Guess what? I was lucky enough to experience a new symptom (for me, at least!)
It seems, or so the emergency room doctor tells me, that it is very common in FM sufferers to feel intense pain in your ribcage and chest. This aching and stabbing pain can really impact on your enjoyment of life – says she who just spent 6 hours in the emergency room.
Supposedly, chest pain in FM is usually nothing to worry about, but occasionally it can indicate other problems. AND we are always told not to ignore chest pains – so when a stitch in my side spread under my right boobie and into the middle of my chest, while driving in the car with Mommy, it was: ‘umm, I think we need to go to the hospital.’
This chest pain 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 (and my Mommy and I!); however, costochondiritis rarely causes any physical complications.
Costochondritis affects about 60% to 70% of us. 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. This problem is not restricted to just us; it can also affect those who don’t have FM 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.
Costochondritis affects the junction between the ribs and the chest bone (the sternum). Seven 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.
The pain felt like a knife stabbing between my ribs, until it waned and just started aching whenever I moved. I have been told that this pain can wax and wane: some days it will be worse, while other days it will be much better. The sharp pain caused by costochondritis generally begins in the chest. This pain can then radiate outwards, attacking the shoulders, neck, and upper abdomen – Great! Something to look forward to in the morning! Costochondritis pain can last for long periods of time and chronic costochondritis is not uncommon. However, most pain should be gone within 6 months to a year from the onset of symptoms – WTF!!!!
To date, the specific causes of costochondritis are unknown (again?), though researchers do believe that a variety of factors could play a role in the development of the illness.
- Repetitive Activity: Repetitive activity, like sitting at a desk or leaning forward over a computer for long periods of time often puts stress on the muscles in the chest, may exacerbate pain in the chest area. We already have hypersensitive muscles, and this repetitive activity can cause costochondritis.
- Fibromyalgia Tender Points
- Myofascial Pain
- Infection: Rarely, costochondritis can be caused by upper respiratory tract infections or non-allergic rhinitis. These conditions can cause long periods of repetitive coughing. This coughing can stress and strain the cartilage that connects the ribs with the sternum, causing constant chest pains.
Costochondritis can exacerbate your symptoms; in particular, FM often inhibits your ability to participate in certain activities or sit in certain positions for long periods. Because costochondritis causes such intense chest pain, it often makes sleeping difficult or impossible, causing disordered sleeping and insomnia. Costochondritis disability is not uncommon, especially in fibromyalgia.
It is important that if you are experiencing any type of chest pain that you immediately consult a physician in order to correctly diagnose the nature of the pain.