Why Lady Gaga Having Fibromyalgia is Both a Blessing and Curse to the Fibromyalgia Community

Why Lady Gaga Having Fibromyalgia is Both a Blessing and Curse to the Fibromyalgia Community

By Donna Gregory Burch.

Earlier this week, pop star Lady Gaga confirmed via Twitter she has fibromyalgia. The announcement came as part of the publicity for her upcoming documentary, Lady Gaga: Five Foot Two, debuting on Netflix on Sept. 22, in which she shares her life with chronic pain.

USA Today, People magazine, CBS News and other mainstream media immediately picked up on the announcement and published articles about Lady Gaga’s new diagnosis, likely reaching an audience of people who may have never heard of fibromyalgia. It’s a huge win for fibromyalgia warriors who have been struggling to be seen for decades.

Donna Gregory Burch

Without a doubt, having someone of Lady Gaga’s popularity who is publicly sharing her life of chronic pain is going to give a major boost to fibromyalgia awareness. It’s the equivalent of when Michael J. Fox announced he had Parkinson’s disease or when Magic Johnson went public with his HIV diagnosis. More people will now have a basic understanding of what fibromyalgia is.

It also lends more credibility to an illness that’s still considered by some to be a wastebasket diagnosis.

My hope is Lady Gaga’s documentary will give an accurate depiction of what it’s like to live with fibromyalgia. I so want her to be the ambassador we’ve needed for many years. Hopefully, too, she will be open to using some of her financial resources to fund future fibromyalgia research.

All that being said, her public acknowledgement of her diagnosis will likely be a doubled-edged sword. She will face the same scrutiny nearly all of us have. The truth is she doesn’t look sick. Not one bit. In fact, when she’s performing on stage, she looks downright fierce and unstoppable.

And therein lies the problem. Because she appears healthy, it will send a message to some that fibromyalgia is no big deal – that it must not be the debilitating condition so many of us claim it to be.

How many of our family members, friends and even doctors will watch Lady Gaga perform on the next music awards show and think, “Well, if she can move like that with fibromyalgia, why is my [wife, mother, friend, patient, etc.] claiming she can’t even get out of bed [or work or clean house or whatever activity that’s too difficult because of having fibromyalgia]? She must be making it up!”

We are in a situation where we desperately need more awareness for fibromyalgia so that it leads to better understanding, more research and ultimately effective treatments. But does Lady Gaga convey that as she tours the world and performs her choreographed dance moves night after night? I guess we will see.

Writer’s note: As you may have read, Lady Gaga was hospitalized in Brazil on Sept. 14 for severe pain. Please join me in sending healing thoughts to our fellow fibro warrior for a speedy recovery. I hope her doctors will be able to bring her flare under control as quickly as possible. 

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, FedUpwithFatigue.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies.

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Authored by: Donna Gregory Burch

There are 26 comments for this article
  1. Ellie at 3:05 pm

    I think Lady Gaga has access to a lot of things because money is no object. I think she means well. Even on her Instagram she was trying to share pain relievers for fellow fibromyalgia patients. The cheapest one was $125! To her, not expensive. To me, who is a single mother whose only income is $600 a month disability, who goes hungry a lot so her kids don’t…It’s ALOT!

  2. Mulheres at 4:28 am

    This Lady Gaga is very beautiful, great article… very good this blog, I’m following, thanks for sharing.

  3. Maureen Mollico at 2:52 pm

    I watched Lady Gaga’s documentary GAGA 5 foot 2. She shows her vulnerability of how she certainly suffers a lot! BUT, she is fortunate enough to have a team to help her through her bad times…massaging her body, feeding her her meds, icing her body, hugging her etc etc.
    While watching it I wondered though if she is suffering from CRPS.
    You also see how she takes her pain out on others.
    I feel for her…her career does not allow her to truly rest at times when she may need it most and her shows cause her to hurt so badly. What you don’t see is what she is truly dealing with in the long run…. God bless her for trying hard to continue to entertain her fans! I wonder what her future will be…

  4. BL at 10:29 pm

    No celebrity is going to support opiates for chronic pain patients. Too many celebrities have died of drug overdoses. Some of them were prescribed opiates for chronic pain. But, Lady GaGa may endorse non opiate pain treatments. The fact few, if any insurance companies pay for alternative treatments will be irreverent.

