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Lady Gaga's fibromyalgia admission a boon for fellow sufferers

Lady Gaga’s willingness to open up about her experience with fibromyalgia will be a boost for other sufferers of invisible illnesses, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Jessica B. Mahabir.

The pop star announced last month that she had cancelled her tour as a result of her continuing struggle with the chronic pain condition, and talks openly about her experience in a new Netflix documentary about her life.

“It is huge to have a celebrity as big as Lady Gaga coming out and speaking about fibromyalgia. Not only is it brave of her, but it validates other people who suffer from it,” Mahabir, a lawyer with Derfel Injury Lawyers, tells AdvocateDaily.com.

“She has such a far-reaching platform that many people are now looking up the condition and finding out more. Hopefully, that will help de-stigmatize it.”

Mahabir says the invisible nature of fibromyalgia means many accident victims have trouble getting diagnosed with the condition and are often not believed, even by their treating doctors.  

The syndrome manifests itself in pain and tenderness in deep tissue and muscles, leading to bouts of fatigue, interrupted sleep and mental lethargy in many sufferers.  

“This is a type of illness, in a similar way to a mental health condition, that doesn’t show up on an X-ray,” Mahabir says. “As a result, insurance companies will often deny treatments and accuse people of malingering. It’s unfair to these people who have legitimate pain, but are treated differently because it’s not as visible as other illnesses or injuries.”

“When people who suffer from chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia, are not believed or not taken seriously, you often find their condition worsens as a result of increased anxiety and stress over not being believed,” she adds.

Writing in the Guardian, psychologist Nick Fallon says that in many cases, fibromyalgia has its roots in a traumatic triggering event — in Gaga’s case, a hip fracture — that the sufferer appears to have moved on from. However, the pain can spread, affecting the whole body for months or years afterwards.

“The most popular theory as to why this might be proposes that it could be due to a sensitization for pain processing in the brain, which may lie dormant or unnoticed until the triggering incident leads to the full-blown syndrome,” Fallon writes.

The condition mainly affects women, with some estimates suggesting five per cent of all females will suffer at some point in their lives, according to Fallon, who writes Lady Gaga’s announcement “could represent the start of something big as we search for solutions for fibromyalgia.”

“Celebrities who use their platforms to talk about conditions that are ignored or derided by society are of great benefit not only for the people who suffer from these illnesses but also for those who advocate for them,” Mahabir says.

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