Beyond bones: The relevance of variants of connective tissue (hypermobility) to fibromyalgia, ME/CFS and controversies surrounding diagnostic classification: an observational study, 2021

Topics: hypermobility, pain, fatigue, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia

Authors: Jessica A Eccles, Beth Thompson, Kristy Themelis, Marisa L Amato, Robyn Stocks, Amy Pound, Anna-Marie Jones, Zdenka Cipinova, Lorraine Shah-Goodwin, Jean Timeyin, Charlotte R Thompson, Thomas Batty, Neil A Harrison, Hugo D Critchley and Kevin A Davies


Background: Fibromyalgia and myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are poorly understood conditions with overlapping symptoms, fuelling debate as to whether they are manifestations of the same spectrum or separate entities. Both are associated with hypermobility, but this remains significantly undiagnosed, despite impact on quality of life.

Objective: We planned to understand the relevance of hypermobility to symptoms in fibromyalgia and ME/CFS.

Method: Sixty-three patient participants presented with a confirmed diagnosis of fibromyalgia and/or ME/CFS; 24 participants were healthy controls. Patients were assessed for symptomatic hypermobility.

Results: Evaluations showed exceptional overlap in patients between fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, plus 81% met Brighton criteria for hypermobility syndrome (odds ratio 7.08) and 18% met 2017 hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS) criteria. Hypermobility scores significantly predicted symptom levels.

Conclusion: Symptomatic hypermobility is particularly relevant to fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, and our findings highlight high rates of mis-/underdiagnosis. These poorly understood conditions have a considerable impact on quality of life and our observations have implications for diagnosis and treatment targets.

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