  5. Joanna M at 7:59 am

    Another big problem is that someone like Lady Gaga can afford the best of everything – not just healthcare, but also all the staff she needs to remain healthy. Too tired to clean her house or do her laundry? She doesn’t have to let it pile up until she finds a tiny pocket of energy – she just hires someone to do it for her. Is there a special diet that will help her feel her best? She can afford all the expensive special food as well as someone to cook it for her. The list goes on and on, but it’s a significant list. Sadly, a celebrity is NOT the true face of most people with a particular illness.

  6. Lori at 5:52 pm

    I don’t suffer from Fibro, know others that do including a sister. I am the recipient of a botched spinal surgery, disabling. I’ve read several comments, randomly. Some so supportive, some stating that her care is taken more seriously than average Jo Citizen and unfair; and.I Agree!!. She could deny the treatments and struggle with the underdogs; you, me and most intractable pain sufferers. But she’s blessed with unlimited money, the best resources and, fortunately for all of us she’s adored by the press and millions of fans. I’ve only seen/listened to her perform on TV. Through those shows, more recently, she performs for a reason. And typically a very good, life saving reason. Yes, I recognized her commitment in listening/seeing her in total likely less than 5 hours, lol. My point is if she can bring awareness to anybody’s struggle, she’s really benefitting so many. “Invisible” illnesses are still taboo, probably always will be. Kudos to GaGa, I admire her willingly violating her personal medical issues/care for the some people hopefully understanding! Just my opinion!

  7. Dian at 6:46 am

    If I went to yon hospital when at my worst, the only thing that would happen is I’d be labeled a drug seeker an run off, fame does have it’s perks….have EDS Fibro Osteoporosis, RA.

  8. Shelley Kennedy at 3:13 pm

    Hey just wanted to reply & say that it sounds like you were blessed to have Drs that supported & backed you & said no your not crazy & it’s not all in your mind. And for you to feel so strongly on that point I’m guessing that has been reinforced in a good way. I myself have a much different experience. While on one level, 30 yrs ago a naturopath that I went to diagnosed me with fibromyalgia & chronic fatigue as well, but when I went to my regular Drs they told me that it wasn’t a real disease. I’ve fought this my entire life. Of course this rejection was a go ahead for for my husband at the time & my kids later to continue to tell me it was all in my head & to pill up my boot straps. Story of my life as my health continued to spiral downwards. I have experienced unlimited health issues that are unboundless. They all started as a teen with fibro. I agree that Lady Gaga is closer to the beginning of her illness but it must be at a point where it’s not controllable as she has been hospitalized several times now. That is something that bothered me because as I don’t have the access to Drs that will go to the point of hospitalizing me my kids already think she has a much worse health problem than me as I’ve never been hospitalized for “just pain”. She must be actually sick & it’s still all in my head. So even though this isn’t Lady Gaga’s fault it definitely affects me in a negative way! I do hope & pray her focus will eventually bring notice to the progression of this disease & hopefully change the hearts of some people towards their family members health but it’s too late for me. I’m so past done. My kids hate me & my inability to function properly makes them mad & they think I do this on purpose as well. My pain Dr recognizes fibro & has given me meds but is insisting on me cutting back to amt ordered by Canadian government of 50mcg fentanyl every 72 hrs. I have only gotten down to 100 mcg & told her I couldn’t go down even further. I have gotten off several meds all together & cut my Cymbalta from 90 mg 3x’s a day right down to 30mg 2x’s a day. My hydromorphone from very high right to 4mg 2x’s daily.My point is, I have done everything in my power to come off meds but I can’t reduce anymore & the opinion of my Drs is get off all of it…. I just want to die. Legally they can take it away. I have always followed my Drs prescriptions & orders but I can’t do it anymore…. I’m just done! Good Luck!

  9. nana at 2:42 pm

    I feel bad that the Lady G has this cursed Chronic Pain. But Blessed because perhaps she can help shine a light on this often/mostly misunderstood disease. Perhaps she can help many well documented chronic pain patients against this WAR ON PAIN PATIENTS.

