Fibromyalgia sufferers often report that they have trouble breathing or taking deep breathes. Combined with the many other fibromyalgia symptoms commonly experienced, like chronic headaches having a hard time breathing is just one more thing you don’t want to deal with.
But why can it be difficult for fibromyalgia patients to breathe and why does it affect your other symptoms? Learning the answers and how to alleviate breathing problems can help you breathe easy again.
Why You Have Difficulty Breathing
Studies have shown that shortness of breath, or feeling a strong need for more air, is common in fibromyalgia patients. A 2001 study in the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain found that 50% of FMS patients reported feeling short of breath, a condition called dyspnea.
Yet, the study also found that the volume of inhaled air was the same for the 35 female FMS sufferers and the 20 healthy controls participating in the study. This was true while the study participants were both exercising and at rest.
The authors speculated that the feeling of being out of breath despite having a normal amount of oxygen could be related to chest wall pain. However, there is no evidence to back this hypothesis up.
Another theory as to why FMS patients report perceiving a lack of breath when they are not actually experiencing one was put forward in a 1989 report that appeared in the Journal of Internal Medicine.
The report suggested that brain stem abnormalities could account for dyspnea. Again, there was little evidence to support the theory, however, a 2000 report published in Arthritis and Rheumatism reported documented low blood flow in the brain stem region of patients with fibromyalgia.
Another idea behind dyspnea is that it could result from a lack of thyroid hormone regulation. This results in weakness of the respiratory muscles, including the diaphragm and the phrenic nerves, which regulate the contractions of the diaphragm.
The nerves might not be sending strong enough signals to the diaphragm, impairing its ability to contract normally.
Chaotic breathing is one of the vicious cycles that fibromyalgia patients can experience. There are reports claiming that more than 50% of patients with fibromyalgia experience disordered breathing patterns.