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Fibromyalgia Plagues Lady Gaga—Here are the Key Symptoms

Learn what to know about fibromyalgia and signs that indicate you have the crippling condition. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread pain, fatigue, sleep problems, as well as mental and emotional distress. It can significantly affect daily life and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. an estimated 4 million Americans have it, including Lady Gaga –real name Stefani Germanotta, who has been open about her struggles. In 2017, she publicly announced the health issue and shared her experience battling fibromyalgia in her Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot 2. The popstar Tweeted, "In our documentary the #chronicillness #chronicpain I deal w/ is #Fibromyalgia I wish to help raise awareness & connect people who have it."

The internationally recognized singer and actress has been forced to cancel tour dates previously as a result of fibromyalgia and in an interview with Vogue she said, "I get so irritated with people who don't believe fibromyalgia is real. For me, and I think for many others, it's really a cyclone of anxiety, depression, PTSD, trauma, and panic disorder, all of which sends the nervous system into overdrive, and then you have nerve pain as a result. People need to be more compassionate. Chronic pain is no joke. And it's every day waking up not knowing how you're going to feel."

According to the National Institute of Arthritis Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, "Fibromyalgia is diagnosed based primarily on having pain all over the body, along with other symptoms. Currently, there are no specific laboratory or imaging tests for fibromyalgia." While fibromyalgia can be debilitating and greatly affect quality of life, it can be managed, experts say. "Fibromyalgia is a very common and treatable illness,"Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, Director of Kona Research Center and bestselling author of From Fatigued to Fantastic! emphasizes. "There is no lack of effective treatment. Just effective physician education. Long COVID is simply one more form of post viral fibromyalgia. And is also very treatable."

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What to Know About Fibromyalgia

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Dr. Teitelbaum says, "Fibromyalgia reflects the human energy crisis. When we spend more energy than we're able to make, which can occur from countless causes, we trip a circuit breaker in the brain called the hypothalamus. This controls sleep, hormone function, and numerous other circuits. Because of this it is a very complex illness, so most physicians are poorly trained in both diagnosis and treatment. But it is very treatable."

Dr. Tawny Kross, Doctor of Physical Therapy and a Pain Specialist, PT, DPT, Cert. TPS tells us, "Fibromyalgia used to be a poorly misunderstood condition wherein when medical providers couldn't explain the widespread pain, fibromyalgia was often considered as the blanket diagnosis. Now, we know it is a condition wherein the entire nervous system is hypersensitized, and part of that sensitivity presents as chronic, widespread pain."

Dr. Katinka van der Merwe, Doctor of Chiropractic and Founder of The Spero Clinic Neurologic Relief Center, which specializes in the treatments of Fibromyalgia says, "Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes the patient to experience chronic pain affecting the entire body that may "jump" from area to area, along with severe, chronic fatigue. Patients who suffer from fibromyalgia often will report that they suffered from some type of old cervical or tailbone injury, such as whiplash or falls. There are many unique and complex characteristics surrounding fibromyalgia. These make it one of the most difficult, challenging, and complicated conditions to work with and to suffer from."

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PTSD and Fibromyalgia

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Lady Gaga has bravely spoken out about details of being sexually assaulted at 19-years-old, and left pregnant, which caused PTSD. She reflected on how the quick rise to fame didn't give her time to process the trauma from the rape in an interview with Oprah.  "I all of a sudden became a star and was traveling the world going from hotel room to garage to limo to stage, and I never dealt with it, and then all of a sudden I started to experience this incredible intense pain throughout my entire body that mimicked the illness I felt after I was raped," the "Born this Way" singer said. 

PTSD has been linked to fibromyalgia and Dr. Andrew Neville, ND, one of the top experts in fibromyalgia and Adrenal Fatigue tells us, "As for the connection between PTSD and fibromyalgia, we know from functional MRI studies that the PTSD notably originates in the amygdala, which is part of one's limbic system. The limbic system is the CEO of the stress response system. As we only have one stress response system dealing with any and all stress, I compare it to a bucket. All stress in our lives—past and present—is in the bucket, including past trauma and abuse. It is well documented that past trauma and abuse of any kind predisposes someone to stress-related diseases in adulthood, such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, and even fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

When we take this into context, Lady Gaga is absolutely correct in that her fibromyalgia was triggered by her PTSD. Adrenal Fatigue, as well as fibromyalgia, can be effectively treated when we look at it in terms of an overactive stress response system. Comprehensive holistic treatment can desensitize the system, creating space in one's stress bucket so that the system becomes less and less trigger-happy. As that happens, we turn off the chronic stress response—or fight or flight—which perpetuates chronic wear and tear in the body. During treatment, we're also turning on the healing and repair mechanisms in our bodies. As this occurs,  the symptoms of an overactive stress response (such as fatigue, pain, anxiety, depression, and insomnia) gradually decrease over time in intensity, frequency, and duration, until they finally fade away completely."