    I once overheard my Husband say quietly to a Doctor as I was returning from a test.. “does she really hurt that bad….?” The kind Doctor explained Fibro/Fibro-fogs/and many unknown facets of Fibromyalgia. Even close loved ones have a hard time believing silent or invisible diseases could cause such pain. I was even screamed at by an orthotic provider upon returning to “his” handicapped parking space.. because it was “for handicapped.” (I told him I would show him my spinal scars)

    Chronic Pain (especially well documented, verified Chronic Pain is the great equalizer. It crosses boundaries of gender, race. ethnicity, age, and any other boundary you can think of. Some doctors are still leary.

    God Bless you all. Keep up the good fight!

  10. cindy deim at 4:08 pm

    I agree with all that you said. However, when I was her age, even with the Fibro I was able to do things I can not do now. It does change with age. My guess, if she really does have Fibro she has some incredible doctors. Then again, who knows if she will be able to continue with her career when it gets worse.

  11. William Dorn at 12:56 pm

    Any time we can get chronic pain in the news its a good thing.Pray she talks about the millions who suffer from chronic pain.Everyone shoud support her and maybe more famous people who suffer will speak out. And where are the religous leaders. I know many of there followers suffer.Our goverment wont listen to regular folks so we need famous peoples help.GOD BLESS them.

  12. Shelley Kennedy at 12:45 pm

    I am a 53 yr old young (?) grandmother of 4. When I was younger I had symptoms of fibro. In fact I can see some of the symptoms all the way back to my teenage yrs. My father just didn’t “allow” for his children to lie in bed. I left home at 18 and had to support myself but lost a job because I couldn’t get out of bed every once in a while. I married at 20, had my 1st child at 21. I was diagnosed with post partum but firmly believe now it was a combo of PTSD & fibro. I went in 5 yrs later to have another child. I really found it challenging to function some days & my husband wanted to know what I did with my days. When I said I am not well yet I take care of my 2 children, make your dinner, do the laundry & on & on. As I went through every phase of my life I was called lazy. I was blamed for my husband & I going bankrupt because I couldn’t work. This is a disease that as I got older it grew in power. When I was younger & had a fibro flare I thought I was dying. Now when I have a fibro flare I wish I could go back to those earlier fibro flares as they seem to grow in strength & draw more power out of my body as each decade passes. It makes sense that Lady Gaga could do all that dancing her whole life & that now when she is going the same she is suffering so much she ends up in the hospital. I personally am praying for her pain to get to a level that she can at least function. Because we all know that she is never going to be without pain again unfortunately! I don’t care what her lifestyle is, she is a living, breathing person who is suffering & no one knows this better than those of us with fibro & I personally am going to pray for comfort to come to her body. I also feel that at this point just bringing awareness that fibro is an actual disease should be something that makes us happy!

  13. Ibin at 12:31 pm

    You never know who, will be diagnosed with a neuropathic, disorder. Even a “champion” female bodybuilder, my wife of 39 years but, the flesh will yield, to the pain. I know fibromayalgea and other similar health conditions cause real pain, real suffering affecting people so badly in pain that staying mobilized is a chore in itself. “Lady Gaga”, whom I know very little about, if really stricken with fibro, hopefully will be an ambasador for patients with pain but, I bet she does not stop “entertaining” until she is good and ready. By far, the VAST majority of we people of lessor noteriety will stop, when the reasonable counter agent for the disease, that we had, is stopped. If fibromyalgea researchers find a “cure” for it, when might it become available to the populous of folks that have been caused to endure worsened pain by the “elect”? I realize that attempting to stay positive with “chronic” pain is necessary but, the experts, by far those without disabling pain, know best……. for the rest.Still pi$$es me off.

