If you have fibromyalgia you may have noticed that you often feel intense pain in your ribcage and chest. This aching and stabbing pain is very common in fibromyalgia and can really impact on your enjoyment of life. If your chest pains are making it difficult for you to complete your work, get a good night’s sleep, or even breathe deeply, it is important to visit with your health care provider. Chest pain in fibromyalgia is usually nothing to worry about, but occasionally it can indicate other problems.
Costochondritis: A Painful Problem
The chest pain associated with fibromyalgia is referred to as costochondritis. It is an inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs to the chest bone. It is this inflammation that causes the sharp chest pains inside the chest wall. The pain of costochondritis often mimics the pain of cardiac problems, including heart attacks and stroke. This can be quite scary for some sufferers; however, costochondiritis rarely causes any physical complications.
A condition called costochondritis, which causes pain around the breast bone and rib cage, is believed to be common in people with fibromyalgia (FMS). It’s also called noncardiac chest pain or musculoskeletal chest pain.
A lot of people don’t realize this pain could be caused by a separate condition causing that requires its own treatment. Because any other sources of pain can make your FMS symptoms worse, it’s important for you to treat costochondritis.
Even though costochondritis is common, you should seek medical advice if you have unexplained chest pain. You don’t want to assume that it’s FMS related and end up with permanent heart damage or worse.
Costochondritis is an inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breast bone. Depending on how much inflammation there is, it can range from a mild annoyance to extremely painful. People sometimes describe the pain as stabbing, aching or burning.
The causes aren’t clear, but may include:
- chest trauma, such as from a car accident
- repetitive trauma or overuse
- viral infections, especially upper respiratory infections
Some experts believe FMS may cause costochondritis as well. Regardless, FMS can make costochondritis much more painful.
To date, the specific causes of costochondritis are unknown, though researchers do believe that a variety of factors could play a role in the development of the illness.
Repetitive Activity: Repetitive activity may be responsible for the chest pain suffered by people with fibromyalgia. Sitting at a desk or leaning forward over a computer for long periods of time often puts stress on the muscles in the chest.
People with fibromyalgia already have hypersensitive muscles, and this repetitive activity may exacerbate pain in the chest area, causing costochondritis.
Fibromyalgia Tender Points: The tender points present in fibromyalgia may be responsible for causing costochondritis in fibromyalgia sufferers. Tender points are located just to the left of the chest, underneath the collarbone. These tender points may be causing intense pain in the chest region.
Myofascial Pain: Many fibromyalgia sufferers also have myofascial pain syndrome, an illness that causes the appearance of painful trigger points throughout the body. Costochondritis may be the result of trigger points that have developed in the rib area.
Infection: Rarely, costochondritis can be caused by upper respiratory tract infections or non-allergic rhinitis. These conditions can cause long periods of repetitive coughing. This coughing can stress and strain the cartilage that connects the ribs with the sternum, causing constant chest pains.
The exact cause(s) of costochondritis is not known however, the three most common reasons that lead to costochondritis are:
- Viral infections related to upper respiratory
- Chest trauma especially from car accidents
- Frequent trauma conditions
The onset of costochondritis pain can be related to car accidents, falls or other incidents that cause injury to the chest area. It can sometimes develop if you have a severe upper respiratory infection as well. Many people who don’t have fibromyalgia develop this painful condition due to injury or illness, but many with fibromyalgia also develop this painful and sometimes alarming symptom.
If you can trace the development of the pain back to an accident or an illness, then your fibromyalgia may intensify the pain. The discomfort of costochondritis pain may also stimulate a flare-up of other fibromyalgia symptoms. We do believe that fibromyalgia itself can cause costochondritis pain without any other contributing factors.