Last week, Lady Gaga revealed on Twitter that she suffers from a condition called fibromyalgia. Then, on the morning of Monday, Sept. 18, we learned the singer has decided to postpone the rest of her because of ongoing health issues related to the condition. We are rooting for Gaga to feel better, and hopefully she can make up her tour dates as soon as possible. So, what exactly is fibromyalgia, and what does it do to a person’s body?
In the simplest terms, fibromyalgia causes a person to experience chronic pain throughout multiple parts of her body, including the bones, muscles, and joints. According to Healthline, the symptoms are often subjective, meaning each person experiences the condition differently, making it that much harder to pinpoint a fibromyalgia diagnosis with standard tests.
So, that means doctors have to resort to different methods of diagnosis, which often includes testing the patient for what are called “trigger points” — aka, putting pressure on certain parts of the body and asking if the person feels pain there. Some of the common trigger points of fibromyalgia include the back or front of the neck, the hips, lower or upper back, knees, and even the elbows.
As of now, there’s no cure for fibromyalgia, meaning treatments focus on soothing symptoms and improving quality of life as best as possible. Some people dealing with chronic pain opt for over-the-counter pain relievers, others are prescribed antidepressants, and some experiment with alternative treatments like acupuncture and massage therapy.
While fibromyalgia is definitely more of a subjective condition, there are a few common realities people face when living with this type of chronic pain. Here are just a few of them that people diagnosed with the condition experience on a day-to-day basis.
1. Never Feeling Rested Enough
According to Mayo Clinic, even after sleeping for long periods of time, people with fibromyalgia often never feel fully rested, as their shut-eye is disrupted by bouts of chronic pain.
In fact, there’s still no consensus among doctors about whether fatigue caused by fibromyalgia is actually just an expression of what’s called chronic fatigue syndrome. The two are extremely similar in terms of symptoms, and the line between them is a thin one, according to Everyday Health.
2. “Fibro Fog”
You know that feeling you get the morning after taking a swig of some nighttime cold medicine? Your head aches, your brain feels foggy, and no matter how much coffee you toss back, you just can’t seem to focus.
People living with fibromyalgia experience that disoriented foggy feeling on the reg, which makes it difficult for them to concentrate on tasks at work or school, or even to just simply converse with other people.
3. Constant (And Usually Unsuccessful) Doctor Visits
Imagine knowing something is wrong with your body, and then waiting a minimum of three years for a proper, definitive diagnosis. This is a reality for many people who ultimately learn they’ve been living with fibromyalgia, according to Health.com.
The problem, as mentioned earlier, is that there aren’t any specific, diagnostic tests when it comes to this condition. Someone can walk into a doctor’s office appearing, by all accounts, to be completely healthy, but are still internally experiencing genuinely debilitating chronic pain all over the body.
When you think about it that way, it’s incredibly brave of Lady Gaga to come forward and open up about her health issues. So many people with fibromyalgia aren’t always taken seriously by their doctors, but someone with a platform like Gaga’s can bring some much-needed attention to those who silently suffer every day.
Over half of people with fibromyalgia deal with headaches on a regular basis, according to Help for Headaches, an Ontario-based educational charity.
Like many of the symptoms associated with this condition, it’s not always clear why a person with fibromyalgia experiences frequent headaches. For some, it’s due to stress, while others are triggered by bright lights, or even intolerance to certain foods.
5. Depression And/Or Anxiety
Feelings of depression or anxiety can surface for a couple of different reasons here. Many times, it’s not exactly clear which actually came first: the depression or the fibromyalgia.
Assuming depression came first, some researchers speculate that changes in brain chemistry and the nervous system caused by depression can lead the human body to experience heightened sensitivity to normal aches and pains — which more or less characterizes what fibromyalgia feels like.
Then, on the flip side, imagine for a moment that you lived with this condition. Imagine going to different doctors all the time, but finding no answers or real remedies for your pain; imagine contending with chronic pain all over your body on a daily basis; imagine feeling tired all the time; imagine waking up most days with a foggy brain that leaves you unable to simply be yourself around other people.
That all sounds just a little mentally taxing, doesn’t it?
If you feel like you, too, are silently battling any of these symptoms, don’t be afraid to speak up and seek out the help you and your body deserve.