Fibromyalgia and chest pain: What is normal, symptoms, and treatment

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition. A person will often experience pain, tenderness, and stiffness in many muscles, connective tissues, bones, and joints. While symptoms differ among people, many report intense, sharp, or stabbing pain in the chest and ribcage.

When fibromyalgia causes inflammation of the cartilage that joins the upper ribs to the breastbone, it results in a condition called costochondritis.

The resulting pain may be confused with heart-related pain. As always, a correct diagnosis is essential.

In this article, we look at what kinds of chest pain are normally associated with fibromyalgia. We also describe treatment options.

Is it normal?

Fibromyalgia and chest pain in person holding their chest.

 

Fibromyalgia may cause pain throughout the body, including the chest.

People with fibromyalgia tend to have chronic pain, stiffness, and tenderness that radiates throughout the body. Although it was once considered a noninflammatory illness, research from 2017 suggests that fibromyalgia causes widespread inflammation that is not detected by routine blood tests.

If fibromyalgia-related inflammation affects the cartilage that connects the upper ribs to the breastbone, this can result in costochondritis.

Fibromyalgia can also cause inflammation, pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms anywhere in the chest.

What does fibromyalgia chest pain feel like?

When first experiencing costochondritis or painful or restrictive chest symptoms associated with fibromyalgia, many worry that something is wrong with their lungs or that they are having a heart attack.

People tend to describe the pain as:

  • stabbing
  • burning
  • aching
  • confined to one spot, usually in the very center of the chest, but it may radiate outward

Symptoms of fibromyalgia chest pain

The severity of symptoms will generally depend on the extent of inflammation. This is true for symptoms of costochondritis and chest-related fibromyalgia symptoms.

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The pain described above may:

  • worsen with movement, deep breathing, or pressure
  • come and go
  • improve with shallow, steady breathing and rest
  • begin in one place and radiate outward, impacting a larger area
  • worsen when stretching, bending, or twisting

Pain caused by costochondritis may be felt either in the center of the chest or anywhere along the cartilage that runs between the sternum, or breastbone, and the ribs.

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Author: Dr James Robber

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