Celebrities with Long-Term Disabilities – Chronic Pain

Celebrities are human just like us. Today, we share another blog in our series on Celebrities with Long-Term Disabilities, with a focus on Chronic Pain. Click here to read other posts in the series, on Skin Cancer, Lyme Disease, Lupus, Diabetes, Epilepsy, PTSD, and Brain Aneurysms.

George Clooney & Chronic Pain

Hollywood actor/director George Clooney dealt with chronic pain in the wake of a serious on-set accident in 2005. While filming the political thriller Syriana in 2005, the former E.R. star hit his head during what should have been a routine stunt and has had issues ever since.

"I was taped to the chair and getting beaten up. The chair was kicked over and I hit my head,” Clooney said. “I tore my dura, which is the wrap around my spine that holds in the spinal fluid. It's not my back; it's my brain. I basically bruised my brain.”

Clooney Suffered Headaches & Memory Loss

Clooney suffered terrible headaches and memory loss after the incident – and still does to this day – but doctors were initially hard-pressed to figure out just how serious the actor’s injury was. Thankfully a neurologist eventually discovered the underlying cause and Clooney underwent a nine-hour surgery to help alleviate his pain.

"Before the surgery, it was the most unbearable pain I've ever been through,” Clooney said. “I went to a pain-management guy whose idea was, 'You can't mourn for how you used to feel because you're never going to feel that way again...' You have to come to terms with it.”

Clooney, who has never fully recovered from his Syriana accident, has had to turn down several roles because of his chronic pain issues, particularly parts that require serious stunts or action. Ironically, the film role that caused Clooney so much pain was also seen as a turning point in his career. The role transformed him from heart-throb to serious A-lister and eventually earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.

Paula Abdul & Chronic Pain

Singer-songwriter and American Idol judge Paula Abdul has suffered from chronic pain for decades. Years of injuries from a career as a dancer and two serious accidents – a 1992 car crash and a 1993 plane crash – required Abdul to have more than a dozen spinal surgeries.

Diagnosed With Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

In 2005 she was diagnosed with a condition called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), a disorder of the nervous system characterized by severe chronic pain.

Abdul said being diagnosed with RSD was “extremely difficult” and has called it one of the biggest challenges of her life.

“So many people are told, ‘It’s all in your head,’ and are actually dismissed as needing psychiatric care,” Abdul said in 2016. “I had to see so many doctors before I was finally accurately diagnosed with RSD. I’d seen so many doctors, and had so many surgeries and procedures, and still no one could tell me what was happening. I did not want to keep putting my body through that kind of trauma. I had to find the right answer.”

Abdul Became Dependent On Prescription Painkillers

Abdul’s condition also led to a serious dependence on prescription painkillers, something which caused its own problems on top of her RSD.

“Withdrawal – it’s the worst thing,” Abdul said. “I was freezing cold, then sweating hot, then chattering and in so much pain, it was excruciating, but at my very core, I did not like existing the way I had been.”

Abdul still struggles with the RSD, but she believes that being open and transparent about chronic pain is one of the best things someone suffering from it can do.

“Being in chronic pain is a full-time job itself!” Abdul said. “Keep people in your inner circle abreast of what’s going on with your health. Let them know what chronic pain entails.”

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