Let’s start off by saying that fibromyalgia has been around for much longer than Lady Gaga has been suffering it’s effects. But when she released her Netflix documentary earlier this year, “Gaga: Five Foot Two” launched the disease into the public eye in a way it hadn’t been acknowledged before.
The documentary portrays Lady Gaga through her working and personal life, and frequently is centred on her experience of chronic pain following a hip injury three years ago. Her diagnosis of fibromyalgia isn’t explicitly discussed, but the singer confirmed her status with the condition in social media posts after the film’s release.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic muscle and joint pain condition that can affect many areas of a patient’s body, giving a confused and seemingly random symptom picture. In addition to pain and sensitivity, patients may experience fatigue, headaches, brain-fog, irritable bowel syndrome, and often also present with anxiety and depression. Stress can make their symptoms worse, and they often struggle to find ways to manage their pain.
The cause of fibromyalgia isn’t clear – and it had previously been a hot topic of debate among the medical profession. It isn’t detectable on any scan or test, and even though it gained “disease status” way back in 1990, some doctors still don’t agree in the validity of the diagnostic criteria.
We don’t know the exact cause of fibromyalgia, but we can work out it probably has something to do with pain signals between the body and the brain becoming altered. This could be caused by genetics, chemical imbalances, sleep problems, or instigated by a traumatic life event. Symptoms can fluctuate over a life-time, with sufferers having periods of being relatively pain free, when their management strategy is successful.
Lady Gaga goes through a few different pain management strategies over the course of the film; having scans, injections and lots and lots of manual therapy. She clearly feels the benefit of having soft tissue and joint articulation work done – as she goes on to explain that she couldn’t stand it if she was unable to finance her constant manual therapy treatments.
The patients with fibromyalgia who we see in clinic are less likely to request around-the-clock care like Gaga, but do typically see the benefit of a hands on treatment every 4 to 6 weeks.