Exploring the Connection Between Fibromyalgia and Costochondritis

Exploring the Connection Between Fibromyalgia and Costochondritis

Through the Fog
A few years ago when I went to the ER with chest pains. After running tests, it was was determined that my chest pains were not due to a heart problem. The chest pains most likely were caused by costochondritis, which was very painful. After that episode I did some research on costochondritis, and how it was connected to my fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS).

Costochondritis causes pain around the rib cage, where it connects to the breastbone. It’s considered to be non-cardiac, or musculoskeletal pain. It can be scary thinking that you’re having a heart attack. If you’re concerned about the chest pain you’re having, it’s always best to get it checked out immediately. Never take chances with your health.

Costochondritis can feel like stabbing or burning, or achy pain, depending on the degree of inflammation of the cartilage between the ribs and breastbone. It is not always related to FMS, but having FMS definitely can make it worse. Since being diagnosed many years ago, I’ve talked with hundreds of women who have FMS and have experienced this painful condition.

Ice and an anti-inflammatory drugs like Motrin or Advil can help with the pain, but be sure to check with your doctor to make sure whatever you choose will not interfere with the meds you are currently taking. Try to rest and relax. Costochondritis can be caused by an injury to the chest, or potentially from a persistent cough. Exercise, overuse of your arms, and chronic cough may exacerbate the pain.

The two ways that you typically would experience costochondritis pain with FMS would be an intense stabbing sensation that affects the left side of the chest wall more than the right; this is the one that can make you feel as if you’re experiencing a cardiac event. The other is a lingering soreness in the chest that feels worse with touch or pressure.

It’s been a while since I’ve experienced this, but when I do, I don’t panic, as I did the first time. As a woman in her 60s, I’m aware of the symptoms of a potential heart attack. I consider everything when I get chest pain. FMS has a lot of different co-morbid conditions associated with it, and costochondritis is just one of them.

Have you experienced costochondritis? Feel free to share your experience here, and share this column with those you feel might benefit from this information.

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Note: Fibromyalgia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Fibromyalgia News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to fibromyalgia.

43 comments

  1. Keney says:

    I have had fibro since about age 25. am now 81. anyway about 4 yrs ago I kept feeling more pain every day until I could no longer tolerate it. so at 1 am ended in ER. and was diagnosed as . TOTAL SKELATOL INFLAMMATION. A SHOT HELPED IMMEDIATELY.

    • Jane says:

      I am so glad to read this article. I was taken to hospital a few weeks ago. The doctors thought i was having heart attack. It was the 2 conditions combined. I’ve had both about 20 yrs. I’m 56 and it doesn’t get easier. The worst thing in England is still the lack of knowledge, and support. Your just expected to get on with life. Thanx guys. God bless.

    • Lisa says:

      Could you share what kind of shot you received. I am trying to get my mom some relief but as of yet have not found the answer or right doctor.

  2. Heather says:

    I’m 34 and have had Fibro since I was 20. I was diagnosed with Tieze Syndrome last year, which is just another name for chronic Costochondritis. It’s painful but laying down with my plush heating pad on my chest and motrin helps.

  3. Carrie Anton says:

    I had the same thing happen but the doctor thought I was having a heart attack. After a slew of expensive tests, they said I my heart was fine and had no idea what was going on with me. Thank you Robin for this timely and informative article 🙂 I’m glad to finally know what it was!

  4. Loraine says:

    Thank you for this article. I have had a persistent cough since before I was diagnosed 5 weeks ago. I have asthma but this is a different kind of cough. I have had the pain around the breast bone and across my ribs. I will be seeing my doctor in a couple of weeks and will ask her about this.

  5. Rebel Mom says:

    Ditto. Mine started after a rear end 08/16. Finally went to ER 11/16 and ruled out heart attack/lung issues, and determined I had myofascial pain syndrome on my chest wall and rib cage compounded by chest bone degradation and aggravated by fibromyalgia. “So what does all that mean? I asked the exiting nurse ….” “Not sure, would follow up with your pcp.” PCP said see my Rheumy who said “Hmmm…. we really don’t treat myofascial pain syndrome here but PCPs do typically….” “Ok, so I will just include my chest and rib cage pain as part of my fibro now then?” … Dismissive nod. Haha. Still have it.

