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Chest Pain and Spondylitis

Posted on November 11, 2019

Do you frequently experience chest pain with spondylitis? You’re not alone. Chest pain is a common complication of spondylitis. Members of MySpondylitisTeam describe it as a “crushing,” “stabbing,” or “searing” feeling in their chests that can be mistaken for a heart attack.

“Mine feels like a heavy weight on my chest, and deep breathing causes coughing,” explained one member. “It feels [like a] wire brush scrubbing the inside my chest,” lamented one woman. “I felt like I was being stabbed with a dull screwdriver,” shared another member on MySpondylitisTeam.

What Causes Spondylitis Chest Pain?
The most frequently cited cause of chest pain among members of MySpondylitisTeam is costochondritis. This occurs when inflammation and scar tissue build up in the joints connecting ribs and breastbone, making it hard to breathe or move.

One man with “terrible chest pain” and difficulty “breathing deeply” said, “It turned out my sternum and ribs were inflamed, causing costochondritis.” Added another: “I've had a pretty bad case of costochondritis for the last few days. It's tough to cough, sneeze, and breathe deeply. Starting to affect my sleep.”

Because it mimics angina (heart disease) or pleurisy (lung disease), costochondritis often sends members of MySpondylitisTeam to the emergency room (ER).

One woman sped to the ER with chest pain and tingling in her arm. Another went when her breathing became labored. One man even “ended up in cardiac care at a hospital for three days. They went in through my groin, looked at my heart, and did a stress test. All because of the chest pain.”

Some MySpondylitisTeam members never receive a diagnosis. “I’ve had chest pains for years that feel like a hot knife through your chest when you breathe,” said one member. “Doctors don’t know what it is or why. Sucks big time!” Added another: “They never identified why I have chest pains and it’s hard to breathe.”

If you’re experiencing chest pain, see your doctor immediately – or visit the ER - to rule out a more serious condition.

Treatments for Spondylitis Chest Pain
Deep breathing exercises: The first line of defense for keeping ribs flexible, and breathing muscles in good condition, these exercises are important for long-term pain management. But they can be difficult for members of MySpondylitisTeam with decreased movement in their chests.

“My ribs are fused, and I only have 0.8 cm chest expansion," shared one member. Another, who says his chest is “fully frozen and doesn’t get much movement” relies on “belly breaths” for exercise. “I still have lots of pain, and with a frozen rib cage, it’s easy to break bones,” he explained.

Exercise. A spondylitis exercise program is often recommended to improve posture and flexibility, and reduce pain. Exercise under the guidance of a physical therapist may also be helpful.

Yoga helped one member get moving. “I have to modify some of the moves,” she said. “I also take restorative yoga and it’s a perfect fit!”

Medication. To alleviate chest pain, members take a variety of prescription and over-the-counter medications including corticosteroids and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Aspirin, Advil (Ibuprofen) and Aleve (Naproxen).

Other pain-relief options include:

  • Applying heat to stiff joints and tight muscles to reduce pain and soreness.
  • Applying cold to inflamed areas to reduce swelling and muscle inflammation.
  • Gentle massage of the neck and shoulder area.
  • Hot baths and showers.

Always consult with your doctor before starting new breathing exercises, physical activity, and medications.

On MySpondylitisTeam, the social network and online support group for those living with spondylitis and other types of spondylitis, members talk about a range of personal experiences and struggles including coping with chest pain.

Here are some conversations about staying active:

Can you relate? Have another topic you'd like to discuss or explore? Go to MySpondylitisTeam today and start the conversation. You'll be surprised how many others share similar stories.

A MySpondylitisTeam Member said:

I have had what I call "frozen ribs" for a couple of years. I actually fell a week ago Saturday, playing tennis, and it has been very painful. I am… read more

posted 20 days ago

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