How has fibromyalgia affected one of the best-selling musical artists of the 21st century?
In “Gaga: Five Foot Two,” a documentary published on Netflix this month, Lady Gaga describes the pain that has characterized her life with fibromyalgia for the past half decade.
“I have pursued this pain for five years,” said Gaga. “It can still be me, and when I feel the adrenaline, my music and my fans, I can leave. But that does not mean I do not have pain. “
Between clips of essays, performances and sincere comments about her work and her personal life, Gaga allows the audience to see flashes of her pain.
In one scene, she lies on a couch crying, describing the muscle spasms that shake her body.
In another, she prepares for a round of injections in her doctor’s office, while her makeup team helps her prepare for an interview later that day.
“Who does makeup while they receive important body treatment?” He asks.
For Gaga and others, that kind of multitasking can be critical to their ability to pursue their ambitions while facing the pain that fibromyalgia causes.
Generalized chronic pain
Fibromyalgia affects approximately two percent of people in the United States.
It is characterized by chronic widespread pain and tender spots throughout the body.
“For some people, the pain feels debilitating,” Dr. Kevin Hackshaw, an associate professor in the Division of Rheumatology and Immunology at Ohio State University, told Healthline.
It can also cause a variety of other symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, sleep disturbances, mental confusion and headaches.
Although fibromyalgia is not progressive, its symptoms fluctuate over time, worsening during periods of exacerbation known as “outbreaks.”
Physical and psychological stressors are common triggers of rashes.
“If I get depressed, my body can suffer spasms,” says Gaga in the opening scenes of the film.
In October 2018, Vogue launched a problem that was immersed in the struggle of the 32-year-old pop star with fibromyalgia.
“I’m so irritated by people who do not believe that fibromyalgia is real,” said the singer. “For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, trauma and panic disorder, all of which causes the nervous system to become overloaded, and as a result it has nerve pain” .
” People need to be more compassionate . Chronic pain is not a joke . And every day he wakes up without knowing how you’re going to feel . “
By showing her experiences, the singer hopes to help raise awareness about fibromyalgia and connect people who face similar challenges.
While fibromyalgia can occur at any age, it is more common among older adults.
It is also more common among women than men.
The exact cause of the condition is unknown.
Historically, many medical professionals have treated it as a psychosomatic condition without a physical cause.
While the findings of modern research have challenged that framework, some people remain skeptical regarding the diagnoses of fibromyalgia and claims of chronic pain.
According to Janet Armentor, PhD, associate professor of sociology at California State University in Bakersfield, the disbelief of medical professionals, coworkers, friends and others contributes to the stigma many people with fibromyalgia face.
“One of the biggest challenges is that this disease is disputed between the medical establishment and the general population,” Armentor told Healthline.
“There is a lot of disbelief and lack of understanding,” he added. “And in the interviews I did with women who [were] diagnosed with fibromyalgia, some spoke of that challenge: ‘This is real. This is not in my mind. In fact, I’m feeling real symptoms and real pain. “
Over the past decade, researchers have identified biochemical changes that occur in people with fibromyalgia.
“Studies have shown that there are documented biochemical changes in these patients. “For example, you can get spinal fluid from patients with fibromyalgia and you can see elevations in certain neurochemicals,” Hackshaw said.
“So it’s not an invented diagnosis,” he added. “It is a true nervous disorder that manifests as diffuse musculoskeletal pain.”
Treatment is available
For now, there are no simple laboratory tests available to diagnose fibromyalgia.
Instead, physicians rely on patient symptom reports, following the criteria adopted by the American College of Rheumatology in 2010.
While there is currently no cure for fibromyalgia, there are a variety of treatment strategies available.
For starters, doctors often recommend changes in lifestyle and other non-pharmaceutical treatments.
“We know that regular exercise is essential to try to minimize some of the symptoms,” Hackshaw said.
“There is also a good body of research that suggests that meditation and other types of mindfulness exercises can be beneficial in terms of relieving some of the pain,” he added.
If these strategies are not enough, doctors often prescribe a low-dose tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) or a selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI).
“These medications are generally not used because of their antidepressant characteristics, but because they increase the levels of certain neurochemicals in the nerve endings, and those increases lead to a decrease in the pain signals going to the pain processing centers in the brain.” explained Hackshaw.
Calcium channel blockers can also help block pain signals in the brain.
In addition to biomedical interventions, recognition and social support are also important for people with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions.
“One of the most important 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 wide range of social problems and well-being problems,” Armentor said.
She suggested that Lady Gaga and other high-profile advocates can help raise awareness about fibromyalgia and help others with the disease feel less alone.
“Often, fibromyalgia is so invisible from the outside that people do not recognize that this is happening to the people around us. So I think that for someone with a high profile to say: ‘I’m experiencing this and I understand what you’re going through.’ That is really important, “he said.
“Lady Gaga does not want to let fibromyalgia define her,” he added. “There are still things that she wants to achieve. But she knows the price and that she has to manage what is important to her and what she must do to face this disease. And I think it’s a very useful message. “