What Celebrities Who Experience Chronic Pain Do for Relief

Ordinary folks aren’t the only ones who suffer from long-term, debilitating discomfort. Here’s how 9 famous faces live with, manage, and rise above their symptoms.

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patrick stewart serena williams padma lakshmi

Patrick Stewart, Serena Williams, and Padma Lakshmi have been open about their struggles with chronic pain.

Achy backs, pounding headaches, throbbing joints: About 50 million Americans — roughly 20 percent, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?— live with some form of chronic pain, from?migraine to?lumbar issues, autoimmune disorders like fibromyalgia, or the sudden onset of pain caused by conditions like?Crohn’s disease. The celebs you see in the theater or binge-watch on television, not surprisingly, are among them.

RELATED:?It’s Time to Reframe Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, which typically lasts three months or longer, can interfere with daily life, limit mobility, and lead to mental health issues like depression and anxiety, research?shows.?The nine stars below have gone public to share their different strategies for successful treatment.

Just remember: It’s best to check with your healthcare team before you start any of the complementary approaches and therapies mentioned here, to discuss the effectiveness, risk, and benefits for your specific condition.

Patrick Stewart

patrick stewart

Sir Patrick Stewart, known to generations for his roles as Star Trek’s Captain Picard and Professor X in the X-Men movies, went public in 2017 to share that he uses medical marijuana daily to relieve pain from the genetic?osteoarthritis in his hands.

“I have had no negative side effects from this treatment,” he said in a statement in People, noting that the edibles, sprays, and ointments he uses “significantly reduce the stiffness and pain” in his hands.

Stewart obtained a legal prescription several years ago from a California doctor to buy cannabis-based products from a licensed seller to help with his condition. He said he sprays his fingers and thumb joints several times a day, and prefers using the heavier ointment at night so he can sleep better. He also will eat a portion of a candy bar at night to help him drift off.

As a result of his own positive experience with medical marijuana, Stewart said he “enthusiastically” supports further research into marijuana-based treatments.

RELATED:?8 Great Pain Relievers You Aren’t Using

Serena Williams

serena williams

The queen of the tennis court battled mild migraines for years, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, they suddenly became debilitating. The 23-time Grand Slam champion soon came to realize that stress, raising her then 3-year-old daughter Olympia, and too much computer time were all major triggers that were making her feel miserable.

Serena was “so used to playing through pain,” she told?People, as a professional player for 25 years, but she discovered the rules for migraine were different. “Migraine isn’t a knee injury — it’s something you can’t physically see,” she said. “You can’t really say, ‘Oh, Dad, I have a migraine. I’m going to stop playing.’ People are like, ‘I don’t see swelling. I don’t see bruising. Tough it out.’”

Her worsening migraine problem made her realize she needed to seek professional help for relief. On her doctor's advice, she started taking Ubrelvy (ubrogepant), a prescription medication meant to prevent migraine attacks when taken at the onset of an episode. She later partnered with the drug manufacturer, helping raise awareness and encouraging others to share their stories.

Pete Davidson

pete davidson

The former Saturday Night Live cast member has been open about his struggles with Crohn’s disease — which can quickly bring on debilitating symptoms like pain, diarrhea, and fatigue — since he was diagnosed with the medical condition as a teenager. Despite seeing doctors and trying a range of prescription medications, Davidson has said smoking marijuana is one of the few things that eased his pain and settled his stomach so he could perform on SNL.

“Weed would be the only thing that would help me eat,” Davidson told High Times. “I wouldn’t be able to perform on SNL if I didn’t smoke weed.”

Davidson's experience is anecdotal evidence, but cannabinoids — the active ingredients in marijuana — can help ease chronic pain, and that is the biggest reason most people cite for using medical cannabis, according to research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology in 2018. Medical marijuana does not have to be smoked, however, and can be taken in forms such as gummies and chocolates, tinctures, oils, and patches. Currently,?37 states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of cannabis products, notes the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Davidson has been candid about his struggles with Crohn’s disease, even mentioning it in his film The King of Staten Island.

Lady Gaga

lady gaga

After the pop powerhouse and Oscar winner revealed she had fibromyalgia in 2017, she poured her heart out in an?Instagram post, thanking her fans for their support and offering suggestions on how she copes with her chronic pain.

“When my body goes into a spasm, one thing I find really helps is infrared sauna,” she wrote. “They come in a large box form as well as a low coffin-like form and even some like electric blankets! I combine this treatment with [silver mylar] emergency blankets (seen in the photo) that trap in the heat and are very cheap. … In order to not overheat my system and cause more inflammation i follow this with either a VERY cold bath, ice bath (if u can stand it, it's worth it), or the most environmentally savvy way is to keep many reusable cold packs in the freezer (or frozen peas 'n' carrots!) and pack them around the body in all areas of pain.”