  14. Kim Leo at 12:02 pm

    Love Lady Gaga so I’m hoping she doesn’t accept Fibromyalgia as her diagnosis. Please get the the CAUSE of you symptoms. Fibromyalgia is just a name for symptoms like many other diseases. There is a reason for everything. Many infections can cause pain and if you don’t treat the cause you will never heal. Please see a Lyme Literate MD and determine if you have Lyme Disease. Borrelia, babesia, bartonella, ehrichlicia and more all cause pain and debilitating fatigue and other symptoms. You have money to figure this out. You would help patients all over the world if you find out the cause and more on from the catch all diagnosis of Fibromyalgia.

  15. Hahn at 11:50 am

    Say what you want about her. But she is talented and she is a artist.
    No fibromyalgia for me my fun is Cmt.
    Take care Gaga. Respect.

  16. Bob at 11:46 am

    I wish someone would address the Dependency problem that affects highly-paid performers like Lady Gaga, Prince, Robin Williams, and others who’ve struggled with chronic illness.

    That Dependency problem, is the Money Dependency that the various people who surround and influence the performer have, upon the money the performer earns.

    That Money Dependency makes them a bad influence on the performer, because they have a financial stake in the performer making the next performance and creating revenue, no matter what.

    Occasionally, some of these people behave like shrewd investors, realizing that keeping the performer as healthy as possible, will bring them a continuing return on their investment. But others will push to make the quick buck, not really caring if the performer gets sicker.

    The people surrounding Prince, for example, encouraged him to perform dance moves that re-injured his damaged bones. He died of taking pain drugs that were really meant for surgical patients, because his damaged bones needed time off, to heal up.

    Should fans care about the health of the artists whose work they admire?

    I certainly think we should.

    I don’t like Lady Gaga’s work all that much, to consider myself a fan of hers, but I’m certainly pleased that she’s come forward to admit that the reason she sometimes doesn’t look very healthy or energetic, is that she has a disease that robs her of energy. I think nobody should ask any performer, to perform, when they are in too much pain to perform.

    I recently read a paper, “Harvard and the Holocaust” by A.E. Samaan (https://www.academia.edu/3091739/Harvard_and_the_Holocaust), which showed how a disease caused by hookworms got mistaken for a genetic abnormality. The racist who founded the Eugenics laboratory at Harvard, was so convinced that African Americans had a genetic abnormality that made them lazy, that he suppressed research findings about hundreds of thousands of African American people getting hookworm infections, that were completely preventable by wearing shoes and keeping the feet clean with soap and water. Children infected with hookworms developed a blood disease that made them weak and chronically tired. Suppressing the news that this disease could be prevented with soap, water, and shoes for children, didn’t bother the Eugenics leader at all, because his true goal was to keep Americans fearful, that we were inadequate somehow.

    This Eugenics philosophy drove a lot of us to fear admitting illness or weakness, lest we end up on the list of deplorable people whom the Eugenics leaders said, should not have children. (If that sounds like Nazism to my readers, you’re hunch is correct. Several Harvard-educated Eugenicists emigrated to Nazi Germany to practice what they learned.)

    We should not fear to discuss our bodily limitations.

    It’s by knowing what we cannot do, that we apply a bit of creativity to discover new things that we can do.
    We need to focus on that.
    Nobody will ever hear the music, that Prince would have composed yesterday. Because since he’s been dead, he’s stopped writing music.

