Costco-con-itis?

Guess what? I was lucky enough to experience a new symptom (for me, at least!)

8907It 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.

largeCostochondritis 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.

stabbing_pain_in_chestThe 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.

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14 Comments

  1. I had the same problem once and it lasted almost 2 months. Doctors treated me with antibiotics thinking I had pneumonia! When the drugs didn’t work they told me I had Costrochonditis. This was 15 yrs before I was diagnosed with Fibro. It’s a very painful condition. Thank goodness it has never happened to me again. I remember being so difficult to sleep.

    • i THINKS ITS TERRIBLE WHEN DOCTORS DONT EVEN EDUCATE THEMSELFS ON THIS DISEASE…ITS SAD WHEN THE PATIENT HAS TO DO ALL THE WORK…I TOO HAVE HAD THIS AND THOUGHT I WAS HAVING A HEART ATTACK WAS RUSHED TO THE HOSPITAL AND THEY COULDNT FIND ANYTHING…WALKED OUT FEELING CRUSHED …LITERALLY…..AND IT NOW COMES AT TIMES THAT CATCH ME OFF GUARD…I HATE FM SOOOO MUCH….I WILL PRAY FOR ALL OF US….TAKE CARE

  2. I’ve had this off and on for years. We couldn’t figure it out. Been it the hospital for possible heart problems. After $60,000 in heart tests, they knew it wasn’t my heart, but they had no idea what the problem was. I was the one who finally read online about costrochonditis and mentioned it to my rheumatologist. Then he said, “Oh yeah, you probably have that!”

  3. That information is very helpful!! For me because I have had thise pains in the past and the doctors could never figure aanything out. But more importantly For my daughter!! Who does not have FM. She is and has had pain exactly as you described for almost 7 weeks and the doctors can’t figure out what it is! She is being treated for cysts on her ovaries because that’s a possibility AND she is being treated by a GI specialist because that is also a possibility! Well, now I’m going to call our FP again and ask about this….I’m sure they will say it too is a possibility! Thanks so much for the information!!!

  4. Thank you for the detailed information. I have had it before, but never knew it was related to Fibro. It is very painful, and sleep was a challenge as I could just not get comfortable

  5. Was diagnosed with this when I was 18, I tried to get out of a chair and couldn’t because the pain. It was like my entire torso was trapped and took the breath right out of me! It scared me so much I had my mom take me to the doctor. He diagnosed it from there. All he said was if it happened again, to take ibuprofen for the pain. Looking back now, I realize that it was the first symptom of my fibro.

    • That’s what started it. I was visiting my old boss and tried to get up from a chair – thought it was just a stitch. I also got told to take ibuprofen – but I really want whatever it was (something with a long name) they injected into me at the hospital. Pain went away immediately (although it did come back).

  6. I’ve had this off and on since having FM for 37 years. In fact I had it a mth ago and had to have osteopathic manipulation from my Dr. After He did this I could breath better and it was tolerable for the rest of the duration. He said if it happened again I should get a .Cortisone shot, ouch not looking forward to that in the future. Hope this info helps. In 37 yrs I’ve experienced several health issues because of FM. I hope none of you have to wait that long or more before a cure is found. It sure has been a rough life. Blessings

  7. Thank you Everybody, for sharing all your information with me. It makes it less scary now – although I’m not looking forward to this being a recurring occurrence!

    • With this do you get knots on your rib cage? I do and they are very painful and this describes a lot of what I have. But not only does my ribs hurt they feel like someone is ripping something stuck to them off on top of all the sharp stabbing pain.

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  9. Was wondering if anyone feels side stitch pain after the rib pain. I have a very tender spot in left rib right where my bra hits. Tenderness along sternum and pinching stitch like pains in my lower left side.

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