She revealed to?Oprah in a 2020 interview that she uses multiple other techniques to help ease her pain, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, daily workouts, Transcendental Meditation, and talk therapy, after years of suffering without understanding the cause. “I just didn’t stop moving and working and dancing through insurmountable pain. … It was so frustrating. … I was improperly medicated and I wasn’t in therapy,” she said.

RELATED:?Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to Help Chronic Pain

Padma Lakshmi

padma lakshmi

From early adolescence, Padma Lakshmi, the author, activist, and Top Chef host, suffered intense pain, cramping, nausea, backache, fatigue, and excessive menstrual blood flow that debilitated her for a week every month. It took more than two decades for her to get a diagnosis of?endometriosis, even though she had good health insurance and access to the best doctors.

Her experience made her one of the first famous faces to speak publicly about having the condition, and she cofounded the Endometriosis Foundation of America in 2009, now known as EndoFound. She teamed up with the doctor who finally diagnosed her, Tamer Seckin, MD. “I didn’t want the next generation of women to go through what I went through, to feel betrayed by their own bodies or to feel alone,” she says on the?organization's website.

Travis Barker

travis barker

The Blink-182 drummer and husband of Kourtney Kardashian was hospitalized in June 2022, according to?NBC, for an extreme case of?pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas typically caused by gallstones or alcohol consumption that can cause severe abdominal pain.

Barker is no stranger to chronic pain: In addition to surviving a plane crash in 2008 that required multiple surgeries to address his severe burns, as reported by CBS, he also has trigeminal neuralgia, a chronic pain condition that affects one of the brain’s cranial nerves and causes extreme and sporadic sensations on one side of the face that are similar to an electric shock, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. The attacks can last from a few seconds to two minutes, occurring in quick succession — and bouts can last for two hours. Barker took to?Instagram to show a photo of an?acupuncture treatment?he recommends for managing the condition with a caption that said, “I look like Hellraiser!”

In 2021, Barker founded a vegan?CBD company, and he told?Men’s Health that he uses his products to manage residual pain and help him sleep.

Tony Romo

tony romo

The former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and television football analyst has a history of back injuries and back pain. He suffered a herniated disc in 2013 that required surgery, per Bleacher Report, and?he also injured his back during the 2016 preseason, missing much of the year with a broken vertebra, according to ESPN.

While he hasn’t spoken about his back pain publicly, he was spotted on the golf course in June 2022 at the Wisconsin State Golf Association's Match Play Championship striking a yoga pose between shots, Golf Digest?reported. As his opponent was lining up his putt, Romo could be seen doing a Cat-Cow yoga pose at the back left edge of the green.

If you’re considering yoga to help address back pain, numerous studies have shown it can help relieve soreness and improve function. According to?research published July 18, 2017, in the Annals of Internal Medicine, yoga may even reduce the need for pain medication. Yoga isn't always a good fit if you have severe pain, but those with occasional soreness or chronic aches may greatly benefit from certain postures that lengthen your spine, stretch and strengthen your muscles, and return your back to proper alignment. Talk to your doctor before trying it, or seek help from a physical therapist trained in yoga for chronic conditions.

RELATED:?The Best Yoga Poses to Soothe Back Pain

Ted Danson

ted danson

Actor Ted Danson has played a hilariously vain bartender in Cheers and a wily demon with a desire to do better in The Good Place. But off-screen, he doesn’t play around when it comes to taking care of himself or his?psoriatic arthritis (PsA), which can cause chronic pain along with skin issues.

Danson began practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) in 1995, the same year he married the actor Mary Steenburgen. When Steenburgen introduced him to TM, a form of silent meditation typically practiced twice a day that involves repeating a resonant saying or mantra, Danson liked that it was something they could do together. Now he finds it helps with age-related issues as well as his PsA joint discomfort.

“Life gets more complicated and stressful the older you are. I no longer find [meditation] fun and interesting — I find it a lifesaver,”?Danson has said.

Stacy London

stacy london

The stylist and menopause advocate Stacy London knows from chronic pain. First her hamstring snapped in 2014, for which she underwent surgery. Then in 2016, she underwent spine surgery after dealing with back pain related to yoga. (“Fifteen years in five-inch heels 20 hours a day probably didn’t help the matter,” she admits.) She had been getting periodic cortisone shots to help with disintegrating disks, but the therapy had stopped working. Her surgeon had to then fuse her vertebrae together to stop them from grinding together. “By the time I got to my spine surgery, I mean, I slid onto that operating table like it was home base. I reloaded and I was like, it was all on me to get everybody home. I was in so much pain. I was like, cut me open like a fish, I do not care,” says London, who is also the owner of?State of Menopause.

She got through the pain via mindfulness, cognitive behavioral therapy, and continuing to exercise and move … very carefully. “I don’t want to sound kind of ‘woowoo’ but I tried not to let that pain define me,” she says. She also highly recommends a platform called The Chronicon Community, a paid-subscription support system for people dealing with chronic illness, started by her friend Nitika Chopra. “You want people around you who understand, who empathize — who don’t just sympathize — and can speak the same language as you,” she notes.

Additional reporting by Rachael Robertson.