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Carrie Ann Inaba Explains How She Went From Active to Inactive Due to Chronic Pain


One of the most frustrating misconceptions folks with chronic illness face is that they must be sick because they’re “not active enough” or “need to lose some weight.” While it’s true that a lack of exercise can increase the risk for some diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension or stroke, this does not mean it is a contributing factor for all chronic conditions. In fact, many of those with chronic pain say they were active before they developed symptoms – including “Dancing With the Stars” judge Carrie Ann Inaba.

The TV personality and former dancer was diagnosed with spinal stenosis in 2007 while judging the fourth season of “DWTS.”

“I think it started because I went from being a very active person to a non-active person,” Inaba said in an interview with People. “I remember going to the doctor and I couldn’t move my head. I was in excruciating pain for years.”

Spinal stenosis involves a narrowing of the spinal canal, which can put pressure on the nerves the travel through the spine. It typically occurs in the lower back and neck, and can cause symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.

Inaba believes her time as a dancer may have contributed to the onset of her chronic pain. After being additionally diagnosed with Sjögren’s syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis, she found herself no longer able to work out.

“When you’re in chronic pain, you become exhausted because your body is fighting this pain all the time,” she told People. “Pain is a life stealer. And it’s hidden, so people can’t see it or understand it.”

Inaba explained that her “debilitating” pain and fatigue kept her in bed several days a week, causing her to gain weight from the lack of activity. “There were days I could barely make my coffee because I was so exhausted,” she said.

For many of those with chronic pain, the struggles Inaba faced in going from being active to not very active may sound familiar. Not only can a pain condition cause physical symptoms, but it can also be mentally and emotionally challenging as well. Many may have difficulty adapting to their “new normal,” and grieve the lifestyle and activities they were able to maintain when they were healthy.

It can also be difficult to face judgment from others who might assume that your sudden decrease in activity is the cause of your ailment – rather than the other way around. Inaba’s experience is just one example of the limitations and changes chronic pain can impose.

Though she may not be able to dance like she used to, Inaba is looking inward to redefine her identity in the wake of her diagnoses. “[My illness] helped me evaluate who I am,” she told People. “I did a lot of soul searching. I learned about who I am besides being a sexy dancer chick. And ironically, as I let all that go, I found my way back to feeling vibrant and radiant again.”

The “DWTS” judge and newest co-host of “The Talk” said she is grateful for all she has learned from battling her chronic conditions.

“I love when life throws me something challenging,” Inaba said. “Because I know something beautiful is just around the corner.”

Lead photo via Carrie Ann Inaba’s Facebook page