Fibromyalgia chest pain can be one of the scariest symptoms of fibromyalgia because it may feel like you are having a heart attack and cause you great concern. This kind of pain can stop you in your tracks. It can have you wondering "is this life threatening?"
Because fibromyalgia is complex, it is important to know the various ways the chest area can be affected with pain or symptoms. There are a few other causes and conditions that can occur in the chest area of the fibro body that you want to be aware of.
Many people think about minor cramps or muscle aches when they think about fibromyalgia, but sufferers know that the pain goes far beyond minor. While muscles, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body can cause pain and multiple systems are often affected, it’s the chest pain that causes the most alarm.
A trip to the emergency room may cause even more confusion as doctors check for scary heart conditions. However, it is important to rule out any heart related conditions, especially if this is a new symptom for you.
In the end, it is likely to come down to a few different scenarios when living with fibromyalgia. More specifically, SIX of these possible scenarios that I will touch on here today.
This is a condition that can cause minor discomfort in the ribs to severe chest pain. It’s often restricted to the left side of the chest, but it can occur in the right side or throughout the entire chest. The cause is inflammation in the cartilage connecting the breast bone and the ribs. This is why sufferers often complain of pain and discomfort in the ribs as well as in the center of the chest.
Costochondritis often produces sharp pain that can feel much like a heart attack or symptoms of other serious heart conditions. This is why the first occurrence often sends sufferers to the emergency room or to their doctor’s office in a panic. Read the link here in this paragraph if you haven't yet where I give other cautions on these symptoms.
The good news is that the condition isn’t connected to heart failure and in no way implies a problem with the cardiac system. It may lead to a more serious diagnosis in some cases, but for many fibromyalgia patients, it comes down to just another form of pain that isn’t easily explained or relieved.
While about 10% of the general population is believed to suffer from costochondritis, well over 50% of fibromyalgia sufferers will experience this type of chest pain at some point in their lives. It’s most common among women under the age of 40, but it can strike any fibromyalgia patient at any stage of life.
Some people may experience consistent fibromyalgia chest pain for long periods of time while others report short bouts of chest discomfort that come and go randomly. It’s just another symptom of fibromyalgia that varies from person to person. The pain is often so severe that makes daily life extremely difficult if not impossible, so it’s critical that you work with a medical professional to develop a treatment plan.
In some cases, costochondritis surgery is performed to remove the cartilage causing the fibromyalgia chest pain. This isn’t always a solution for fibromyalgia patients, but it’s something to talk to your doctor about if your fibromyalgia chest pain is severe and lasts for a long period of time with no relief in sight.
2. Trigger Points?
When living with fibromyalgia, we generally have 11-18 tender areas in vulnerable areas like the neck, lower back and extremities. However, we also tend to have even more trigger points, and these can occur anywhere on the body, even around the upper body and chest area. This could be a reason for your fibromyalgia chest pain.
You might remember how I often say that if we mapped out our trigger points, it would look like a war zone!! It is not so cut and dry because trigger points can occur within layer of muscle and around connective tissue in the body. So how could we potentially “activate” trigger points around the chest area? Lifting something that is too heavy, leaning down to the floor, sleeping in a bad position, or even just having something lean against us, like a child or pet. Yes, this can potentially activate TRP's and that is what causes that radiating and burning pain that we often experience. (Read more here about Trigger Points.)
3. What about FBD or Fibrocystic Breast Disease?
Although not limited to those with fibromyalgia, it tends to be more
common among those with fibromyalgia, altered hormones, or those with a
tendency to estrogen dominance. Women who complain of severe PMS
symptoms often lasting for weeks at a time or longer are often the ones
that will be more susceptible to FBD. The symptoms include very tender
breast tissue, burning and even radiating pain around the breast and
into the arm pit, and sometimes an increase of breast size.
The problem with FBD, is that it can prevent women from doing normal every day things due to the extreme tenderness around the breast area. You might limit movement or exercise. You might find that you need more support to limit that movement if possible.
4. Shallow Breathing?
You might often hear me say that people with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia tend to be shallow breathers. Or, as I like to say “Don't be a shallow Hal!!” You see, when you are in pain anywhere in the body, it is not uncommon to stifle your breathing, and often times you don't know you are doing it. So what happens is that the chest area is one of the areas that "takes the hit" so to speak, along with the shoulders. So you can find yourself with stifled breathing, tight shoulders and what I call that “stress pain” around the pectoralis muscles of the chest.
You may find yourself sweating more and unable to actually get a deep breath. That is a sign that your body is accumulating far too much stress. The best time to “practice” deep breathing is when you are relaxed so that it will come more naturally to you during a more stressful situation or just when dealing with the every day symptoms of fibromyalgia.
5. There will be times when the heart muscle will be involved. You certainly do not want to be too concerned, but if you are at greater risk for heart disease or stroke, you can read more here. Fibromyalgia and the Heart Muscle.
6. Gallbladder attacks:
As a colon therapist, I would like to extend another caution, so as not to miss other conditions. Another common condition that often mimics the pain of costochondritis is liver or bile duct pain. You could be having gallbladder attacks and not know it. If you are having pain around the upper front of the rib cage, along the transverse colon area (same area), you need to be aware of this potential issue and rule that out as well.
Gallbladder and bile duct disease are more common these days. I believe in adhering to an anti-inflammatory diet and moderate detoxing of both the liver and gallbladder. Follow my suggestions throughout the website.
Lisa. (C.T. , P.T.)