Chest Pain and Fibromyalgia
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.
Costochondritis affects about 60% to 70% of fibromyalgia sufferers. Costochondritis in women is particularly common, especially in women between the ages of 20 and 40. Costochondritis rib pain can last for weeks and even months, and can reappear at different intervals throughout your illness. Costochondritis can also affect those who don’t have fibromyalgia and is often a result of chest trauma or exercise-related injury. In fact, it is thought that about 10% of the general population has costochondiritis.
Where does Costochondritis Hit?
Costochondritis affects the junction between the ribs and the chest bone, also called the sternum. 7 bits of cartilage attach your ribs to your sternum, and costochondiritis causes this cartilage to become inflamed and sore. If you have costochondiritis, you will be able to feel pain upon movement of your upper torso or when you touch your ribs. Most commonly, pain is felt on the left side of your chest, though chest pains on the right side, or even on both sides, can occur.
Any one of the 7 cartilage junction points can be affected by costochondiritis. 90% of people with costochondritis suffer from more than just 1 inflamed cartilage junction point. In severe costochondritis, all 7 cartilage junction points can be inflamed. This inflammation causes pain on the anterior (front) chest wall, which can be felt when you move and when you palpate your ribs. Typically, the second to fifth ribs are affected, though it is also common for the sixth rib to be affected.