferers also had other symptoms that impacted their overall quality of life.

Although observing a person’s gait may not be likely used alone to diagnose fibromyalgia, it may be used in addition to diagnostic criteria to produce a more reliable result. The current testing criteria can often be misinterpreted and evaluating the way a person walks may provide that extra evidence needed to make a correct diagnosis. The earlier a person can be diagnosed with the condition, the easier it will be for them to get the necessary treatment and improve other areas of their life. Additionally, if the condition is so debilitating that they must stop working, having an accurate fibromyalgia diagnosis will allow them to seek disability benefits through the Social Security Administration.