  6. Grace from Australia says:

    Yes I have had this and did not understand it until you told me what it was Robin. I ended up in the hospital when it was so bad that I could not breathe normally anymore. The systems presented like a heart attack although I had the feeling there was nothing wrong with my heart. After spending a day at the hospital and having many tests done the doctor came and cheerfully told me that it was not the heart. She looked a bit surprised when I asked what was causing this tremendous pain and could not answer that question. It was as if that had not even come up in her thoughts. 🙁 However the tests did find out that I had thyroid nodules and an thickening oesophagus and also a growth on/in the liver. Have had further tests but nothing is done about it. Living with a constantly sore throat and symptoms that suggest there is something wrong with my thyroid. But…the blood tests say no problem so….nothing needs to be done. I give up!

  7. vivianne says:

    HI there, I have been diagnose with Fibromyalgia only 3 years ago, I am 67, but had a lot of this scary moment with costochondritis, every time I get this stubbing chest pain I go to my doctor, and every time he does an electro cardio gram and say…nothing wrong with your heart, well that is good, but I still go to Him every time, it is soo scary…..

  8. Cheryl Ranieri says:

    I have just recovered from my third attack of costrochondritis. I dread it coming back, it hurts so badly!! The first attack was the worst, it felt like an elephant was sitting on my chest! I rode it out..I couldn’t have gone to the Dr. anyway because I literally could not move, especially to get dressed! I looked up fibro chest pain and that’s when I discovered costrochondritis. Of course I felt relieved that it wasn’t a heart attack but I really should have been checked out by a professional. This last attack I did go to the Dr., had an EKG and a chest X-ray. Both were within normal limits. What was discovered is a silhouette around my heart ❤️ so I reckon I shouldn’t play around with it when it happens!
    Gosh I wish there was an answer and a cure for fibromyalgia, it’s difficult living like this!
    Maybe someday.

  9. Ren says:

    This is something I have struggled with for about 15 years. For the last five or so years, I seem to have a flare up every month, usually coinciding with hormonal cycles. I have found that if I sleep with an ice pack on my chest and take an NSAID every 4-6 hours, it helps. It hurts to try and wear a bra; any pressure or pinching exacerbates, so I have clothes that I can fudge not wearing supportive garments with, for those days. It takes a lot of playing around with things, to find what helps you get through these times. Some day, there will be amazing treatments, I have no doubt!!!

  10. Nancy says:

    I’m 43 with Fibromyalgia and scoliosis and have been experiencing the rib/breast bone ache on and off for a few years. I attributed it solely to scoliosis since my cardiology report looks clean but I will mention the article to my cardiologist. Thank you for the timely article!

  11. Mary Carrazza says:

    A virus left me with a terrible chest infection & cough which lasted over 3 weeks & triggered my first bout of Costochondritis. I had “clamp” like sensations and terrible pain front &
    back. Breathing was painful; couldn’t raise my arms – so no washing hair or wearing makeup. Showering & dressing was excruciating. Dr said other than Panadol Forte not much else could be done – but rest. This first bout took almost 8 weeks to go away (a little less painful & restrictive daily). I now suffer bouts of costochondritis every time I suffer from a “flare”. Not as long but always the pressure & pain front & back. Hate it.

  12. Bette Thomsen says:

    My hubby and I raced to the ER because I had severe chest pain and had difficulty breathing. (No ambulance available). Was taken in immediately, had all the appropriate tests, and was told “it’s just your FMS.” The nurse said” you people with Fibromyalgia just have to learn to deal with it and not come to the ER”. I was mortified as I am an RN, and Nurses are not supposed to give their opinions on cases. I have had FMS since childhood. I am now 78 and I am really sick of it but I am a happy person.

  13. Mindy says:

    I’ve not been “officially” diagnosed with fibromyalgia (10 out of 18 instead of 11 out of 18 pain point were activated), however, my amazing rheumatologist said, “close enough, we will treat it as such”. That was about 6 years ago. Last year about this time (early spring) I thought I was having a heart attack. I had so much pain on my left side and it wouldn’t go away. I went to the ER, they did a full cardio work up saying everything looked good and then began to drop hints of maybe a panic attack. I KNEW that was not the case (had those before and it was not even close).

    I followed up with my family doctor the next day and diagnosed Pleurisy. I had never heard of pleurisy so, of course, I dialed up G-O-O-G-L-E and sure enough it sounded just like what I experienced. I had had a chest injury a few weeks prior from falling down a flight of marble steps, which chest injury was a potential cause. I wonder if I had Concocronitis and not pleurisy? The descriptions and remedies sound so similar. Thanks for the article?

