Fibromyalgia – why it’s more common than you might think

It might not have an instantly recognisable name, but fibromyalgia is a much more common condition than you might think. Not only does it affect a lot of people, many celebrities have shared their own experiences with the condition.

Also known as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS), fibromyalgia is a chronic condition causing widespread pain all over the body. As there is no known cure for fibromyalgia, traditional treatment options focus on managing the symptoms of chronic pain and make it easier to live with. The stories of successful celebrities show that it is possible to live a fulfilling life with fibromyalgia – but what does that life actually look like?

How common is fibromyalgia?

The NHS estimate that between 1.2 and 2.8 million people have fibromyalgia in the UK. They can only estimate within that broad range because it’s notoriously tricky to diagnose. Many of the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions, so definitively establishing whether someone has fibromyalgia can take time. 

It’s more common amongst women, with 75-90% of people with fibromyalgia identifying as women. The exact cause for fibromyalgia is not known, but many experts believe that it’s related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain. 

Which celebrities have fibromyalgia?

Many famous household names have also been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Some of them have spoken out about the condition to raise awareness about the difficulties of dealing with chronic pain. 

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga on the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards

Lady Gaga confirmed in September 2017 that her struggles with chronic pain were because of fibromyalgia. Her condition came about after breaking her hip. Her fans were able to see an up-close account of what it’s like to live with fibromyalgia in her Netflix documentary, ‘Gaga: Five Foot Two’, where she also shared the coping strategies she’s developed. 

“My pain does me no good unless I transform it into something that is. So I hope people watching it who do struggle with chronic pain know that they’re not alone. It’s freeing for me… and I want people that struggle with it to hear me,” Gaga said.

Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman in a professional headshotEveryone’s favourite gravelly-voiced actor shared his experiences with fibromyalgia in an interview with Esquire magazine, saying that it did prevent him from doing certain activities, such as sailing. Nonetheless, Freeman has kept a positive outlook and maintains that there are ways to live a fulfilling life with fibromyalgia.

“There is a point to changes like these,” said Freeman. “I have to move on to other things, to other conceptions of myself. I play golf. I still work. And I can be pretty happy just walking the land.”

Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham on the red carpet

Alongside sharing her experiences with endometriosis, Dunham has also shared about the chronic pain she struggles with from fibromyalgia. She wrote about her story on Instagram: “I appear to be totally able-bodied but it’s complex, and I am just trying to do everything required to maintain a life of joy and service. My work costs everything I have. This is fibromyalgia. It’s little understood and so, even though I have a lot of knowledge and support, it’s hard to shake the feeling I am crazy. But I’m not (at least not this way!) and you’re not.”

Dunham went on to assert that everyone’s pain is valid and get easier to manage over time.

How can medical cannabis help with fibromyalgia?

As all of these stories from celebrities show, it’s definitely possible to have a fulfilling and satisfying life with fibromyalgia. There are ways to manage the symptoms of chronic pain and find some relief. One of those ways is medical cannabis. 

Two studies, one from 2010 and one from 2018, both provide evidence of cannabinoids helping people suffering from fibromyalgia manage their symptoms, specifically in pain management. Medical cannabis has been shown to have analgesic effects, or the ability to minimise the feelings of pain without causing loss or disruption to consciousness. On top of that, some forms of medical cannabis can also improve sleep in patients with fibromyalgia and even be a substitute for other medications. Many people with fibromyalgia end up taking various prescription medicines, so replacing those more natural substances is often preferable.

For those looking to try new ways to manage symptoms of fibromyalgia, medical cannabis can be a productive way forward.