By Annie Reuter
Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds’ life is on the stage and at the age of 21 as the band’s success rose, he began to experience what he says was a debilitating pain that made him cancel shows. The 29-year-old singer recently opened up about the condition, which was diagnosed as ankylosing spondylitis (AS), a chronic condition of the joints that often leads to extreme inflammation and pain.
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“It was beyond the pain that you feel when it’s just a back ache,” he tells People. “It felt like someone was drilling my nerves. It was right when the band was starting to have minor success — we were starting to sell out small clubs, and we were playing these very active shows and it started to make me have to cancel shows.”
Reynolds explains that he frequently could not physically get on the stage, and in some instances he couldn’t move, couldn’t sleep and had to stand perfectly still when he performed. Eventually, his brother convinced him to see a rheumatologist to see if he had ankylosing spondylitis, a condition two of his siblings also suffer from.
“I went, and then they did the test to see if it’s in your genes — which it was, because it’s an autoimmune disease,” he says. “And then they diagnosed me and put me on a treatment plan, which fixed me almost immediately. Which was another sign that that’s what it was.”
The singer says he’s feeling better these days and follows a steady treatment of exercise and healthy eating. He says he decided to open up about his illness in the hopes of helping others who are also suffering from the condition. He added that he will plans to launch an online talk show for patients with AS, This AS Life Live!
“I have a chance to really raise awareness and help people that are just becoming diagnosed to see that there’s actually light at the end of the tunnel,” he tells People. “For me, I really wish that there was a place that I could have gone to where I was seeing a direct community. People talking and saying, ‘These are the things I’m feeling. These are the ways that I’m combating it, and it’s working for me.’”
In addition to the online series, Reynolds is hard at work on a third album with Imagine Dragons and says it should be out in 2017.