By RADHA CHITALE and LAUREN COX
ABC News Medical Unit
It's no secret that, with the blessing of celebrity, comes the many burdens of fame — from impossibly busy schedules to dealing with tabloid scrutiny.
However, for many stars, chronic pain presents an additional burden. According to Dr. Robert Kaniecki, director of the Headache Center at the University of Pittsburgh, even stars sometimes don't know when it's time to get treatment for serious pain.
"They often are like us — they often don't get help right away, they often try to tough it out, and feel as if trying to get medication is a sign of weakness," Kaniecki said. But, he added, "When they finally do get the right treatments, it changes their lives."
And in dealing with their pain, these stars may be helping not only themselves. Celebrities who come forward with their stories of chronic pain — and how they overcame their conditions — may serve as sources of inspiration for many of their fans who may also experience chronic pain of their own.
Abdul, a celebrity judge on the hit series "American Idol," came forward with her chronic pain in a 2005 People magazine interview. For 25 years, Abdul struggled with unexplained, excruciating pain that didn't go away with conventional painkillers.
Abdul said her battle with pain started with a neck injury from a cheerleading accident when she was 17. A few car accidents, and an emergency plane landing years later, only worsened her condition. She has since been diagnosed with a condition known as regional sympathetic dystrophy, also referred to as complex regional pain syndrome.
RSD often develops after an injury, and continues to get worse over time. People may suffer burning pain that spreads beyond the area of the original injury. Sometimes, they even lose the ability to move parts of their body. Once, Abdul told People, she woke up and couldn't move one side of her body. She was trapped in her bed until a housekeeper found her and called for help.