I have been living with chronic migraine and chronic neck and shoulder pain since I was a child. While the cause of my migraines are a mystery, my chronic neck and shoulder pain stems from an untreated childhood injury that changed the structure of the cervical bones in my neck. Because the injury went untreated for more than 10 years, my muscles work overtime to support the trauma and to hold up my neck. And, because these muscles are constantly trying to adapt to the unnatural position of my neck, the default for my neck and shoulder muscles is clenched.
From the outside I look totally normal, and unless the pain is unmanageable, I keep it to myself. If people in group settings see me rubbing salves on my neck and shoulders, and they ask me what I'm doing, I will tell them. However, I try to lead a busy and active life because I don't want the pain to control me. Whatever your opinion may be on actor, singer/songwriter, and activist Lady Gaga, her Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two is a raw — and very real — portrait of what it's like to live with chronic pain.
The emotional scenes of Gaga in Five Foot Two writhing in pain hours before having to slap on a smile and go do her job is something women with chronic pain experience every single day. Because of Gaga's high profile and her willingness to reveal a vulnerable and accessible glimpse into the life of a chronic pain sufferer, I hope that women will feel empowered vocalize their chronic pain. Because, let's face it, we've been quiet about everything long enough. While both men and women suffer from chronic pain, these are the places in the body women are most likely to experience chronic pain.