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Fibromyalgia can Seriously Affect Daily Life

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Dr. Kross explains, "Because the entire nervous system is sensitized, it can greatly impact every aspect of life—the widespread pain itself can make movement and exercise difficult. And the severity of pain impacts simple activities of daily living, things like self care, dressing, toileting, etc. Poor sleep, fatigue, memory and mood disorders are also very common."

Dr. van der Merwe shares, "There is no symptom more debilitating to the fibromyalgia sufferer than the constant, widespread, spirit-eroding pain. People with fibromyalgia talk about waking up day after day feeling exhausted with no energy. Also, it's common for people with fibromyalgia to have great difficulty focusing during the day, a symptom made worse by the "fibro fog" a lot of them already suffer from. Many patients with fibromyalgia feel as if they are fighting just to get through the day, and completing simple daily tasks becomes extremely difficult or impossible.  At the end of the day, living with fibromyalgia is like living on an island all alone. No one can climb inside your body and feel the pain you suffer from every day or understand how life-robbing it is."  

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This is Who is at Risk for Fibromyalgia

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Dr. Teitelbaum says "Like most illnesses that affect the immune system, three quarters of people with this illness are female. It can occur at almost any age. I have treated children who were seven years old and adults in their 90s." According to Dr. Kross, "Those that have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia often have a history of depression, notable psychological stress, and trauma. Women are usually more likely to develop or be diagnosed with fibromyalgia than are men."

Dr. van der Merwe says, "Fibromyalgia is a predominantly female condition (although it can strike men and children, too). Fibromyalgia often runs in families, so if you have family members with fibromyalgia, there may be a higher chance of you developing the condition. However, all is not hopeless. According to noted scientist Dr. Bruce Lipton, your cells can choose to read or ignore your genetic blueprint depending on the signals they receive from their environment. Simply put, this means that even potentially undesired cell behavior needs a very specific key to unlock it. This key is usually a physical, chemical, or emotional stress. The good news is that the power to arm your body against this stress lies in your hands. The most effective way to protect your body against physical, chemical, and emotional stress is to make sure that your nervous system is healthy." 

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How to Help Provide Some Relief

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Dr. Teitelbaum shares, "Our published randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study showed that 91% of people improve, with an average 90% increase in quality of life by increasing energy levels with the SHINE Protocol. This optimizes Sleep, Hormones, Immunity, Nutrition, and exercise as possible. We have also published a number of studies showing that nutrients such as ribose and herbals such as red ginseng can also be helpful."

Dr. Kross emphasizes, "Even though people try to move less with pain, aerobic exercise is actually a huge cornerstone FOR pain relief for those that struggle with fibromyalgia and other chronic pain syndromes. In terms of nutrition, a diet high in minimally processed, plant-based foods (the research suggests 5-10 servings of fruits/vegetables per day is recommended for those with chronic conditions), and looking at supplements like Magnesium and CoQ10 would be helpful. Working on mental health, including processing through trauma is also helpful."

Dr. van der Merwe reveals, "We have found that it is imperative to use a whole body approach when treating fibromyalgia patients. In order for treatments to be successful, you must address all the systems that are affected. We have found that the most effective approach to treating this condition is to treat the central nervous system itself.  Our approach is focused on nervous system rehabilitation consisting of vagus nerve stimulation, neuromuscular re-education with patented technology, magnetic resonance technology, viral and bacterial analysis and treatments, and liver detoxification. These modalities are designed to enhance one another synergistically to restore balance to the central nervous system. When the nervous system is given the tools that it needs to achieve a state of balance once again, signs and symptoms of fibromyalgia tend to resolve. You are not broken beyond repair. Your body is amazing and capable of healing!"

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Signs of Fibromyalgia

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Dr. Teitelbaum states, "If you have persistent fatigue accompanied by widespread pain and insomnia, presume you have fibromyalgia unless proven otherwise. Even if you have other conditions such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple sclerosis. In many illnesses, especially autoimmune, about 1/3 of people will get a secondary fibromyalgia. Which is often confused as being a flare of the autoimmune illness, resulting in high doses of unhelpful and toxic treatments instead of proper treatment for the fibromyalgia."

Dr. Kross says, "Widespread pain that has lasted more than three months, fatigue, and brain fog are the most common signs. Other medical conditions that present along with fibromyalgia include chronic fatigue, IBS, migraines, anxiety and depression."

According to Dr. van der Merwe, "The list of symptoms fibromyalgia patients suffer from is incredibly long, but some of the most common symptoms include: widespread musculoskeletal pain, severe fatigue, brain fog, sleep disturbances, headaches and migraines, depression, anxiety, and GI issues. The symptoms can also come and go and can change from one area of the body to another, just depending on the day." 

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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