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

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.


Robert M. Bennett, MD, FRCP, FACP, MACR is Professor of Medicine and Nursing at Oregon Health and Science University [1] (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 [2]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.