Many people in the world experience chronic pain all the time no matter of the age, profession or popularity. Fibromyalgia is a condition that is manifested by tender spots and chronic pain and 2% of the people in the states suffer from this condition.
Aside the pain this condition is accompanied with other symptoms as well like chronic fatigue, headaches, sleep disturbances, and mental confusion. These symptoms fluctuate over time and can lead to conditions like “flares” that are often triggered by physical and psychological stressors.
As we mentioned before anyone can suffer from this condition and even celebrities like Lady gaga. Some may have heard before that she suffers from this condition, but since Netflix released a documentary “Gaga: Five Foot Two” everyone found out her ongoing issue with fibromyalgia.
Lady Gaga stated the following:
“I have chased this pain for five years. I can still be me, and when I feel the adrenaline, and my music, and my fans, I can f****** go. But it doesn’t mean that I’m not in pain.”
She was brave enough to show her fans her ongoing pain and in the documentary she is recorded lying on a couch crying, speaking about the muscle spasms that make havoc throughout her body. Likewise, she allowed the presence of cameras in her doctor’s office, while she is waiting for her a round of injections, and at the same time her makeup team prepares her for an interview later that day. She comments the following: “Who gets their makeup done while they’re getting a major body treatment?”
However, multitasking is a part of her job and unfortunately in her case along with the fight against the debilitating pain caused by fibromyalgia. She is determined to follow her ambitions despite her pain and thus be successful in her professional field. During her career she has faced with the ignorance of people regarding this medical condition and in her documentary she reflects upon that:
“I get so irritated with people who don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result. People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it’s every day waking up not knowing how you’re going to feel.”
She agreed to the making of this documentary because she wanted to show the people how her life with this medical condition is and thus raise the awareness of its existence.
Facts about Fibromyalgia
The real cause for this condition is still unknown, but according to Mayo Clinic: “it most likely involves a variety of factors working together. These may include:
Genetics. Because fibromyalgia tends to run in families, there may be certain genetic mutations that may make you more susceptible to developing the disorder.
Infections. Some illnesses appear to trigger or aggravate fibromyalgia.
Physical or emotional trauma. Fibromyalgia can sometimes be triggered by a physical trauma, such as a car accident. Psychological stress may also trigger the condition.”
The NHS website states:
“Anyone can develop fibromyalgia, although it affects around 7 times as many women as men.
The condition typically develops between the ages of 30 and 50, but can occur in people of any age, including children and the elderly.”
For many years and even nowadays fibromyalgia has been considered as a psychosomatic condition with no physical cause. Although there are still believers in these reasons for this condition, researchers are working hard to determine its real cause. Unfortunately, the skepticism and disbelief from medical professionals, coworkers, friends, and others still exist, and people struggling with this condition know this best.
Regarding the stigma of fibromyalgia, Janet Armentor, Ph.D., an associate professor of sociology at California State University Bakersfield, states the following:
“One of the bigger challenges is that this illness is contested among the medical establishment and among the general population. There’s a lot of disbelief and lack of understanding.
And in the interviews that I conducted with women who [were] diagnosed with fibromyalgia, some spoke of that challenge: ‘This is real. This is not in my mind. I’m actually feeling real symptoms and real pain.”
Experts on Fibromyalgia
People with fibromyalgia are with biochemical changes which confirm their diagnosis, according to Dr. Kevin Hackshaw, an associate professor in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at The Ohio State University. This finding has been identified by modern scientists as well.
Dr. Kevin Hackshaw states:
“Studies have shown that there are documented biochemical changes in these patients. For example, spinal fluid can be obtained from patients with fibromyalgia, and you can see elevations in certain neurochemicals. So it’s not a made up diagnosis. It’s a true nerve disorder manifested as diffuse musculoskeletal pain.”
This medical condition cannot be still determined in laboratory as there is no existence of it, and medical experts can diagnose only by the symptoms of patients, following criteria adopted by the American College of Rheumatology in 2010. Up to now, scientists have still not found out a cure for this condition, but there are many beneficial treatment options.
Before implementing any treatment, all doctors agree that the patient needs to make lifestyle changes and first to apply non-pharmaceutical treatments.
“We know that regular exercise is essential in order to try to minimize some of the symptoms. There’s also a good body of research that suggests that meditation and other types of mindfulness exercises may be beneficial in terms of alleviating some of the pain.”
The common treatment that is given by the doctors is a low dose tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), and “these meds are typically used not for their antidepressant characteristics, but because they increase levels of certain neurochemicals at nerve endings, and those increases lead to a decrease in pain signals going to pain processing centers in the brain.”
In addition to this treatment, it can be applied calcium channel blockers that can be of great help in blocking pain signals to the brain.
Here are the recommendations of CDC – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for all fibromyalgia sufferers:
“– Get physically active. Experts recommend that adults be moderately physically active for 150 minutes per week. Walk, swim, or bike 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
These 30 minutes can be broken into three separate ten-minute sessions during the day. Regular physical activity can also reduce the risk of developing other chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes. Learn more about physical activity for arthritis. You can exercise on your own or participate in a CDC-recommended physical activity program.
— Go to recommended physical activity programs. Those concerned about how to safely exercise can participate in physical activity programs that are proven effective for reducing pain and disability related to arthritis and improving mood and the ability to move. Classes take place at local Ys, parks, and community centers. These classes can help you feel better. Learn more about CDC-recommended physical activity programs.
— Join a self-management education class, which helps people with arthritis or other conditions—including fibromyalgia—be more confident in how to control their symptoms, how to live well and understand how the condition affects their lives. Learn more about the CDC-recommended self-management education programs.”
People with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions need all the support we can offer. The recognition and social support are of critical importance for their further recovery and well-being.
Janet Armentor reflects on the importance of the given support:
“One of the more significant findings of my research is that because of the disbelief and lack of understanding they face, they tend to isolate themselves, which can lead to a whole range of social problems and well-being issues.
Often fibromyalgia is so invisible from the outside that people don’t recognize that this is happening to people all around us. So I think that to have someone with a high profile say, ‘I’m experiencing this and understand what you’re going through.’ That’s really important. “
“Lady Gaga doesn’t want to let fibromyalgia define her. There are still things that she wants to accomplish. But she knows the price and that she has to manage what’s important to her, and what she needs to do to cope with this illness. And I think that’s a very useful message.”