People suffering from fibromyalgia know all too well the daily struggle with pain. As a widespread pain syndrome, fibromyalgia can also cause other symptoms, like digestive upset and “fibro fog.” In some cases, there are separate comorbid syndromes that often occur in conjunction with fibromyalgia. This is the case with costochondritis and fibromyalgia. Here’s what you need to know about fibromyalgia chest pain.

Can fibromyalgia cause chest pain? 

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that causes widespread pain throughout the body, often without any definitive root cause. Many symptoms resemble arthritis pain but involve soft tissue, not joints.

There is no known cause of fibromyalgia, but there are risk factors.

  • Gender: Women are more likely to have fibromyalgia than men. An estimated 80-90% of fibromyalgia sufferers are women.
  • Pre-existing conditions: People with autoimmune disorders like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis have higher rates of fibromyalgia.
  • Traumatic injury: For some, the pain of traumatic injury becomes chronic or spreads, leading to a fibromyalgia diagnosis.

Fibromyalgia symptoms go well beyond its characteristic widespread aches and can include the following:

  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating (known as “fibro fog”)
  • Headaches
  • Pain and stiffness in the jaw
  • Pain or fatigue in the muscles of the face
  • Poor or irregular sleep
  • Tingling or numbness in the extremities
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sensitivity to temperature
  • Digestive issues, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Fatigue
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Pelvic pain and urinary problems
  • Dizziness

Other possible symptoms include weight gain, skin problems, and breathing problems.

Another common symptom of fibromyalgia that can be more than just a symptom is chest pain. Because overall pain and tightness is characteristic of fibromyalgia, many people don’t realize that fibromyalgia chest pain may, in fact, be costochondritis.

What is costochondritis?

Costochondritis is inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to the breastbone. This cartilage allows the ribs to expand and open when you take a deep breath.

Since this constriction occurs in the center of the chest, costochondritis can be a frightening condition for people already suffering from fibromyalgia. Many sufferers report pain that feels like burning, aching, or stabbing. The level of pain depends on the level of inflammation in the cartilage.

Although exact causes of this syndrome are also not clear, there are three potential causes:

  1. Chest trauma: Car accidents or falls are the most common cause of chest trauma that can lead to costochondritis
  2. Overuse: Inflammation of the cartilage may result if that area of the body is used repetitively or incorrectly
  3. Viral infections: Upper respiratory infections in particular can cause costochondritis

So how are costochondritis and fibromyalgia connected? The answer to that is not completely clear. As cartilage is a type of fascia, and fibromyalgia occurs with inflamed fascia, it makes sense that costochondritis could follow. In fact, what is called “non-specific chest pain” is the most common symptom in patients hospitalized with fibromyalgia.

Another link is between costochondritis and fibromyalgia tender points. One of these 18 pairs of points is nestled just below the collarbone. Pain here is one of the diagnostic tools for fibromyalgia. Perhaps more mysterious is the fact that people can have costochondritis without fibromyalgia, but if left untreated this condition can lead to a widespread pain diagnosis.

What does costochondritis and fibromyalgia feel like?

Costochondritis and fibromyalgia share some common symptoms. Characteristic chest wall pain is possible in both conditions, as is pain that radiates down both arms.

This may be where the similarities end. Fibromyalgia pain sometimes flares up or goes into remission seemingly randomly, but specific actions increase the pain of costochondritis. Physical activity and exercise irritate the inflamed cartilage. Even something as simple as taking a deep breath can cause intense pain. Sneezing, coughing, or laughing can also cause pain.

People with fibromyalgia chest pain might also experience tight