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Personal Stories
Ellie Walker

Celebrities Living with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can affect anyone. In 2019, 20.4 percent of adults worldwide were reported to have experienced chronic pain which can limit life and work activities.

Chronic pain doesn’t discriminate and it can affect anyone. Some of the Hollywood celebrities you see walking the red carpet have even shared stories of their struggles with pain and how they deal with them. 

Despite experiencing these health issues while in the public eye, a lot of celebs have found a way to thrive, live a healthy life and keep a positive mindset. Whilst we completely recognise some of these pain management techniques may not be easy for many of us to access, we hope that the stories listed below provide you with some inspiration.

1. George Clooney

©Economic Times

The actor and director first experienced severe pain after filming the 2005 geopolitical thriller Syriana. He suffered a severe head injury when he knocked his head on the floor, tearing off the dura, the membrane that protects the spinal cord.

“It was the most unbearable pain I’ve ever been through,” he said in a press interview. The influential actor and human rights advocate also initially refused to take medication until spinal fluid came out through his nose. 

The healing process was finally successful after he underwent spinal surgery and other operations on his neck over nearly four months.

Clooney revealed that the treatments came with side effects to his mental health, adding, “I had to accept that I’m going to beat this on a very different level, almost psychological.”

He later shared how he coached himself to not focus on the pain after working with a pain consultant: “Basically, the idea is, you try to reset your pain threshold. Because a lot of times what happens with pain is you’re constantly mourning for how it used to feel.”

Clooney said when his brain finally managed to trick itself into feeling normal again it was “euphoria”.

2. Lady Gaga

©CNN

Grammy-winning singer Lady Gaga has publicly announced she suffers from fibromyalgia, which causes widespread muscle pain, fatigue, sleep and memory problems.

Her Netflix documentary film Gaga: Five Foot Two reveals the severity of her chronic pain, which affected her mental health and performances, and her struggle with the long and difficult treatments as well as other therapy procedures.

Gaga posted her experiences of five years of struggle on Instagram with a photo of her shoulder being treated, with the caption saying, “Having a frustrating day with chronic pain, but I find myself feeling so blessed to have such strong intelligent female doctors”.

She later shared her pain-fighting advice in another post. Whenever her body goes into a spasm, she wraps her body in an electric blanket and gets into an infrared sauna. 

She always follows the treatment with a “very cold ice bath” so as not to overheat her system and cause more inflammation.

The “Poker Face” singer then revealed how she was so overwhelmed by the empathy, confessions and personal stories about chronic pain posted by her fans. The 34-year-old tweeted, “I wish to help raise awareness and connect people who have it.” 

3. Halsey

©Allure

One in 10 women worldwide experience endometriosis, a chronic, debilitating condition with symptoms of chronic pelvic pain, impaired bowel and bladder function and pain during sex.

Halsey is no exception. After being diagnosed with the condition in 2016, the singer decided to focus more on her health and future.

The Grammy-nominated singer shared her experience with her fans in 2016 on her Twitter account. She said, “I was recently diagnosed after years of suffering and finding myself doubled over backstage in the middle of my sets, or fighting back tears on a plane, or even being in so much pain I would vomit or faint.”

She then told her fans “If you suffer from chronic pain or a debilitating disease please know that I have found time to live a crazy, wild, rewarding life and balance my treatment, and I hope so much in my heart that you can too.”

Halsey shared in 2018 that she was freezing her eggs in order to protect her fertility. The ability to have a family doesn’t define a woman but it is something very important to the singer.

Halsey often shares how she is proud of her struggle with the disease. Earlier last year, the “Without Me” singer posted a picture on her Instagram story of her being pregnant after getting scars from endometriosis surgery which are still visible, with the words “The scars that got me this angel.”

4. Shania Twain

©AP News

“I was very scared for a little while that I wouldn’t sing again, ever,” said the Canadian singer, who scored big hits like 1997’s “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!”

Shania Twain says it was tough to battle Lyme disease for 15 years. The disease is caused by a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi and is spread by tick bites. It is a serious illness and the symptoms include fever, chills, headaches, loss of the ability to move one or both sides of the face and joint pains.

Few people realise that her vocal cords were damaged by the illness and she had to take a break from singing to undergo several throat surgeries to correct the damage and then attended speech therapy. 

The effort paid off as she was able to return to performing in 2017 and held a series of successful concerts in Las Vegas. She said rigorous vocal warm-ups helped recover her singing skills.

Even if it took several years for her to finally be able to put out an album again,  Twain says she has come to terms with her condition emotionally, “It’s sort of like when you finish crying. When you’re done, you’re done and you move on.”

5. Allan Houston

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Injuries, let alone chronic pain, are an athlete’s worst nightmare. Their performance on the field or court relies on their body’s prime condition.

In 2005, NBA star Allan Houston’s career was cut short due to chronic arthritis in his left knee after suffering from multiple injuries.

