Fibromyalgia and Chest Pain

Medically reviewed by Brenda B. Spriggs, MD, MPH, FACP on November 21, 2017Written by Kiara Anthony

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that causes chronic muscle and bone pain, tenderness, and fatigue. While symptoms vary from one person to the next, fibromyalgia pain can sometimes extend to the chest. This pain feels like an intense stabbing sensation primarily in the center of the chest, around the breastbone and rib cage.

Fibromyalgia chest pains can be a frightening and painful experience because the chest pain can mimic a heart attack. Your discomfort can vary depending on how active you are. If symptoms worsen, you should seek medical attention.

Pain locations and diagnosis

There are 18 different fibromyalgia pressure points. To properly diagnose this condition, doctors put pressure on these points located throughout your body to see if it hurts.

The pressure points are grouped in pairs that extend from the back of your head to the inner parts of your knees. On the chest, these pressure points touch the upper chest bone. However, you may experience pain on the left or right sides of the chest.

Fibromyalgia chest pain has also been referred to as costochondritis, a condition that inflames the cartilage connecting your ribs to your breastbone. Costochondritis mostly causes pain in the rib cage and upper breast bone. Tenderness and aching can also extend to the shoulders and arms.

If documented properly, these pressure points are extremely helpful as a diagnostic tool, when evaluated in combination with other functional disorders such as sleep disorders, fatigue, and cognitive symptoms.

What does fibromyalgia chest pain feel like?

Fibromyalgia is known to cause widespread pain extending throughout the body and sometimes the chest. These chest pains are often described as:

  • sharp
  • stabbing
  • intense
  • inflamed or burning sensation
  • mild ache or chronic
  • knotted
  • tight

This restrictive sensation can affect the respiratory system, making it difficult to breathe and causing shortness of breath.

Causes of fibromyalgia chest pain

The exact cause of fibromyalgia and its associated pain is unknown. Here are a few factors that may contribute to symptoms:

  • heredity
  • trauma or injury to the chest
  • infections that affect how the nervous system responds to pain, or heighten your sensitivities
  • low hormone levels — such as dopamine and serotonin — that prohibit communicating pain signals
  • inflammation from physical strain

Treating fibromyalgia chest pain

Treatment for fibromyalgia and accompanying chest pain focuses on reducing pain, minimizing symptoms, and incorporating self-care techniques. Not all treatments are effective for each symptom.

Pain relievers

Some over-the-counter medications — ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen, for example — can help to temporarily reduce pain. Depending on the severity of your discomfort, your doctor may prescribe a stronger painkiller.

Physical therapy

Exercises from therapy sessions can teach you how to build strength and stamina to deal with chronic pain symptoms.

Counseling

You can express your discomfort healthily through counseling sessions. Your counselor can teach you strategies to deal with your pain and psychological strains. They may also recommend meditation techniques to help you learn how to live and breathe past your pain.

Outlook

The chronic pain condition fibromyalgia can cause sharp, stabbing pain in your chest. Your doctors can properly diagnose this condition, but treatment options are limited because there is no known cause of fibromyalgia.

If you experience a sudden onset of sharp chest pain and tightness of breath, call 911 immediately.

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