World-famous popstar Lady Gaga recently opened up publicly about her struggles with fibromyalgia, a common pain disorder that many suffer in silence. She now hopes that her upcoming Netflix documentary will help spread awareness and encourage others to share their own stories.
So what is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes widespread pain throughout the body, resulting in fatigue, insomnia, stiffness, and frequent headaches. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, it impacts nearly 5 million people in the U.S., the majority of them women, who are estimated to make up for 80-90% of fibromyalgia cases alone.
Currently there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, but heavy stress and a history of repetitive injuries may act as triggers for the illness. Genetics are also thought be a factor, as researchers have noted its development within families among siblings and their children. Medication and alternative therapy, such as massage, acupuncture, herbal supplements and even yoga can be used to help ease the pain, but every body is affected differently, and the effectiveness of treatments may vary from patient to patient .
Gaga has spoken about dealing with the disorder on social media, including sharing methods of how she copes with the intense pain of fibromyalgia. In an Instagram post, Gaga said that to provide pain relief she uses blankets that trap heat, then takes ice cold baths in order to not overheat her body.
Besides the crippling pain, the truly sad thing about this disorder is that many people, including some medical professionals, don’t believe fibromyalgia is real. Since it is difficult to diagnose, and there is limited research and education available, doctors are sometimes unable to understand their patient’s needs. Some may even tell their patients that the pain is “all in their head.”
Another misconception about fibromyalgia is that it only affects older individuals, particularly women. Many women have to overcome the myth that they are far “too young” to have fibromyalgia. This disorder can affect someone at any age, even someone in their early teens. In fact, men can be diagnosed with fibromyalgia as well. The idea that fibromyalgia is just a “women’s problem” is strictly untrue.
Dealing with all these myths and misconceptions can make it much more difficult for those living with fibromyalgia to manage their disorder on a daily basis. These myths about fibromyalgia can cause the friends and family of the person suffering with this disorder to not be accepting or understanding of their daily struggle. When celebrities like Lady Gaga take a stand, it can be incredibly inspiring for young patients.
Research continues to improve fibromyalgia treatments and discover more about the causes and effects of fibromyalgia. Participating in clinical trials like the ones conducted by Lehigh Center for Clinical Research can help to advance technologies and help those dealing with this disorder achieve better results with their treatment options.
If you have fibromyalgia and are interested in participating in a study, please consider applying.