- Chronic pain is the telltale sign of the condition that continues to baffle doctors
- Lady Gaga was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the nervous system, and is characterized by chronic pain in the muscles and tendons
On a good day, Lady Gaga can sing and dance up a storm, or grab attention the way she did at the 2019 Met Gala, where she revealed, in dramatic fashion, four outrageous outfits on the pink carpet.
But on one occasion, the Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter was in such severe pain, she required hospitalization and had to postpone her scheduled European concerts in 2017.
Lady Gaga was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the nervous system, and is characterized by chronic pain in the muscles and tendons. Problems in sleeping, mood swings, and headaches are other manifestations of the illness that affects mostly women (a whopping 80-90 percent, between the ages of 20 and 50).
“I get so irritated with people who don’t believe my fibromyalgia is real,” Lady Gaga said in the October 2018 issue of Vogue. “For me, and I think for many others, it’s really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result.”
Top hospital in the Philippines Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed) cites five things you need to know about fibromyalgia:
It has many symptoms and is associated with many syndromes. “Irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, memory, and concentration issues, mood disorders, and migraines are just some of the signs that you may have fibromyalgia,” says Merle Dela-Cruz-Odi, MD, Head of Pain Management Services. The most telling symptom, of course, is chronic pain—even the mildest of touches can hurt.
The cause remains a mystery. To this day, doctors cannot pinpoint exactly what triggers fibromyalgia, though many trace it to a traumatic experience—whether physical (like being involved in a car accident or breaking your bone from a bad fall) or psychological (a death of a loved one or losing all your money in a scam). In Lady Gaga’s case, the performer believes that being sexually assaulted at 19 coupled with the stresses of touring and celebrity triggered her fibromyalgia.
According to Dr. Odi, “Genetics (if fibromyalgia runs in the family, chances are you might get it) and existing illnesses like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis put you at greater risk of the condition.”
It is hard to diagnose. “Given its broad range of symptoms, the lack of standard tests, and the absence of physical manifestations like swelling, rashes, or weight loss, fibromyalgia is a challenge to diagnose,” Dr. Odi points out. Sometimes it takes as long as five years to confirm! Again, specialists use pain as their guide; specifically, if a patient has been in constant, debilitating pain for three months, with no other pre-existing medical condition causing it.
There is no cure—yet. For now, Dr. Odi explains that “patients with fibromyalgia manage their pain and symptoms with medication (over the counter and prescription pain relievers and antidepressants), various forms of therapy (physical, occupational, counseling), regular exercise, and stress reduction.
It is now recognized as a legitimate health concern. In previous years, fibromyalgia has been regarded as “all in the head” and a mental illness. But with people like Lady Gaga putting a spotlight on this most baffling yet serious condition, more work can be done to fully understand fibromyalgia and hopefully work towards discovering a cure.
“Fibromyalgia is a real condition, and there are complexities to the chronic pain that comes with it. We’re hoping that new medications and treatments being studied will eventually help more patients, while growing awareness will bring about more compassion for the people who suffer from it,” Dr. Odi says.
For more information, please contact MakatiMed On-Call at +632.8888 999, email [email protected], or visit www.makatimed.net.ph.