Costochondritis and Fibromyalgia

What is fibromyalgia?

Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread, constant muscular and skeletal pain throughout the body. It can give rise to extreme fatigue and tiredness, sleep issues, mood problems, memory weakness (sometimes called “brain fog”), headaches, and make you feel tired all the time. While symptoms may vary from person to person, Fibromyalgia can also cause chest pain which is often described as a sharp, stabbing and burning sensation. It can cause your chest to feel tight or knotted, creating further breathing issues.

What is costochondritis?

Costochondritis is a form of chest pain that occurs due to inflammation of the area where your ribs join the cartilage that is attached to the sternum. It usually resolves on its own and doesn’t typically require any special treatment. While many people with costochondritis initially believe they are having a heart attack, it’s not a life-threatening issue and can happen in both adults as well as children. 

Symptoms of fibromyalgia

Symptoms vary for everyone, but these are some common indicators that show you might have fibromyalgia.

One of the most common symptoms is costochondritis, due to the inflammation in the cartilage caused by fibromyalgia. If you have sharp pain throughout your body and especially feel burning and sharp sensations in the chest area in addition to other symptoms, then it could be a sign that you have fibromyalgia. 

Other symptoms may include:

  • Widespread pain that occurs in both sections of your body, both above and below your waist.
  • Feeling tired all the time, even though you get proper sleep you still feel restless and exhausted.
  • Cognitive disorders such as not being able to focus properly and both short and long-term memory issues.

Diagnosis of fibromyalgia chest pain

To diagnose this condition, doctors put pressure on 18 different pressure points throughout your body to see if they hurt. These pressure points extend from lower parts of your knees to the back of your head.

After checking these pressure points, symptoms including presence of sharp pain in the chest (costochondritis) which further extends to your shoulders and arms, alongside other disorders such as fatigue, sleep trouble, and cognitive symptoms can be used to diagnose fibromyalgia in a person.

The connection between costochondritis and fibromyalgia:

As both of these conditions are similar in their nature, costochondritis and fibromyalgia are connected with each other. It is estimated that 60-70% of people who have Fibromyalgia have symptoms very similar to costochondritis. While costochondritis is a minor injury and can resolve within two to three months but if your pain doesn’t subside with time it could indicate that you’re dealing with something else such as fibromyalgia.

Treatments for fibromyalgia

While doctors are still working for finding the best cures for fibromyalgia, here are some ways that the condition can be treated:

  • Medications, as prescribed by a doctor, can provide relief for soothing pain in your body. 
  • Applying heating pads for 20-minute intervals on chest joints and areas where you feel pain.
  • Avoiding foods that cause inflammation such as red meat, spicy foods or drugs like alcohol.
  • Engaging in mindfulness techniques and taking slow deep breaths to relax your body.
  • Take care of your mental and emotional health. Relax as much as possible, get proper sleep and stay well-nourished and hydrated. Remind yourself that the pain will decrease with time.
  • Gentle stretching for your chest joints, muscles, and ligaments for comfort.
  • Therapies such as chiropractic, massage, physiotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help decrease mental as well as physical pain. 

Treatments for fibromyalgia are fairly similar to treatments for costochondritis and other inflammatory conditions, and are focused on relieving painful symptoms as well as trying to attack the root cause.

If you are experiencing new chest pain, it’s best to see your physician immediately and continue to follow up if symptoms continue. Be sure to speak with your physician before trying any new treatment. It can be difficult to live with chronic pain, so take care of yourself.

Have you been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, costochondritis, or both? Please feel free to leave a comment below with your experience.

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