Despite Medical Problems, Phil Collins Not Quitting After All?

Phil Collins discusses health problems due to decades of playing drums.

March 7, 2011, 5:56 PM

March 8, 2011— -- It has not been another day in paradise for Phil Collins fans after their beloved rock star announced his retirement from music last week.

The Internet was buzzing on Thursday after the UK's Telegraph newspaper reported that the 60-year-old drummer and singer, who has sold more than 150 million records and won seven Grammy awards, told FHM magazine that he did not plan on ever making new music again.

Collins cited medical problems related to drumming as the primary reason to walk away from a career that has spanned more than four decades.

But, Phil Collins fans can now rest easy, as he may only be taking a much-needed hiatus. On Monday, the drummer's rep told People magazine: "He is not, has no intention of, retiring."

The musician told FHM that he has hearing problems, a dislocated vertebra and nerve damage in his hands due to years of wailing on the drums.

"I'm not worried about not being able to play the drums again," Collins said in the interview. "I'm more worried about being able to cut a loaf of bread safely and or building things for my kids."

Collins has lived alone in Switzerland since divorcing his third wife in 2007. He said his main concern right now is to spend time with his five children.

When contacted, Collins' representation did not offer further comment on the musician's condition.

But even though Collins is not leaving the music business, he said doctors told him that his hands are not strong enough to hold drumsticks due to a neck injury that caused nerve damage in hands. The musician has mentioned in the past that he taped his drumsticks to his hands in order to play.

It will take about a year for Collins to recover from the pain of the hand injury, Collins said doctors told him.

Along with the news that Collins is taking a break, the musician seemed noticeably morose throughout the magazine interview.

"I look at the MTV Music Awards and I think: 'I can't be in the same business as this,'" he told the magazine. "I don't really belong to that world and I don't think anyone's going to miss me. I'm much happier just to write myself out of the script entirely."

Collins: Sorry for the Success

Collins even apologized for his huge success throughout the years.

"I'm sorry that it was all so successful," said Collins. "I honestly didn't mean it to happen like that. It's hardly surprising that people grew to hate me."

Fans of the "Take Me Home" singer might scratch their heads at such gloomy comments, but this isn't the first time that Collins made remarks that seemed to exhibit depression.

In the November 2010 issue of Rolling Stone, Collins admitted to having suicidal thoughts.

"I wouldn't blow my head off," Collins told Rolling Stone. "I'd overdose or do something that didn't hurt. But I wouldn't do that to the children. A comedian who committed suicide in the Sixties left a note saying, 'too many things went wrong too often.' I often think about that."

According to the American Pain Foundation, about 32 million Americans have suffered from pain that has lasted for more than one year. One quarter to one half of those pain patients also suffer from depression. And, about 65 percent of people depressed people also complain of pain.

So, could Collins' pain be associated with depression and even suicidal thoughts? Many doctors said that there is certainly a potential link.

Dr. Robert Jamison, associate professor of anesthesiology and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, said pain and depression often become a vicious cycle.

"Many people dealing with chronic pain admit to depression, but depression can make pain worse by wearing a person down, so people are less active and can't do things they enjoy," said Jamison. "They can never really recharge."

Feelings of depression and guilt can even heighten the sensitivity and awareness of the pain, Jamison said.

Dr. Lloyd B. Saberski, medical director of the Advanced Diagnostic Pain Treatment Centers, agrees with the association.

"Chronic pain influences neurotransmitters inside your nervous system, and can lead to changes [in the brain]," said Saberski.

Saberski said Collins' injury from the drums is likely a repetitive strain injury, a potentially debilitating injury to the musculoskeletal and nervous systems caused by repetitive tasks, vibrations and forceful application.

From the Neck to Nerves

"[It's] not much different from what typists get, although the pounding on the drum is likely more destructive than typing," Saberski said.

Suicidal thoughts, such as those Collins mentioned in past interviews, are not uncommon to chronic pain patients either.

"People find themselves wondering if life is worth living," Jamison said. "Vague thoughts like that are common. Acting on those thoughts is less common, but a person should always be assessed if those thoughts are discussed."

But, Penney Cowan said she knows all too well how Collins might be feeling right now. As someone who has suffered from chronic pain for more than three decades, Cowan can understand depression and pain could go hand in hand for Collins.

"Music was his identity," said Cowan, who first experienced chronic pain at 25 years old. "It's tough for someone to say, 'I can't be who you think I am.' It's as if someone just erases your face and you have to figure out who you are again and what you can do to contribute. "

Cowan, who is 62, said Collins' bigger fears of not being able to safely slice bread or build something for his children makes sense.

"Walking away from your music is one thing, but losing those little everyday things that really make your life worthwhile is where the depression comes in," said Cowan.

At 25, Cowan gave birth to her second child, and the next day, experienced debilitating pain that "smacked her in the face." That pain has lasted for 37 years.

"I had fibromyalgia long before that, and I probably just ignored it," said Cowan, who is now the executive director of the American Chronic Pain Association. "I couldn't take care of my husband and children. It's the really tiny things that really get to you."

Cowan said that the pain became so excruciating that she wasn't able to clean her home, play with her children or iron her clothes. Even holding a cup of coffee was difficult for the mother of three.

"I felt like I was a problem more than anything else," said Cowan. "I felt nothing but guilt because I thought I was ruining my husband and children's lives. I couldn't fulfill the role that I wanted to with them."

Living, Not Existing

Six years after she delivered her second child, Cowan found a pain treatment and management regimen that has allowed her to live with the pain. She founded the American Chronic Pain Foundation offer her peers the support and education in management skills for others just like her with pain.

Pain management can include exercise, medication and relaxation techniques that can distract a person from the pain.

"The keyword is living and not existing," Cowan said.