Photo: Lady Gaga by Jim pop (Flickr).
Diagnosed with fibromyalgia, Lady Gaga suffers from a chronic illness that has little hope of being cured anytime soon. She can work her magic using fantastic swoops and swirls around the floor when her pain is under control, but at other times she is in debilitating pain and unable to move.
Lady Gaga suffers from widespread pain and mental fog, also regarded as "fibro-fog," that has little relief and no cure on the horizon. To educate all everyone on the crisis of fibromyalgia, Lady Gaga produced a documentary about her experiences with fibromyalgia. Called, Gaga: Five Foot Two, it outlines Gaga’s most intimate moments as she sings through her latest album while suffering from recurrent pain, the stress of being in the spotlight all the time, and her personal trauma.
Her reasons for this documentary (in a Tweet): “In our documentary the #chronicillness#chronicpain I deal w/is #Fibromyalgia. I wish to help raise awareness & connect people who have it.”
Lady Gaga has suffered for years and was often forced to stop singing, even during concerts, to deal with the pain. Frequently multiple people rubbed her muscles during concert breaks. Throughout her documentary, she is shown undergoing treatment to ease muscle spasms that cause intense pain on the entire right side of her body.
Yes, even superstars get sick.
Overview of fibromyalgia
Musculoskeletal pain that is widespread and is accompanied by fatigue, memory and mood issues, as well as sleep problems are symptoms of fibromyalgia. Scientists believe that fibromyalgia pain is amplified by how your brain and spine processes pain signals. At times, symptoms occur after surgery, physical trauma, infection or psychological stress. There are also periods when pain just happens and there is no triggering event.
Women tend to develop fibromyalgia symptoms more often than men, and fibromyalgia can cause tension headaches, irritable bowel, syndrome, depression, anxiety and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders.
Although there is no cure for fibromyalgia, there are medications that can help control the pain and other symptoms. Exercise, stress-reduction techniques, and relaxation are also huge aids.
Are you experiencing:
- Cognitive difficulties? “Fibro fog” is a symptom that impairs the ability to focus, concentrate on mental tasks, and pay attention.
- Excessive fatigue? Those with fibromyalgia wake up tired even though you have slept for long periods of time. Sleep is disturbed by pain, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea.
- Widespread pain? Defined as a continuous dull ache you have had for up to 90 days (three months). The pain is often prominent on the left and right sides of your body plus above and below your waist.
In other words, it hurts everywhere making it difficult to walk, sit, stand or do just about anything.
With fibromyalgia, you may also experience irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and other types of headaches, temporomandibular joint disorders, and interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome.
Why does it hurt?
There is no known cause of fibromyalgia, but there are many influences that work together to give you pain and stress:
- Physical or emotional trauma: Physical trauma like a car accident can trigger fibromyalgia. Psychological stress can also cause the condition. A nasty breakup or family dispute an also bring on symptoms.
- Genetics: Fibromyalgia runs in families, and there may be specific genetic reasons that make you susceptible to developing the condition.
- Infections: Some infections or illnesses trigger or exacerbate fibromyalgia. Just a simple cold or the flu will cause your excruciating pain.
- You are at risk for fibromyalgia if you are female, or if you have osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or any other autoimmune diseases.
Diagnosis and complications
If you have been struggling with pain for over three months and there is no apparent reason, fibromyalgia could be the problem. There are no tests to confirm fibromyalgia but using other specific tests can rule out conditions with similar symptoms. Tests often include:
- Complete blood count
- Erythrocyte sedimentation rate
- Cyclic citrullinated peptide test
- Rheumatoid factor
- Thyroid function tests
Treat fibromyalgia with medication and self-care. You need to minimize symptoms and improve your general health. No one treatment works for every case, however
- Pain relievers often work. Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen sodium may be helpful. Your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever like tramadol. Medical providers will not recommend narcotics. They lead to dependence and worsen the pain over time.
- Using anti-seizure drugs or drugs that treat epilepsy can alleviate pain. Gabapentin may help, and Lyrica is used to treat fibromyalgia.
- Antidepressants like Duloxetine and milnacipran can help with the fatigue and pain associated with fibromyalgia. You may also be prescribed a muscle relaxant to help bring on sleep.
- Physical therapy does help with fibromyalgia. A physical therapist will teach you exercises to improve your strength, stamina, and flexibility. Water-based exercise can be beneficial.
- Occupational therapy is excellent to aid you in adjusting to the ways you perform specific tasks and work. Occupational therapy will help with the stress on your body.
- Counseling helps by teaching you strategies for dealing with stress.
Self-care is essential when you need to manage fibromyalgia. Do this by:
- Reducing stress and avoiding or limiting emotional stress and overexertion. Relax every day. Learn to say no without feeling guilty. You don't need to change your routine completely, but use stress management techniques like meditation, deep-breathing, or listening to music.
- Get enough sleep. Fatigue is a characteristic of fibromyalgia, and it is essential to get enough sleep. Allow time for rest and practice good sleep habits. Have a routine and limit daytime napping.
- Exercise may increase pain, but if you do it regularly, your symptoms may decrease. Some excellent exercises for fibromyalgia include walking, swimming, and biking. Maintain a good posture and learn relaxation exercises.
- Keep your activity on an even keel. Don’t do too much on a good day or you may create bad days. On bad days, stick to a slower but usual routine.
- Eat healthy foods and limit caffeine intake. Stop smoking, avoid drinking to excess, and find something that you enjoy.
Alternative medicine and complementary therapies for pain and stress management can help. Yoga and meditation practiced for thousands of years does help alleviate the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Some sufferers of fibromyalgia swear by acupuncture, a Chinese therapeuticsystem that uses thin and fine needles inserted throughout the skin in various points. These needles may cause blood flow changes and give neurotransmitters different pain signals.
Massage therapy is a method of health care that uses different manipulative techniques to move muscles and soft tissues. Massage does reduce heart rates, relax muscles, improve range of motion in joints and increase the production of your body’s natural painkillers. Massage also helps relieve anxiety and stress. Give yourself up to a fantastic massage. You will have relief for a time.
There is no cure for fibromyalgia, but there are things you can do to make sure your life is full. Join fibromyalgia support groups and get more ideas of how to keep the pain and stiffness at bay. Watch Lady Gaga's documentary that talks about her fibromyalgia. It is inspiring and will give you some ideas on how to take care of yourself.