If you've ever had any kind of pain in the chest area, you know that symptoms around fibromyalgia and the heart can give you quite a scare.
This all important muscular organ does an amazing job for us every day. And even more so when other conditions are present.
Fibromyalgia seems to come with every pain sensation imaginable, and that can include chest pain.
Many will go to the emergency room at least once, and this is not a bad idea, especially with new or unusual symptoms. We don't want to miss another condition.
(please note that we have separate articles/videos on costochondritis pain in the chest and rib area, what that feels like and how some of the symptoms are very similar)
The danger for those with diagnosed fibromyalgia is the risk that they won’t seek medical care for a genuine heart problem because they assume that the pain is part of the fibromyalgia.
This is why it’s important for everyone to understand how fibromyalgia and the heart muscle interact and when medical treatment is necessary.
It goes without saying that the heart is truly the most important muscle in the body.
The idea behind this article is to be as proactive as possible.
One of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia is chronic pain across multiple areas of the body. One common symptom that we often talk about is costochondritis. The pain comes from inflammation in cartilage connecting the ribs and breastbone.
The pain usually impacts the side of the chest and may cause waves of pain that feel much like a heart attack. The good news is that it isn’t life-threatening.
With fibromyalgia, you may also experience pain in other areas of the chest, plus the shoulders and arms. It can present as a sharp, stabbing pain, a burning pain or a sensation of tightness. This pain can last for days or even weeks. Some fibromyalgia patients suffer from pain in the chest area for months or years .
Also, refer to our Chest Pain article at anytime to learn about other causes of pain in the chest area.
We talk often about Temperature Dysregulation in Fibromyalgia. For those of us who are very cold intolerant (I have been sensitive to cold since a young age) this can even affect the heart muscle. Have you ever gone outside when it's really cold and felt an unsettling feeling in your chest?
We know our individual tendencies, and if you get cold in your chest area, be sure to always dress warm and even practice breathing exercises to circumvent the cold weather from causing you to shiver, putting more stress on the fibro body.
First of all, remember that chest pain and heart related issues can stem from a variety of factors. Reducing stress in all areas and working the protocols we have set forth will help us all take better care of our heart.
And, while fibromyalgia chest pain is often not life-threatening, that isn’t always the case. Research is showing that it’s not uncommon for heart failure patients to also have fibromyalgia.
One study of 57 heart failure patients found that more than 20 percent of the participants met the diagnostic criteria for fibromyalgia. There was also a determination that the severity of heart failure tends to correspond with the severity of the fibromyalgia symptoms.
Research has also shown that fibromyalgia patients are more likely to suffer from a variety of diseases related to central nervous system sensitivity or dysfunction.
This includes heart function, TMJ and irritable bowel disease. This also supports the knowledge that fibromyalgia symptoms can be exacerbated by an overreactive central nervous system that registers pain when it isn’t warranted.
There is also some scientific research that proves variability in heart rate is connected to fibromyalgia. For instance, many sufferers have tachycardia, which occurs when the heart beats abnormally fast. This is just one autonomic nervous system dysfunction that is commonly seen in fibromyalgia sufferers. The connection is so strong that some professionals recommend checking for heart rate inconsistency as a diagnostic tool for fibromyalgia.
While there can be a connection between fibromyalgia and heart problems, there is no proof that fibromyalgia is the cause of heart failure, or any other heart dysfunction.
Heart attacks can be the result of many factors including clogged arteries, which is often caused by an unhealthy diet. Stress on the body is also a major factor, and remember what I so often say, that living with fibro itself can be a form of stress on the body.
Therefore, we need to focus on training our bodies and minds to think differently about this condition, to be more proactive and less reactive.
What about Chronic Fatigue?
When we also have CFS/ME, we might have more symptoms related to the heart like irregular heart beats or a racing heart.
If we have a family history of heart or stroke conditions, then we want to always treat that independently of fibromyalgia so we do not miss another condition.
Fibromyalgia might put sufferers at greater risk for heart dysfunction, especially when chronic pain, fatigue and sleep disorders cause more imbalance of chemicals, hormones, etc. We know that cortisol levels (from the adrenals) become out of balance when we are not getting restorative sleep, and this also affects the heart.
