6 Myths About Fibromyalgia & Those Who Suffer From This Silent Illness

by Caroline Burke

In addition to being one of the most talented performers of our generation, Lady Gaga is a fearless and tireless advocate for kindness, tolerance, and awareness of the unique struggles every human being goes through. She undoubtedly recognizes the power of her platform, and she's never hesitated to put her influence to good use. So, really, it's no surprise that Gaga would want to make a point to educate people beyond the rampant myths about fibromyalgia, for example, which is often an extremely misunderstood illness.

In her recently released Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, Lady Gaga was fiercely vulnerable about her struggles with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain disorder that not many people know the facts about. In the documentary, we see Gaga totally unfiltered and battling severe pain as she prepares for the release of her latest studio album Joanne, as well as her epic Super Bowl performance. Lady Gaga talked about her experience with fibromyalgia at the Five Foot Two press conference:

I wanted that to be there, for people to be able to reach out about mental health, anxiety as well as chronic pain and mental illness.
It’s freeing for me because — and I mean to say this because I want people that struggle with it to hear me — there is a degree of self-deprecation and shame that comes along with feeling in pain a lot, and I want people that watch know that I struggle with things like them, and that I work through it and that it can be done.

Lady Gaga's incredibly touching documentary represents an important step in the right direction when it comes to education for chronic pain disorders, but a lot of misinformation still exists on the subject. Here are six of the most common myths about fibromyalgia, debunked.

It's A Rare, "Niche" Illness

One of the most common myths about fibromyalgia is that it affects very few people. On the contrary, according to FibroCenter, over five million people in the U.S. have the condition.

Considering that many people live without a diagnosis, or are even given an incorrect diagnosis, this number is probably far higher.

It's A "Women's Disease"
Nasos Zovoilis

Fibromyalgia affects both men and women. Eighty percent of people living with fibromyalgia are women, but considering over five million people in the U.S. alone have it, that means that at least (emphasis on at least) one million men are living with fibromyalgia.

It's Characterized By "Mild Discomfort," Not Pain
Kayla Snell

One of the main points in Gaga: Five Foot Two was an attempt by Lady Gaga to debunk the idea that fibromyalgia is no more than an itch.

In reality, fibromyalgia can be completely debilitating. Any chronic pain disorder can have massive effects on your daily life. When you can barely do household chores because your body aches so badly, it becomes pretty obvious that you're living with more than just mild discomfort.

It's The Same Thing As Arthritis
Beatrix Boros

Although fibromyalgia and arthritis can lead to similar symptoms, the former isn't an actual arthritic condition because it's not defined by inflammation or joint damage.

Fibromyalgia Prevents You From Doing Any Physical Activity
Studio Firma

Although fibromyalgia can be totally debilitating physically, workouts are an effective treatment for fibromyalgia. Exercise brings oxygen to your muscles and decreases pain and stiffness radiating throughout the body.

The Mayo Clinic cites "exercise, relaxation, and stress-reduction measures" as some of the best treatments for fibromyalgia.

It's Totally In The Patient's Head

The most common misconception about fibromyalgia is, alarmingly, that it doesn't exist. The obstacles of living with fibromyalgia can be similar to those associated with depression or anxiety in at least one way: They all involve dealing with people who tell them they're either making it up, overreacting, or just plain wrong.

Luckily, advances in science have allowed doctors more strategies to recognize and diagnose fibromyalgia, thus lessening the stigma. In 2014, a 40-year research study on fibromyalgia was finalized, confirming symptoms, diagnosis strategies, and opportunities for treatment.