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European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine 2009 September;45(3):335-40


language: English

Balance in patients with anorexia and bulimia nervosa

Fontana M. P. 1, Menegoni F. 1, 2, Vismara L. 1, Galli M. 2, Romei M. 1, 2, Bergamini E. 2, Petroni M. L. 3, Capodaglio P. 1

1 Orthopedic Rehabilitation Unit and Clinical Lab for Gait Analysis and Posture, San Giuseppe Hospital, Italian Auxologic Institute IRCCS, Piancavallo, Verbania (VB), Italy 2 Bioengineering Department,Milan Polytechnic, Milan, Italy 3 Nutrition and Gastroenterology Unit, San Giuseppe Hospital, Italian Auxologic Institute, IRCCS, Piancavallo, Verbania (VB), Italy


Aim. Neuro-muscular adaptations to the loss or increase in body weight may induce postural alterations. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of body weight alterations on postural stability in patients with anorexia nervosa and bulimia.
Methods. The study enrolled 15 women affected by anorexia nervosa (AN), (mean body mass index [BMI] 15.8±1.8 kg/m2), 15 women affected by bulimia nervosa (BN), (mean BMI 20.1±2.9 kg/m2) and 11 healthy matched women (HC), (mean BMI 20.1±1 kg/m2). Two quiet standing conditions with eyes open (EO) and closed (EC) were analysed with an optoelectronic system (Vicon 460, Viconpeak, Oxford, UK) with passive markers to estimate the centre of mass (CoM) position.
Results. BN patients were more unstable than HC, showing statistically significant differences in antero-posterior CoM excursions and path length. AN patients showed non significant differences from HC. Only HC showed differences between EO and EC conditions, with significantly greater excursions in medio-lateral direction in EC condition (P<0.013) as well as an increased sway area (P<0.022).
Conclusion. In BN, musculoskeletal factors seem to play a major role in the diminished postural control, which appear to be linked to body weight fluctuations rather than to BMI absolute values. No clear-cut postural instability was demonstrated in patients with AN as compared to HC. Visual input appears not to affect balance in patients with eating disorders. Possible further causes of postural instability in BN and implications for rehabilitation treatment are discussed.

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