Costochondritis, a cause of chest pain in fibromyalgia

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Although it is a symptom of Fibromyalgia that is almost not talked about, chest pain is quite frequent among patients with this disease, and the main cause that has been associated with this problem is Costochondritis.

Costochondritis is the inflammation of the cartilage that joins the ribs with the sternum, as you can see in the following image:

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The  symptoms of Costochondritis  often scare the sufferer, because they resemble heart problems. People with Costochondritis usually have pain in the chest and ribs with the following characteristics:

  • It is perceived as sharp, stabbing or burning on the front and upper chest (similar to that felt during a heart attack
  • Tends to get worse with exertion, deep breathing or sneezing
  • Decreases with rest and slow breathing
  • It causes sensitivity to the touch and burning in the ribs
  • It can radiate to the back of the neck, shoulders and upper abdomen
  • It usually feels on the left side of the chest and fewer occasions on the right side or on both sides
  • It can appear and disappear, some days it will feel better and others, worse
  • Causes difficulty moving the upper body
  • It usually affects the 2nd to the 5th rib, although it is also common for the 6th rib
  • Some people describe it “as if they were sticking a knife” or “as if they had a broken rib”

Costochondritis is also associated with other secondary symptoms such as:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Shortness of breath or shortness of breath (which causes people to bend their backs, because their chest hurts when they breathe)

When the pain is accompanied with swelling and redness in the most painful areas it is called  Tietze syndrome , which is not the same as Costochondritis.

If you have one or more of these symptoms, it is best to go to the doctor immediately, because although the disease is common, you should never assume that your chest pain is due to Costochondritis, it could really be a heart problem such as  Prolapse Syndrome of the Mitral Valve,  which usually causes chest pain, dizziness, fatigue, panic attacks, sensation of perceiving the heartbeat and difficulty in breathing.

Costochondritis is considered one of the most common causes of chest pain in the general population. And, although it can be extremely painful, it is considered a benign disease, as it is not life threatening, in fact most people can recover completely after a few months and even a few days.

Despite this, for some patients,  Costochondritis can become a chronic problem, which seems to be especially frequent in people with Fibromyalgia.


Screen capture 2013-08-23 at 17.20.46To date, it is not known exactly what is the relationship between the two diseases. No one can say with certainty that one causes the appearance of the other, since it is known that Fibromyalgia does not cause inflammation and Costochondritis itself is an inflammatory condition.

Doctors are not sure why Fibromyalgia makes people more prone to Costochondritis; the only thing that is known is that the first worsens the pain of the second, a possible explanation for this effect, can be explained by the sensitive points that lie beneath the clavicle; Researchers believe that these points make the pain in the chest worse and last longer than normal.

It is also known that both conditions are often caused by trauma, and this may be the most likely cause of their joint appearance.


We reiterate: if you feel any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should go to your doctor to make the correct diagnosis and discard any other condition that may be related to the heart (remember that Fibromyalgia brings with it various ailments).

Once you know what you have is Costochondritis, you can treat it the same way you would treat any inflammation (with ice, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.)

Any decision that you are going to make with regard to your health, always consult your doctor  as the application of cold / heat, and some medications may go against your Fibromyalgia treatment.

If the inconveniences are very strong,  we recommend you to follow the following tips:

  • Avoid stress and rest enough to reduce the effects of both conditions
  • Avoid activities that may cause tension and aggravate the painful area
  • Try to apply ice packs or moist heat, or alternate them for no more than 20 minutes at a time.
  • Receive a massage to help loosen the sore muscles of the neck and shoulders.
  • Take a warm bath at key times, such as before going to sleep to relax the muscles

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