  17. Karen Castro at 11:30 am

    I like Lady Gaga. For her to open up & tell everyone that she has fibromyalgia is good for us. She’s more than likely in the early stages. Yes, she’s fortunate to have money to try all kinds of treatments to help alleviate her pain. It does help that she has always taken care of herself, through good eating habits, & daily exercise. She can hide her pain because she has to. It’s her way of living, her ‘job’. Lady Gaga has opened herself up to the world in other ways too. Bullying, being different than those around you as a teenager. Now she again opens herself up to public scrutiny, more so than the ‘average’ person with fibromyalgia. We shouldn’t be jealous of her because she has money & more means to help her. She is still one of us now. Lady Gags is still a sufferer of Fibromyalgia & we should respect that. She is like a cat, as are most of us. Cats out of necessity have had to hide the fact that they are ill or in pain. It’s part of their long history of genetics, from wild cats having to hide any signs of weakness & becoming the prey. Pet cats do the exact thing. People with Fibromyalgia (& yes, that includes Lady Gaga) don’t look like they’re in pain most of the time. Those with other disorders have the same issues. Hopefully Lady Gaga will become a spokesperson for us. But we should still continue to educate others about our disorder. To whine about Lady Gaga opening up with her diagnosis, yet goes out & dances & travels to her many concerts, isn’t fair to her. We should all support her & each other. We again should all educate those less knowledgeable about Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & other problems that exist because of this disorder.
    Lastly, we have come a long way in just 20+ years to reeducate lay people & especially doctors. For so long is was believed by the professionals that our problems, our disorder we’re psychosomatic. It’s humiliating to hear what most of these doctors used to say. But through our efforts & more & more people opening up about the signs & symptoms, we have gotten most doctors now to rethink our disorder. People are having less trouble getting disability if their Fibromyalgia has caused them to no longer be able to work. (I was an RN when first diagnosed with Fibro because my wonderful primary doctor & pain doctor believed in me. They dispelled the Rheumatologists views of Fibro being psychological in nature.). Let’s continue to educate everyone, even if it sometimes gets tiring having to repeatedly say the same things.

  18. BL at 11:11 am

    Lady Gaga has access to the best medical treatment and medications money can buy. Chances the doctor that treats her fibro prescribes stimulants to help with fatigue. The doctor may increase the dosage when she is rehearsing and performing.

    Some fibro doctors prescribe stimulants and some don’t. But, often being prescribed them can depend on a patients social economic situation due to the high level of abuse.

  19. Katie Olmstead at 10:38 am

    I do hope the movie comes off well. I gained more respect for Lady Gaga when she was a guest judge on So You Think You Can Dance. I got more of an idea of what a smart entertainer she is. But I didn’t know about her chronic pain. She hides it; we all do. Her documentary could go either way, as the writer says. It may show how hard she has to work (yes, with the help of therapies that the rest of us can’t afford) to function, or it could downplay her pain and make people suffering with fibro look foolish.

  20. Sherrie Harris at 9:37 am

    No we don’t look sick on the outside we look perfectly healthy but it’s what’s going on in the inside the pain all over our bodies and the mental fog and so many pressure points of pain that a loving hug can cause you more pain, yet we put on our brave face and say….no I am fine, knowing that you just lied to your husband or children bc you don’t want them to worry but now that trick doesn’t work my family can now tell how I am just by looking at me trying to hide behind the pain no energy and constant fog. Yes when I was first diagnosed with this horrible condition I could still battle through now that we are going on 17 years with this I am not ashamed to say that I can no longer do what I use to do and have had to except being more on the sidelines of watching others and finding joy in them. Thank goodness for everyone here and my family at home. I just wish that everyone could have compassion instead of judgement on us.

  21. Terry at 8:13 am

    I agree with you as far as people looking at her and saying ….. if she can move you should be able to!
    I have had Fibro since I turned 38 and I’m now 65 years old. The whole time of having this disease I’ve never had a good day as I’m always in severe pain that only gets worse not better! I was a nurse and when Fibro and Lupus hit me my body could barely get out of bed! I have to use a scooter if I have to walk very far and rest after everything I do. Taking a bath wears me totally out!
    I hope it will bring more recognition but I also think it will hurt more to us that are suffering with this terrible debilitating disease!

  22. Bill Finnegan at 7:16 am

    I agree with your analysis, having had Fibromyalgia for 32 years and all the struggles I go through just to be able to work, move and survive. I could never dance around on a stage or travel the world. Shoot, I get worn out doing grocery shopping or taking the dog for a short walk. As a man with this condition, I’ve learned to hide my illness so I’m not labeled as disabled and I am still employable, because of the pain and fatigue I need to work in fits and stops, work until it hurts , then rest for a while and begin again. I wish Lady Gaga luck with her struggle, she can probably afford more and better Doctor’s than me, but I hope it does not create a false impression that people with Fibro can do so much more that what we do. Sometimes just getting thru the day is all we can manage

  23. Martin Segal at 7:08 am

    Frankly, I have come to believe everything this gaga creature is a publicity stunt.

    I don’t want to be associated with anything this Madonna wannabee claims.

