Costochondritis Chest Pain in Fibromyalgia

Should You Worry About Costochondritis Pain?

Even though as many as 70% of fibromyalgia sufferers experience chest pain at some point, this condition is not considered serious by medical professionals. There is no risk to your life, and it won’t impact other areas of your body, as long as other conditions have been ruled out.

If you’re in severe pain or the condition lasts for a long period of time and interferes with your daily life, you may consider physical therapy or book an acupuncture session. As long as more serious conditions have been ruled out by your doctor or another medical professional, managing the pain and discomfort is the best that you can do.

Why Do They Go Together?

Estimates are that between 60 and 70 percent of people with FMS have symptoms very similar to costochondritis.

In one study, non-specific chest pain is listed as the most common reason people with FMS were hospitalized. Another lists FMS as a frequent cause of musculoskeletal chest pain.

No one is exactly sure whether it is true costochondritis or why it occurs with FMS. If the hypothesis of inflammation of the fascia is accurate, that may explain it. Also, the fibromyalgia tender points just beneath the collar bone 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 FMS, is going on.

Costochondritis Symptoms

Pain in the chest wall and rib cage is the chief symptom of costochondritis. Generally, it will get worse with activity or exercise. Taking a deep breath can also cause more pain because it stretches the inflamed cartilage. Sneezing and coughing can increase pain as well.

The pain can radiate to your shoulder and arms as well (This is another way in which the condition mimics a heart attack.).

Sometimes, the pain is accompanied by redness and/or swelling in the most painful areas. When that’s the case, it’s called Tietze’s Syndrome.

Diagnosing Costochondritis

Your doctor can diagnose costochondritis by pressing on the area where the ribs and breast bone come together. If it’s tender and sore there, costochondritis is the most likely cause of pain.

Doctors generally will perform other tests to rule out heart problems and other causes of pain before making a diagnosis.

Costochondritis Treatment vs. Fibromyalgia Treatment

You can treat costochondritis the way you’d treat any inflammation—ice and anti-inflammatory drugs, including Aleve (naproxen) and ibuprofen-based drugs such as Advil and Motrin.

This treatment sometimes runs counter to FMS treatments, which can include other types of pain relievers and heat. If you have both, you might find yourself with an ice pack on your chest and a heating pad on your back at the same time.

Your doctor may recommend other types of treatment as well, including physical therapy or acupuncture.

Be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist about any possible interactions between anti-inflammatories and your other medications.

Living With Both Conditions

It’s bad enough to live with one source of chronic pain. The more you heap on, the more pain you’ll have and the more it can impact your life.

Fortunately, costochondritis is fairly easy and inexpensive to treat, and managing it will keep it from exacerbating your FMS symptoms.

What Should You Do When Chest Pain Hits?

Costochondritis can get worse when you cough, take deep breaths, or move around. You may need to rest more and give yourself a break until the pain subsides. If it becomes unmanageable, seek medical attention to ask about alternative forms of treatment.It’s important to seek medical attention right away if you experience pain or discomfort in your chest. There are other conditions that could cause this type of pain, including problems with your heart or gallbladder. Once those more serious alternatives are ruled out, and you know that there is no life-altering reason for your pain, you can treat the discomfort through cold compresses or the breathing exercise I describe in the last paragraph of this article. This will be similar to how you may treat the symptoms of a fibromyalgia flare-up that are not life-threatening.


Ayloo A, Cvengros T, Marella S. Evaluation and treatment of musculoskeletal chest pain.Primary care.2013 Dec;40(4):863-87.

Flowers, LK. “Costochondritis” eMedicine. Aug 9, 2007.

Haviland MG, Banta JE, Przekop P. Fibromyalgia: prevalence, course, and co-morbidities in hospitalized patients in the United States, 1999-2007.Clinical and experimental rheumatology. 2011 Nov-Dec;29(6 Suppl 69):S79-87.



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