Fibromyalgia And Chest Pain: What Does Fibromyalgia Chest Pain Feel Like?
A few years ago I began to have a “new” pain that was not one of my usual aches from fibromyalgia. I started hurting in my chest under my breastbone and above my ribs. It hurt when I moved, stretched, and if I took a deep breath. It was a stabbing pain which was aggravated as I moved.
Though I was quite familiar with fibromyalgia tender points, I had forgotten exactly where the ones in the chest area were. Because my pain was more in the center-left of my chest, I went to the doctor to rule out any heart issues.
Thankfully, the pain was not due to my heart. It was possible that it could’ve been due to over-extending a muscle, but most likely a new trigger point from fibromyalgia. Whatever it was caused from, it hurt terribly!
The truth is, fibromyalgia pain can sometimes extend to the chest. This pain feels like an intense stabbing sensation primarily in the center of the chest, around the breastbone and rib cage which is precisely where my symptoms were occurring.
The pain did mimic a heart attack to some degree and was both painful and frightening. Discomfort can vary depending on how active you are. During this time of my chest pain flare-up, I had been pushing myself to do a difficult level of yard work during the hot summer which worsened my pain and symptoms.
Symptoms of fibromyalgia chest pain include:
- Feelings of intense sharpness or stabbing
- Inflamed or burning sensation
- Mild ache or chronic chest ache
- Knotted muscles
- Tightness in the chest
This restrictive sensation can affect the respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe and causing shortness of breath. This breathing problem is something that I had not noticed in all these years of living with fibromyalgia until the last year, or so which leads me to believe that conditions can worsen over time.
Causes of Fibromyalgia Chest Pain
While there is still debate on what causes fibromyalgia and the accompanying pain such as chest pain, there are several factors that are believed to contribute to its symptoms:
- Heredity factors. Many believe that fibromyalgia-like other illnesses can be inherited. Studies have shown that there is a correlation with various conditions running in families.
- Trauma or injury to the chest. When our systems are weakened whether the muscular system due to injury or the neurological system due to mal-absorption of vitamins, it makes sense that we would be more susceptible to an auto-immune disorder such as fibromyalgia.
- Infections that affect how the nervous system responds to pain or heighten your sensitivities. When the nervous system is damaged in some way, sensors do not correctly gauge or react to pain as they should. I found this to be true after a prolonged undiagnosed span of time with malabsorption of vitamin B12. By the time the issue was discovered, I had irreparable damage to nerves in my body. I was suffering from peripheral neuropathy along with fibromyalgia.
- Low hormone levels - such as dopamine and serotonin - that prohibit communicating pain signals. I have also experienced this as well where my stress hormone cortisol was depleted putting me in adrenal fatigue and exasperating my fibromyalgia pain.
Treating Fibromyalgia Chest Pain
Treatment for fibromyalgia and accompanying chest pain focuses on reducing pain, minimizing symptoms, and incorporating self-care techniques. Not all treatments are effective for each symptom.
- Pain relievers: Some over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen, naproxen, and acetaminophen. For example, can help to reduce pain temporarily. Depending on the severity of your discomfort, your doctor may prescribe a stronger painkiller. Keep in mind that if any of the pain is associated with nerves as well as muscles and cartilage, pain medication may not be nearly as effective. Most all FMS medications tend to become less effective over time as your system grows immune to them.
- Physical therapy: Exercises from therapy sessions can teach you how to build strength and stamina to deal with chronic pain symptoms.
- Counseling: You can express your discomfort healthily through counseling sessions. Your counselor can teach you strategies to deal with your pain and psychological strains. They may also recommend meditation techniques to help you learn how to live and breathe past your pain. Because pain is triggered by your brain and not your body, meditation is designed to allow you to focus, breathe and better control your reactions to pain.
Another Condition To Consider
It is believed that fibromyalgia chest pain, in particular, is not necessarily an effect of fibromyalgia, but a separate condition common among fibro sufferers called costochondritis.
Why Do They Go Together?
Estimates are that between 60 and 70 percent of people with fibromyalgia have symptoms very similar to costochondritis.
In one study, non-specific chest pain is listed as the most common reason people with fibromyalgia were hospitalized. Another study lists fibromyalgia as a frequent cause of musculoskeletal chest pain.
No one is exactly sure whether it is true costochondritis or why it occurs with fibromyalgia. If the hypothesis of inflammation of the fascia is accurate, that may explain it.
Also, the fibromyalgia tender points just beneath the collarbone may play a role. Myofascial pain syndrome, which is common in FMS, also could be a cause.
Costochondritis is typically a minor injury that heals within days. If symptoms don't clear up, they could be a sign that something else, such as fibromyalgia, is going on.
Before we talk about the what costochondritis is, symptoms of costochondritis, and how this condition can go hand-in-hand with fibromyalgia, let’s discuss one other condition that can be the culprit of chest pain so that we can make an accurate comparison.