In Lady Gaga’s Netflix documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two, the first scene shows the singer’s muscles being stretched and prodded on a massage table. It’s one of the ways she deals with fibromyalgia, a condition that causes chronic pain all over the body. It’s not known what causes the condition, and there’s no cure, which can make getting a diagnosis and managing the pain incredibly frustrating. Gaga addresses her struggles with the condition several times throughout the film, and has talked about it openly in the last year.
When a celebrity as big as Gaga talks about fibromyalgia, it brings major awareness to the condition, but it’s still very misunderstood. “Fibromyalgia is poorly identified by most people, even those in medicine, and there’s no specific test that can determine someone has it,” says Charles Kim, M.D., assistant professor in the department of rehabilitative medicine at NYU School of Medicine and pain management specialist at Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation. “We have to test for other things and rule those out; it’s a diagnosis of exclusion.”