  24. Diana Rivera at 6:46 am

    Hey when I was her age, (I am now 47 and had no idea I had Fibromyalgia most of my life.) I had pain but I ran a lawn business and cut 30 to 40 lawns in a day. It is not a disease that leaves you to not move. As you probably know of course. You MUST move or you are in more pain. AND when you move, you are in pain afterwards, that can lead you to many days of recovery time even if work was hard or not so hard. You never know when a flare up will happen. Thus making a daily full time job impossible. (I hope that fact is brought up in the documentary.)This brings me to mention the almighty dollar. Honestly, if you do not have lots of money to go to chiros, massage therapy, acupuncture and every doc weird and not you can think of for relief, plus stay on strict diets and so on, then you are screwed! You can’t move and dance and so on, if you don’t have constant body care. CONSTANT!!
    I am looking forward to seeing her documentary. I am hopeful she will explain what I have grown to understand living with pain for so long. Or I might sit there and say oh that young wipper snapper….she don’t know half of what is to come with this dang fibro thing. Bah! (OMG am I that old?) Nah!! I will love it I am sure. Thank you for your great article. I was hoping someone would mention the challenge as well as awareness.

  25. Tim Mason at 6:17 am

    In our jobs we often have to “pretend” to be well to keep our jobs. That can be kept up for quite some time early on in an illness. Perhaps Ms. Gaga is in the early stages of Fibro or perhaps she is a newly diagnosed. The same can be said of handicap parking decals. “Look at that- he/or she look perfectly well, shame on them for parking there”. Let me take a few steps and you will see a different “ME”.
    Eventually our disease becomes visually apparent, our disability more obvious. In Industry, they call out the occupational therapist and do an ergonomic review of your work station(s) and other situations in which you move about on a daily basis. The OT makes submits her report and perhaps you work day my be reduced via FLMA paperwork completed by your medical doctor.
    I use the canine as an example. Since the average dog lives less than 20 years we can see the progression of aging in a short time frame. Eventually old age and gray hair creep in.
    I would suggest that Ms. Gaga is a Nuevo Diagnosed entertainer. They pay people to make them look good.
    As far as actors, I use Lionel Barrymore as an example. He played in the move “On Borrowed Time” and “The Young Dr. Kildare” where his arthritic aliment kept him confined to a wheelchair in his movies. Mr. Fox cannot hide his Parkinson’s disease.
    We all may feel like Frankenstein’s Monster on the inside, but some still look like Peter Pan.

  26. Becky at 5:11 am

    My daughter was diagnosed with fibro when she had a complete body breakdown for 2 wks not moving, led up to by extreme fatigue.
    For two years, I searched for the reason why, as I personally think there is a reason why for fibromyalgia diagnoses, she was found to have a connective tissue disorder, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Bingo.
    As time went on next two years, bone swelling occurred and severe neurological symptoms. Nope, not an EDS symptom. I searched again.
    Lyme diagnosis and related co-infections, RMSF, Dengue fever, Mycoplasma.
    Not many doctors are versed in EDS. There are multiple types of it also. EDS awareness dot com for those of you who may want to look, in case you have that velvety skin or hypermobility and have pain.
    Even less doctors know Lyme. For those of you with unexplained pain or neuro symptoms, look for an LLMD. It is worth saying, Lyme has been found in many with MS, ALS, Parkinsons, including Michael J Fox, according to articles I have read.
    The Western Blot blood test from a lab in SoCal is the only test worthwhile for Lyme.
    I have friends with fibro. It frustrates me to see them suffer, no recognition, labeled “crazy”, etc, all in their head. It’s not in their mental mind thoughts people.
    Besides the above, I believe genetic abnormalities that produce over or under abundance of proteins or hormones can also play a part, which includes genetics, liver or kidney issues that cannot detox the body, but that is my theory froM reading so much literature in NIH and Wiley articles.
    May you all suffering from daily chronic pain that impacts your life find hope and help one day, to at least know the exact reason why. The body is extremely complex, so finding a true underlying reason for fibro myalgia is monumental. I will always believe in my heart there is a reason why. Keep fighting and try your best to ignore those that say, “but you don’t look sick”.

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