Dear Lady Gaga,
First of all, let me say how sorry I am that you are experiencing severe chronic pain. I have fibromyalgia and am a doctor for children and adults with fibromyalgia, so I know what it feels like. My fatigue and pain was so severe that I had to retire from medicine for a while until I found treatments that helped me significantly. Here is what I think you should know:
- You WERE born this way! There is a strong genetic component to fibromyalgia. Sure, the intense physical nature of your work puts extra stress on your body, but you did not CAUSE your fibromyalgia. It is my belief that one must have the underlying genetic predisposition to fibromyalgia–otherwise, EVERY superstar entertainer would have fibromyalgia (even Madonna!).
- Fibromyalgia is NOT all in your head–sure, there is evidence that some of our pain is due to “central sensitization,” where our brain amplifies the pain, but fibromyalgia is much more than that. Fibromyalgia can affect every organ in your body–you can have intestinal symptoms, brain symptoms (anxiety, panic attacks, dizziness), skin symptoms, etc. Your physical exam is NOT normal. If your doctors examined you carefully (and I am not talking about the inaccurate tender point exam here), they would find that you have a pattern of muscle spasm and swollen muscles, tendons, and ligaments throughout your body. These press on nerves, causing pain.
- YOU are in charge of your body and the treatments you choose–there are SO MANY treatments out there, you will know with time what works best for you. (For me, it has been the guaifenesin protocol, acupuncture, exercise, myofascial release, and my spiritual practice.) Often times body work and trigger point injections are only a temporary fix, but a temporary fix while you are searching for treatment with more long-lasting benefits is fine! Aim to feel GREAT, not just good. In fact, this is a good question to ask fibromyalgia doctors: “What percentage of your patients are having some great days after they follow your treatment protocol?” Oh–I almost forgot–everyone with fibromyalgia develops osteoarthritis over time and the guaifenesin protocol STOPS the progression of osteoarthritis–something that might be super important to you with your hip issues and the intense physical nature of your performances.
- I can tell by your Twitter feed that you have already encountered the people who believe that fibromyalgia is not real or that we are just being overdramatic (and since 75% of us are women, we’re up against gender stereotypes as well). You and I know this couldn’t be farther from the truth. We just want to be able to do our jobs and pursue our passion without chronic debilitating pain. Your true friends will stick with you, plus there some seriously awesome men and women with fibromyalgia who will support you in your quest to return to good health. You have already done the first most important thing: OWNING your illness.
THANK YOU for your amazing documentary! Fibromyalgia is so common, but because it is an “invisible” illness (and probably because it affects mostly women), there is hardly any money going into research and support. I made a little documentary also! It describes my story and my patients’ stories. Check it out at this link. If you want help from a strong independent fibromyalgia consultant, give me a call.
Melissa Congdon MD 415-927-0600
— Melissa Congdon MD (@MelissCongdonMD) September 26, 2017