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Ask the Doctor: Can fibromyalgia affect your breathing and lungs?

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Q: I was recently seen in the ER for pain in my shoulder and pain when breathing. After several work ups, the doctor stated that he felt it was due to my fibromyalgia. Can fibromyalgia affect your breathing and lungs?

Fibromyalgia does not affect the lungs. However, if a fibromyalgia patient becomes very deconditioned they will feel breathless on minimal exertion. Shoulder pain in fibromyalgia patients is usually due to active myofascial trigger points in the trapezius or associated muscles. Pain in the shoulder on breathing is sometimes a symptom of diaphragmatic irritation. It should be noted that fibromyalgia is associated with widespread pain not localized shoulder pain, so it is most unlikely that your shoulder pain is due to fibromyalgia.

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Robert M. Bennett, MD, FRCP, FACP, MACR is Professor of Medicine and Nursing at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Oregon. He is a past President of the International Myopain Society and the American College of Rheumatology Western Region, and has been on the Editorial Boards of Pain, Arthritis and Rheumatism and the Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain. In 2007 he was elected a Master of the American College of Rheumatology (MACR), in recognition of his contributions to rheumatology research and teaching.

Dr. Bennett and his colleagues at OHSU have been actively involved in fibromyalgia research since 1980. He founded the Fibromyalgia Information Foundation in 1995 and continues as their executive director and webmaster. Starting in 1971 Dr. Bennett has been a regular contributor to the rheumatology literature with over 500 articles, abstracts and book chapters. He holds three US patents (5,378,686, 5,965,520, and 7,132,399) for discoveries regarding growth hormone and the molecular characterization of cell surface DNA receptors.

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3 thoughts on “Ask the Doctor: Can fibromyalgia affect your breathing and lungs?”

  1. syeda1 says:

    I have suffered with fibromyalgia since 2009 roughly. i was in emergency due to not being able to breath or sneeze in summer 2010. it was like i rather die than having to sneeze or breath. its basically your muscles & ligaments get extremely weak, so when your diaphragm expands, the weak muscles either cause extreme pain or can even tear(for me i felt as though my rib bones were not intact anymore.) I have had muscle tearing in my arms & leg as well. it takes time for muscles to get stronger so breathing exercises are the best to get you started. best wishes

  2. SiSiRN says:

    I couldn’t agree more with Dr. Bennett’s statement. Trigger points that develop in the muscles between the ribs constrict lung expansion, and mimic symptoms of costochondritis, often misdiagnosed in FM. Trigger points are not due to FM, they are due to co-existing myofascial pain. Conditioning of these muscles can be accomplished with deep breathing exercises. Of course, a primary reason for lung incapacity or disease should be ruled out by the treating physician.

  3. Squirt says:

    I live in Oregon. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia in 1998 at age 53 and am now 70. Dr. Bennett gave a great answer to this patient’s question, noting how lack of movement for a fibro patient can cause severe pain wherever there are trigger points in the body. I have learned over the years that a fibro patient can live an active life with eating a whole food healthy diet, checking for any food allergy/ sensitivity then making the necessary changes, and doing water resistance exercises in a warm-water swimming pool to build a balanced muscle to fat ratio. To help with the pain and fatigue, you cannot find any better provider of supplements at such a fair price, as well as excellent quality, which is distinctly focused on Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue than ProHealth. My thanks and admiration goes warmly to Dr. Bennett and his Staff for all the years of their research efforts to identify these maladies as medical problems deserving medical answers and treatment!

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