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01.12.2018 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 1/2018

Controlled, cross-sectional, multi-center study of physical capacity and associated factors in women with fibromyalgia

BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders > Ausgabe 1/2018
Anette Larsson, Annie Palstam, Jan Bjersing, Monika Löfgren, Malin Ernberg, Eva Kosek, Björn Gerdle, Kaisa Mannerkorpi



Health and physical capacity are commonly associated with disease, age, and socioeconomic factors. The primary objective of this study was to investigate the degree to which physical capacity, defined as muscle strength and walking ability, is decreased in women with fibromyalgia (FM), as compared to healthy women, who are matched for age and level of education. The secondary aim was to investigate whether muscle strength and walking ability are associated with age, symptom duration, activity limitations and, Body Mass Index (BMI) in women with FM and control subjects.


This controlled, cross-sectional, multi-center study comprised 118 women with FM and 93 age- and education-level-matched healthy women. The outcome measures were isometric knee-extension force, isometric elbow-flexion force, isometric hand-grip force, and walking ability. Differences between the groups were calculated, and for the women with FM analyses of correlations between the measures of physical capacity and variables were performed.


The women with FM showed 20% (p < 0.001) lower isometric knee-extension force, 36% (p < 0.001) lower isometric elbow-flexion force, 34% (p < 0.001) lower isometric hand-grip force, and 16% lower walking ability (p < 0.001), as compared to the healthy controls. All measures of muscle strength in women with FM showed significant weak to moderate relationship to symptom duration (rs = − 0.23–0.32) and walking ability (rs = 0.25–0.36). Isometric knee-extension force correlated with activity limitations, as measured using the SF-36 Physical function subscale (rs=0.23, p = 0.011).


Physical capacity was considerably decreased in the women with FM, as compared to the age- and education-level-matched control group. All measures of physical capacity showed a significant association with symptom duration. Knee-extension force and walking ability were significantly associated with activity limitations, age, and BMI. It seems important to address this problem and to target interventions to prevent decline in muscle strength. Assessments of muscle strength and walking ability are easy to administer and should be routinely carried out in the clinical setting for women with FM.

Trial registration identification number: NCT01226784, Oct 21, 2010.
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