Can Bariatric Surgery Help With Your Fibromyalgia?

Bariatric Surgery

Image: Shutterstock/ Shidlovski

One of the most difficult things about living with fibromyalgia has to be not being able to get out and move around the way most people can. Because of the chronic muscle pain and fatigue, people with fibromyalgia tend to be stuck in a sedentary lifestyle. And with that comes a large number of other problems like a weaker heart and weight gain.

And obesity has been shown to make fibromyalgia worse. The added weight puts strain on your joints and muscles, making the pain more intense. That’s why bariatric surgery might be a useful treatment for fibromyalgia sufferers who struggle with their weight.  So how does gaining weight affect your fibromyalgia? What is bariatric surgery exactly? And is it a good choice for you?

How Does Gaining Weight Affect Your Fibromyalgia?

Studies have shown that people who are overweight are more likely to have fibromyalgia. Of course, it stands to reason that living in chronic pain might make you more likely to be overweight, but there is a lot of evidence that ties the two conditions together. Other studies show, for instance, that people who are overweight also report more pain in their fibromyalgia tender points.

Furthermore, we know that patients who lose weight also report having less pain and fewer complications of fibromyalgia, like depression and reduced quality of life. So, we know that being overweight makes your fibromyalgia symptoms worse. Therefore, losing weight can be a good way to help make your fibromyalgia more manageable. And that’s where bariatric surgery comes in.

What Is Bariatric Surgery?

For most people who put on weight, doctors recommend simple dieting and exercise. But losing weight is never really that simple in the real world, is it? And that’s especially true when fibromyalgia makes exercising difficult. Not only are your muscles in constant pain, but you also have to struggle with constant fatigue that makes getting out of bed a struggle. And it’s tough to shop for fresh ingredients and cook a healthy dinner every day when you’re running low on spoons. All of that together creates a scenario familiar to many fibromyalgia sufferers: you put on weight and since you can’t exercise to take it off, you gain more. And that extra weight makes it even harder to exercise.

It’s a vicious cycle. That’s why if diet and exercise aren’t really an option for losing weight, you may have to turn to bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery is any procedure designed to help you lose weight. And there are a number of different ones.

Probably the most widely-known option is the gastric bypass. Basically, a gastric bypass operation involves severing the link between the stomach and the esophagus and routing your food into a smaller pouch connected to the intestines. This makes it easy to limit how much you eat since you have less room for food.

But there are risks to this procedure. It sometimes leads to vitamin deficiencies, since your body can’t absorb as many nutrients through the intestine. And reversing the procedure is often extremely risky and is only done in case it leads to serious medical problems.

That’s the same basic principle behind another bariatric surgery, a gastric band. In this procedure, doctors place an adjustable band around the stomach, reducing the amount of room available for food. This tends to result in less weight loss than the gastric bypass and requires a foreign body to remain inside you, but it can also be removed more easily than reversing a gastric bypass.

Is It An Effective Treatment For Fibromyalgia?

Bariatric surgeries are generally very effective for helping people lose weight and keep it off. That means that if being overweight is making your fibromyalgia worse, then it can be an effective solution. But obviously, it isn’t really a treatment for the underlying condition itself. Bariatric surgery won’t cure your fibromyalgia, there’s only a possibility of it reducing your symptoms.

And then there are the risks that come with any surgery, which may be a more significant factor with fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia often experience pain more intensely, so the normal post-operative pain might be worse. But that doesn’t mean surgery isn’t an option.

As with any procedure, you have to weigh the risks versus the possible rewards. And bariatric surgery should never be the first resort. It’s really only a good solution if you’re certain that you can’t manage your weight with diet and exercise. Ultimately, you and your doctor should discuss your options and decide what’s best for you.

So, have you had bariatric surgery? What kind? Did it improve your fibromyalgia symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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