It’s also likely that fibromyalgia intensifies the symptoms of a heart disorder due to sensitivity in the nervous system. This is similar to fibromyalgia patients experiencing more pain than a non fibro person in daily life.
If you or someone you love does experience chest pain, it’s best to seek emergency medical attention. I say it often, but yes, it’s always better to seek help when it’s not needed than connect the pain as a symptom of fibromyalgia when it’s actually something more severe.
If you push on a point of pain, fibromyalgia pain is likely to intensify when it is caused by trigger points. Heart attack pain won’t intensify when pressed lightly.
Fibromyalgia pain also won’t cause pain to radiate down the arms or into the back, which is common with a heart attack.
Because there can be a connection between cardiac events and fibromyalgia, it might be helpful to ask for a stress test or other heart diagnostic tests to rule out potential problems.
This is the only way to know for sure that the chest pain you’re experiencing is in fact caused by fibromyalgia rather than a serious heart problem that may become life-threatening.
Symptoms of a heart attack may include pain and pressure in the chest, pain radiating down the arms, jaw pain, sweating, nausea, and trouble with breathing.
If you are having these symptoms suddenly, be sure to get help immediately. And, as you can see, just about all of these symptoms can also occur in fibromyalgia, so always err on the side of caution.
Also, as I stated at the very top of this article, the heart is the most important muscle in the body. Therefore, it is important that you check with your doctor before taking muscle relaxants and ANY other medications that could interfere with the normal rhythm and function of your heart.
There are so many things that can put extra stress on the heart.
One of the most common is ingesting too much sugar. Do you ever feel it? Do you feel your heart working harder after ingesting sugar?
Those of us with fibromyalgia tend to feel these things more than most people. In our upcoming course we are teaching dietary principles that help to heal cravings for sugar, and empower us to choose healthy options by how we manage our macros throughout the day.
How we start our day and how we end our day is most important regarding food and sugar.
If you want to learn more, get on our email list using the form at the bottom of this article.
I often talk about calcium supplementation and how it gets a bad rap because of all the inferior calcium supplements out there. The fact is that it is bad for your cardiovascular system/arteries to take an inferior form of calcium.
Too many doctors do not know or understand this essential issue. Please read more including a short video in my calcium and vitamin K article.
Now you can track how your heart is doing in the comfort of your home, or wherever you are at.
The kardiamobile device is easy to use and suitable for anyone with heart conditions or those who might be at risk. You might also track your blood pressure at home if that is also an issue for you.
If you have any kind of heart related condition, you might consider taking taurine. It is one of our favorite supplements for the heart. Ask your doctor if needed, but know that it is very safe and tolerated. I like Thorne Research brand linked below.
I also like to use:
*Nordic Naturals fish oil,
*and liquid CoQ10 (ubiqinol form)
I know that you likely have to budget all of your supplements, that is why we all need to ask ourselves what is our individual priority when it comes to supplements. If you are concerned about cardiovascular health, these may be a priority for you, at least consider them.
It is important to avoid toxins where possible when living with fibromyalgia. There can be a greater potential for all disease when people are constantly exposed to environmental toxins. There are more studies coming out regularly about the connection between heart disease and toxins that we are exposed to. Here you can read more about Chemical Sensitivity in Fibromyalgia.
Do you have a rapid heart beat, sweating, nausea, headache, or increased blood pressure when exposed to toxic environments? That is common and that is often the bodies way of telling us that we need to get away from those harmful toxins.
It might occur while in a clothing store, restaurant, shopping mall, veterinarian clinic, or any place where high levels of chemicals are commonly used.
Remember what I often say. “A smile from the heart is a a great place to start”
I coined this phrase many years back because I realized that gratitude and a genuine smile can do so much to support healthy chemical balance within our bodies.
Ok, sometimes we may have to fake it, but when we learn to condition ourselves for joy (not dependent on circumstances) it makes a difference, it comes from the inside out.
As always, be good to yourself.
Lisa. CT. PT.