Why did fibromyalgia impact one of the 21st century’s best-selling musical artists? In “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” a film released this month on Netflix, Lady Gaga outlines the agony characterizing her past half-decade life with fibromyalgia.
“Five years I’ve been chasing this torment,” Gaga said. “I can still be myself, and I can go when I feel the adrenaline, my music and my friends. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have pain.
Gaga allows the audience to see glimpses of her suffering through videos of rehearsals, appearances, and blunt comments on her work and personal life. She lies on a sofa in one scene weeping, explaining the spasms of the muscle that wreck her body.
In another, she waits for her doctor’s office for a round of injections, as her makeup team helps her get ready later that day for an interview.
“Who is doing their makeup while they are undergoing a big operation for the body?” she wonders.
These multitasking may be vital for Gaga and others to their ability to pursue their dreams when dealing with the pain caused by fibromyalgia.
“The pain feels diminishing for some people,” Dr. Kevin Hackshaw, an associate professor in the Ohio State University Division of Rheumatology and Immunology, told Healthline.
It can also cause a variety of other symptoms, including chronic fatigue, sleep disorders, mental confusion, and headaches.
Widespread chronic pain
In the United States, fibromyalgia affects an estimated 2% of people.
It is characterized throughout the entire body by persistent recurrent pain and tender spots.
While fibromyalgia is not progressive, the effects fluctuate over time, increasing during periods of exacerbation known as “flares.” Physical and psychological stressors are popular flares causes.
“If I’m sad, my body will spasm,” says Gaga in the movie’s opening scenes.
In October 2018, Vogue published an issue that plunges into the battle with fibromyalgia of the 32-year-old pop star.
“I get so angry with people who don’t think fibromyalgia is true,” said the singer. “For me, and for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which throws the nervous system into overdrive, and as a result you have nerve pain.” There is no joke about chronic pain. And it’s waking up every day not knowing how you’ll feel.
The singer hopes to help raise awareness of fibromyalgia and connect people facing similar struggles by sharing their experiences.
Although fibromyalgia may occur at any age, older adults are more likely to experience it.
Among women, it is also more prevalent than men.
It is unclear the exact cause of the disease.
Historically, it has been regarded as a psychosomatic disorder with no physical cause by many medical professionals.
Although modern research results have questioned this paradigm, some people remain skeptical about diagnosis of fibromyalgia and chronic pain statements.
According to Janet Armentor, PhD, California State University Bakersfield’s associate professor of sociology, skepticism from medical professionals, colleagues, families, and others, leads to the stigma experienced by many people with fibromyalgia.
“One of the biggest challenges is that the medical establishment and the general population are contesting this epidemic,” Armentor told Healthline.
“There is a great deal of confusion and incomprehension,” she said. “And in my interviews with women who[ were] diagnosed with fibromyalgia, many people talked about that challenge:’ This is true. That’s not what I think. Yeah, I feel real symptoms and real pain.’
Studies have reported molecular changes in people with fibromyalgia over the past decade.
“Studies have shown that these patients are undergoing reported biochemical changes. For example, in patients with fibromyalgia, spinal fluid can be collected, and in certain neurochemicals you can see elevations, “Hackshaw said.
“That’s not a diagnosis made up,” he added. “It’s a real nerve condition that occurs as diffuse musculoskeletal pain.”
Treatment is provided
For now, the treatment of fibromyalgia does not include specific laboratory tests.
Doctors depend instead on patient symptom reports based on criteria introduced by the American College of Rheumatology in 2010.
While no known cure for fibromyalgia is currently available, a number of treatment methods are available.
Typically, doctors recommend changes in lifestyle and other non-pharmaceutical therapies to begin with.
“We know regular exercise is crucial to trying to minimize some of the effects,” said Hackshaw.“There is also a strong body of research indicating that mindfulness and other kinds of carefulness exercises can be helpful in alleviating some of the pain,” he said.
Doctors also recommend a low-dose tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI) if these methods are not appropriate.
“Usually, such drugs are not used for their antidepressant properties, but because they raise the levels of certain neurochemicals at nerve endings, and these increases contribute to a reduction in pain signals going to pain processing centers in the brain,” explained Hackshaw.
Calcium channel blockers may also block the brain’s pain signals.
Recognition and social support are important for people with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions as well as therapeutic treatments.
“One of the most critical results of my research is that they appear to separate themselves because of the unbelief and lack of understanding they face, which can lead to a whole range of social problems and issues of well-being,” Armentor said.
She suggested that Lady Gaga and other high-profile advocates can help raise fibromyalgia awareness and help others feel less alone with the condition.
“Fibromyalgia is often so noticeable from the outside that people don’t recognize that people around us are experiencing this. And I think it’s really important to have someone with a high profile say,’ I’m having this experience and understand what you’re going through.’
“Lady Gaga won’t let her be determined by fibromyalgia,” she said. “She also needs to accomplish things. But she knows the price and has to manage what is important to her and what she has to do to cope with this disease. And I think this message is very useful.
Shared at Healthline with permission from our family. The Hearty Soul has included some additional information and quotations on the fibromyalgia battle of the Lady Gaga.