Houston underwent surgeries and tried to return to basketball in 2007 but the hasty comeback worsened his condition and he had to call time on his playing career. He accepted his retirement, saying “if that happened it would have happened. It’s just not supposed to and I’m comfortable with it.”

After retirement, Houston consulted his physician and was diagnosed with osteoarthritis and was prescribed a diclofenac sodium topical gel to help alleviate his knee pain.

In 2011, he participated in a campaign called “Apply Yourself!”, which was organised by the health solutions company Endo Pharmaceuticals.

Houston wanted to use his influence and experience in battling chronic pain to encourage people with osteoarthritis to make their health a personal priority. Although he did not get to return as a player, Houston became the general manager of the G-League team Westchester Knicks.

6. Gina Rodriguez

©Insider

Gina Rodriguez is living with Hashimoto’s disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks your thyroid and prevents it from producing enough hormones (hypothyroidism). The symptoms may vary from fatigue, hair loss, weight gain, muscle aches and weakness, depression and memory lapses.

The Jane the Virgin star experienced various turmoil in her thyroid medication.

Rodriguez shared how her illness affected various aspects of her life and how her journey led her to become more proactive about her health. 

She said she has changed her diet, takes treatment seriously and exercises for health benefits instead of weight loss. She says she has experienced a “noticeable change” in her body.

Rodriguez said one of her biggest supporters is her boyfriend, Joe LoCicero, and that their relationship is full of “respect, kindness, generosity, compromise and sacrifice”. 

She says he has really helped her have a healthier perspective. The importance of communicating your pain to those around you is massive. We covered it on our blog here if you want to learn more.

7. Jerry Lewis

©Variety

The late Jerry Lewis who dominated TV and radio in the 1950s suffered from chronic back pain for more than 30 years. The comedian struggled with his long-term illness that some days had disrupted his daily routines.

His pain emerged after a comedic pratfall that was a bit too real. The pain became more intense and affected his sleep and mobility. The legend said he’d probably seen over 30 doctors, from Japan to Sweden until he finally found relief from pain.

Lewis chose to be implanted with a battery-powered spinal cord stimulator that blocks pain, made by the medical technology company Medtronic. He shared in an interview that he was finally “pain-free for the first time in 49 years” after a long journey of struggling with painkillers. 

“It’s an absolute moment of being reborn,″ he added.

Lewis then decided to spearhead an initiative called “Tame the Pain″ in which he connected chronic pain sufferers with pain specialists. 

He said a participant in the initiative thanked him in a letter after getting life-transforming treatments. He said, “I’ve talked to people who didn’t know there was hope. I was saved. I can’t keep that to myself.”

8. Selena Gomez

©Billboard

Selena Gomez revealed in 2015 that she had lupus, an inflammatory disease that causes the immune system to attack its own tissue. She told Billboard in an interview that she checked herself into an Arizona rehab facility and underwent chemotherapy to treat her condition. 

Later in 2017, the “Lose You to Love Me” hitmaker revealed on Instagram she was recovering from a kidney transplant she received from her friend Francia Raisa.

She explained in the caption: “Maybe I’m not very good at knowing what that means so it really got to the point where it was life or death. Thankfully, one of my best friends gave me his kidney and it was life’s best gift. And I’m doing pretty well now!”

Selena got public support from friends and fans for her courage and determination to get better. Her story inspired many to donate to the Lupus Research Alliance. CEO Kenneth Farber revealed that the singer herself contributed to the cause by donating a portion of her ticket sales for her 2017 tour.

9. Yolanda Hadid and Bella Hadid

©Elle

Supermodel Bella Hadid and her mother Yolanda Hadid contracted Lyme disease, a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. The symptoms include muscle pain, fatigue and headaches.

Bella, who in 2016 spoke out about her illness, shared photos of her hooked up to an IV on Instagram with the message: “Living with a few chronic autoimmune disease = always finding time for my IVs.”

Meanwhile, her mother Yolanda said Lyme disease made her lose the ability to read, write, or even watch TV because it was so difficult to process information.

She also revealed in an Instagram post that she “continues to fight relentlessly” because of her daughters: “Watching my brave babies suffer in silence in order to support me in my journey has struck the deepest core of hopelessness inside of me. I will not allow them to live a life of pain and suffering.”

Yolanda’s experiences are chronicled in her book titled “Believe Me: My Battle with the Invisible Disability of Lyme Disease”, which was published in February 2017. She claimed writing and dietary changes helped her to to reduce the severity of her Lyme disease.

A picture-perfect public image is standard practice for major celebrities, but more and more are sharing the struggles they face behind the scenes. Struggles we can all take inspiration from and show that they are just like us when it comes to our bodies. 

There is no one rule for your healing journey. A healthy lifestyle will always help but there are loads of ways to go about managing your chronic pain. If you want to share your story with others, and discuss the methods they are using you can always visit our Facebook Community Group

Thanks for reading!
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