If you have ever had this experience, you will know that symptoms around fibromyalgia and the heart can give you quite a scare. Fibromyalgia seems to come with every pain imaginable, and that includes chest pain.
Many will go to the emergency room at least once because they think that they’re having a heart attack. This is most likely to happen for those who haven’t yet received a fibromyalgia diagnosis because they don’t know what fibro pain feels like and are more likely to believe that their heart is failing.
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.
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. While heart attacks tend to come and go in a short period of time, 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.
While fibromyalgia chest pain is often not life-threatening, that isn’t always the case. Research is showing that it’s common 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. Even more concerning was the 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 failure, TMJ and irritable bowel disease. This supports the belief that fibromyalgia is caused by an extremely sensitive 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 caused by an unhealthy diet, smoking, and obesity. 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.
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 to blow off pain as a symptom of fibromyalgia when it’s actually something more severe.
In general, fibromyalgia pain tends to last longer than a heart attack. If you push on the 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.
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.
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.
As always, be good to yourself.
Lisa. CT. PT.