Paula Abdul Opens Up About Living with Osteoarthritis: 'I'm Not Going to Let Pain Keep Me Down'

The former American Idol judge stays healthy by moving regularly, meditating daily and following a low-alkaline, plant-based diet 

Paula Abdul Opens up About Having Osteoarthritis: 'I'm Not Going to Let Pain Keep Me Down'
Photo: Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel

Paula Abdul will be the first to admit that she's put her body through a lot.

The Grammy-award winning performer, 58, has built a career on fast-paced choreography and impressive stunts, movements that have resulted in serious injuries, including a broken leg and back injury.

But about five years ago, Adbul noticed a new, strange pain in her joints during workouts and dress rehearsals.

"I knew something was wrong with my body," the former American Idol judge tells PEOPLE.

Abdul's doctor told her she had osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that can cause stiffness and pain. The common condition common affects more than 32.5 million adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The diagnosis came as a relief to Abdul.

"I kept thinking, at least it wasn’t something in my head," she tells PEOPLE. "There was a reason attached to what I was feeling."

If anything, she adds, "I just wish I had known [about the condition] earlier."

Teaming up with Voltaren Arthritis Pain Gel for the launch of its over-the-counter offering, Abdul says she uses the gel on her ankles, knees and other joints when they feel tight.

"I'm not going to let pain keep me down," she says.

The singer also encourages other arthritis patients to stay active and says she likes to mix up her workout routine with low-impact strength exercises and online Zumba classes.

"Every day I try to wake up and think, ‘What can I do today that's going to make me happy?' " she says.

"Walking is very underrated. I’ll put on my AirPods and listen to Stevie Wonder, Katy Perry, Justin Timberlake — and just sing at the top of my lungs and swing to the beat."

The California native also meditates every day and adheres to a low-alkaline, plant-based diet to help manage acidity and inflammation associated with her reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), a chronic pain that can occur post-injury or surgery.

Adbul is staying in shape for when she can return to her Forever Your Girl residency in Las Vegas, which has been postponed due to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

"We're in this for quite a while," she says. "So I'm just going to keep a positive outlook and have a good time getting to know myself better."

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