  14. Melissa says:

    This is a timely article. I’m going to my GP this coming week for peace of mind. If the pain was on the right side, I’d immediately assume it’s costochondritis but it’s on my left. I’ll request an EKG. I was diagnosed with Fibro in 2003, I was symptomatic for many years prior. As time goes on, I’m saddled with new or worsening symptoms and co-morbid ailments. Chest pain on my left side is the one that worries me (the chronic migraines, IBS and Raynauds aren’t pleasant but aren’t scary). A friend had pulmonary emboli which caused chest and back pain; my father had a heart attack. It would be shortsighted of me to not see my doctor.
    I do believe it’ll wind up being costochondritis. It hurts when I take a deep breath or when I lift something heavy. I should pay attention the next time I take Advil for a migraine to see if the chest pain improves as well.

    Thank you for writing about this topic. I bookmarked the page and will show it to my doctor during the appointment.

  15. Melissa says:

    Hi again – I saw my GP, had an EKG and my heart rate and blood pressure checked and then had a physical examination. I have costochondritis. I hate that I have yet another source of pain (I thought the nerve damage, Fibromyalgia and chronic intractable migraines were enough) but, I was very happy to have my heart ruled out as the source of this pain and to have received a diagnosis. I bookmarked your article and showed it to my GP. It helped facilitate the conversation. Thank you so much!

  16. Tania K Cowling says:

    I have chronic costo and fibro along with some asthma. When I get this rib ache it also affects my breathing as my chest feels tight and inflammed. Doctor says lungs are clear when I breathe. It’s miserable. Taking Tylenol (can’t take NSAIDS) and Tumeric for the pain. A daily dose of Zyrtec and expectorant. Anyone else feel the ache that affects the breathing mechanism!

    • Grace from Australia says:

      Yes Tania, that’s why I ended up checking things out in hospital the last time as it was the problem with breathing that made my husband want to have it checked out. Now I know! Btw, a physio actually told me that anti-histamine can help with (general) pain. Something to do with nerve endings. Your comment about Zyrtec reminded me of that. I once in a while take Polaramine at night for sleeping and know now that it has additional benefits.

  17. Sharon Tuck says:

    This will probably be a stupid question, but here goes- with the Costochondritis, which I have, with a severe cough (that’s not my asthma) but pain in sternum is horrid- I have suffered pain in my upper thoracic spine that’s left me bent & in tears- please, can you tell me this pain is an extension of the Costochonddritis?
    About 14 years ago, after a spinal injury, I had spinal surgery, replacing the 2 damaged discs with 2 titanium ones. I had to learn to walk properly again,& I withdrew from all pain meds, including 140mg per day Morphine. I fought my way back to be the mother & wife that a cruel accident tore me down. All that I have struggled with in my life, how can I not overcome this insidious syndrome? I cannot believe how cruel this is. Bad enough I was dealing with PTSD & then 2 years later, am told it’s just Fibromyalgia, comes & goes. Lately it’s been a permanent visitor. So, is there a name for my thoracic pain?

    • Melissa says:

      Sharon, I understand how upsetting it is to be hit by one thing after another and the emotional trauma that comes along with it. I can tell you from experience that the fear of not knowing what something is can build and build. Please see a good doctor so you’ll know for sure, to put your mind at rest. I’m sorry you’ve gone through so much.

  18. I had my first bout of costcondritis earlier this year. Breathtaking pain, literally, but on my RIGHT side, couldn’t raise my arms, couldn’t lift my little daughter, getting dressed was so painful. I went to both my general practicioner her in The States and my natural health bodyworker. My GP k ew what it was immediately and was saddened that she couldn’t do more but prescribe OTC pain meds. My bodyworker encouraged me deeply to modify my diet again. My first run-in with costo lasted 3 months with diminishing pain,now it flares mildly. I usually feel it when I sneeze or lay in bed on my back. Or, if the cat jumps up to snuggle. What has worked for this and other stuff has been diet modification. Mind you, I haven’t been diagnosed with FMS yet and probably won’t be.

    What I modify is what I don’t eat. I don’t eat any dairy. I might sneak a bite of cheese and I put whole cream in my coffee but I don’t drink the crappy industrial milk here in the US. Raw milk is illegal. I also don’t eat grains. No wheat products, no rice, oats, corn (its a grass, not a veggie), no barley, no quinoa (whatever that is), none. No beer or alcohol, even though I know some are veggie derived. I watch my use of condiments because gluten can be in them.
    I’ve not been diagnosed with Celiac disease but I don’t think that is the only grain intolerance thing out there. I don’t eat grains or dairy and I have very little inflammation related problems. My depression lifts, my body doesn’t ache, my mind is clear. My GP doesn’t feel that this is the problem, the grains, doesn’t think my food choices could do this but I say, “if high cholesterol and diabetes are food choice related dis-ease, why not this?”

    What do you have to lose besides the pain and inflammation, and possibly a few pounds (or stones)?

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