Mrs Mike was diagnosed with the condition at around the same age as Lady Gaga and still has it now, a number of years (no, I won’t tell you how many) later.
I can confirm that the symptoms in the article below are correct, and that nobody knows what causes it. The suggestion that it is a disorder in the brain is unattractive to me; the brain certainly receives amplified pain messages but whether they are magnified in the brain itself or by the nerves sending the messages is unclear.
It seems to me that pain receptors around the source of the discomfort are also triggered, despite having no pain to register, making it more uncomfortable for the sufferer. That would suggest a physiological, rather than a psychological problem – or so it seems to me.
I have omitted the paragraph on treatment because it doesn’t ring true. None of the methods mentioned – exercise, physiotherapy, adjustments in the workplace, counselling and stress management – have worked for Mrs Mike. They merely got her hopes up, only to be dashed when they failed to deliver any improvement.
There is no mention of the toll the illness takes on a sufferer’s mental health.
Most importantly, while it is welcome that Lady Gaga is willing to discuss her illness and raise awareness of it, we should all remember that she is a wealthy pop star. Most sufferers of fibromyalgia are not in that position.
Here in the UK, many are at the mercy of the Department for Work and Pensions and its fiendish Work Capability Assessment for Employment and Support Allowance.
Mrs Mike was put in the Work-Related Activity Group of this benefit’s recipients at first, which means the government expected her to get better within a year of first receiving the benefit. That was utterly unrealistic and she was told so by the first advisor who discussed her condition with her.
When she appealed, the DWP ignored her and a note was put on her file not to contact her. We only discovered this when her benefit was cut off at the end of her year in the WRAG.
I had to contact the DWP and cause all kinds of trouble before Mrs Mike was put on income-related ESA, and then into the support group where she belonged in the first place.
Other people with the condition don’t have carers like me. They struggle to make their condition understood.
And we all know what happens to people who cannot get the DWP to understand.
They end up getting slung off the benefit and into debt, despair and destitution.
Many thousands have died.
Those are the facts of fibromyalgia in 21st century Britain.
On Monday it was announced that Lady Gaga has cancelled her European tour, due to begin next week, because of “severe physical pain that has impacted her ability to perform”. She has fibromyalgia, and has made a Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, to raise awareness about this long-term condition. A statement says: “She plans to spend the next seven weeks proactively working with her doctors to heal from this and past traumas that still affect her daily life and result in severe physical pain in her body. She wants to give her fans the best version of the show she built for them when the tour resumes.”
We’ve all heard of Lady Gaga, but fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) may be more of a mystery. It is a condition that is hard to diagnose, explain or treat. And many people with the condition say they struggle to get medical professionals to take their symptoms seriously. FMS is a long-term condition that causes widespread pain. Its debilitating symptoms include extreme tiredness, muscle aches, difficulty sleeping and concentrating; headaches and bloating are also common. In Lady Gaga’s case, it is easy to see how she may have initially put these problems down to touring and performing. But the fatigue and pains persist even when you rest, and can be far more draining than normal tiredness.
People with FMS often notice that a fairly innocuous injury, such as stubbing a toe, hurts more intensely and for longer than it should. And even a light touch that shouldn’t hurt at all can be experienced as an unpleasantly painful sensation. The fatigue means you need to sleep a lot but wake up feeling groggy, stiff and achy. Even mental processes feel sluggish, so it becomes a huge effort to concentrate or learn anything new, and your speech may sound slow and a bit muddled. Patients call this “fibro-fog”.
FMS is typically diagnosed in people just like Lady Gaga: female and aged 30-50 (she is 31). It may affect as many as one in 20 people, but there is no definitive test, so it is hard to estimate numbers.
No one knows what causes FMS.
There is no specific cure… Many people do get better over time. However, you cannot predict how long recovery may take, or whether symptoms will recur, so it is hard to know when she might feel ready to commit to touring again.
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