To the outside world, it seems like Lady Gaga can do it all. She's one of the best-selling music artists in the world, has six Grammy Awards and won a Golden Globe this year for her role in the television show "American Horror Story." Yet behind the glamorous facade, the star revealed she has been struggling with chronic pain.
"Having a frustrating day with chronic pain," she wrote on Instagram last week. "But I find myself feeling so blessed to have such strong intelligent female doctors."
The post received over 189,000 likes and thousands of comments.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, chronic pain is defined as pain signals that keep firing in the nervous system for weeks, months and even years. They can be related to an initial injury or can occur absent of any body damage. The Institute of Medicine of The National Academies found 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain.
"Chronic pain is simply pain that will never go away," said Dr. Stephen Anderson, an American College of Emergency Physicians board member and pain management expert. "The most common form I've seen is musculoskeletal pain, like shoulder or lower back pain, that sometimes an orthopedic surgeon may be able to fix."
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Clearly Lady Gaga is not alone in her suffering — and she was so overwhelmed by the response from her fans that she felt compelled to share more about her condition in a second Instagram post.
"Maybe I should just share some of my personal remedies I've acquired over the past five years," she wrote. "...When my body goes into a spasm, one thing I find really helps is infrared sauna. I've invested in one...I combine this treatment with marley silver emergency blankets..."
The singer wrote that she follows this treatment with a very cold bath or an ice bath.
"It helps me to keep doing my passion, job and the things I love even on days when I feel like I can't get out of bed," she continued.
In a 2006 study conducted by the American Pain Foundation, more than half of respondents revealed that they feel like they have little to no control over their pain, and that it has an impact on their overall enjoyment of life.
Though Lady Gaga's treatments may seem a bit unusual, Anderson stressed that it's important to find a remedy that works for your body. For some people, that may mean exercising, concentrating on work or other activities to keep your mind off of the pain or using transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) devices. If you're intrigued by Lady Gaga's method, give it a try, but keep in mind, there are side effects.
"Those are shock treatments that overwhelm all of the nerves and (it) distracts them for a while," he said. "If it works for you, I'm all for it... Though some of these treatments can have side effects: in a sauna, you can overheat and ice baths can give you frostbite. So you just have to be careful."
Anderson also strongly recommended only seeing one physician to treat your chronic pain. While it's OK to seek advice and input from other people, seeing one provider who can track what has worked for you historically versus what hasn't, is best.
If you're struggling with chronic pain, visit the American Chronic Pain Association for more resources.