Jennie Garth on Living with Chronic Pain: ‘These Are the Most Important Things to Me Right Now’
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The actor, now 50, discusses the pain diagnosis she shares with an estimated 16 million Americans, and the healthy habits that help manage her symptoms.
For 32 years (!!!) since Jennie Garth debuted as Kelly Taylor on Beverly Hills, 90210, we’ve associated her persona with youth, exuberance, and often being called to care for others. (Cue the uber-relatable meme that goes, Someone said, “30 years ago,” And my mind went, “Oh, yes! The 1970s” but they meant 1992, and now I need to lie down. Yes. We totally relate.)
Today, the actor—who turned 50 this year—is speaking openly about her diagnosis with osteoarthritis, a chronic pain condition in which the joints gradually lose their cartilage. Osteoarthritis affects an estimated 16 million Americans—and, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), around 50 million Americans, or 20% of the population, are also living with chronic pain.
Now, in partnership with Voltaren Gel, Jennie Garth speaks with The Healthy @Reader’s Digest on finding peace with change…and why—especially for people with pain—it’s important to care for yourself, like you do for others.
courtesy Voltaren Gel
Jennie Garth on managing chronic pain
When Jennie Garth was diagnosed with osteoarthritis, she was living life as a busy working mom (she shares three daughters in their teens and twenties with ex-husband Peter Facinelli) and a caretaker for her father, who has since passed. “It was a tough diagnosis to hear that I was starting to suffer from osteoarthritis,” Garth says. “I just thought, Wow, I’m too young for this. It does do a number on you mentally because there’s such a stigma around arthritis and aging that it made me sort of sort of stop in my tracks and think, Oh, no, I guess I’m getting older. I don’t feel older. I don’t look older when I see myself in the mirror. For me, just the mental acceptance of it was difficult.”
But, Garth says, the diagnosis was an invitation to reframe her thinking. “The fact of the matter is people suffer from arthritis at all ages of their life,” she says. “So I think it’s really important to … talk about it and sort of destigmatize it and make it a conversation that we can all have that’s not so based in fear—or, the not wanting to have it.”
Garth says by partnering with Voltaren Gel’s Carewalks initiative, she’s working to be a voice for caregivers, who often are so focused on attending to a loved one that they don’t acknowledge their own pain. “Because so often the people [who] are taking care of [others] are suffering from their own pain. But they sort of do it in silence and it goes unnoticed and it’s something that they just deal with on their own.”
In addition to her work with Voltaren Gel, which she says is “super easy to get, and to use,” Garth explains how she’s learned to manage her own pain day-to-day: “The most important part in alleviating the problem is movement for me—staying mobile and flexible, and just really incorporating movement and stretching into my everyday life. And also following an anti-inflammatory diet, really focusing on staying hydrated.
For good measure, she’s also learning new ways to be good to herself. “I’ve taken up golf,” she says. “That’s a new thing for me and, and it’s cool. It gets me out in nature, keeps me mobile and stretching and using my body and mental acuity in different ways now. It’s an awesome sport.”
And, since one way to manage physical pain is to practice all-around self-care, Garth says: “I’m also just really, really focusing right now on my mental health. Honestly, work will come and go. I’ve just sort of let those pressures go for now. And I’m focusing on just being really happy and healthy in my own skin. These are the most important things to me right now.”
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