At the beginning of the year (MLK day, to be exact) I developed a strange issue: Any kind of tight band around my chest (where like a bra is) creates a feeling of shortness of breath and pain at/below the bottom of the sternum (xyphoid process). When it first happened, I was wearing a tank top with a built in bra, and thought that it must have been a little too small, but it happens with everything. I can't wear tops like that unless they're too big, and I'm having a lot of trouble with bras now - I practically need to wear a bra that's too big (so it rides up) just to keep the pressure off my ribs/chest. It's awful. And once I've gotten to that point, it takes hours for that feeling to go away once I remove the top/bra/whatever. And it's seriously right in the middle of my chest, at the bottom of my sternum, right where the part of the bra between the two cups is. I spend the day trying to put my finger between my bra and chest to relieve the pressure. And it's not like these things are too tight! They fit really well, but I get that pain, and then feel short of breath and just really crummy all day long.
I don't have any kind of reflux issue. The only change (though not recent anymore) was a significant loss of weight, to the point where you can see my ribs if I breathe in enough. For some reason I lost all my weight in my chest/upper body, but my lower half is normal and my BMI is normal. I wear a 32C bra (gives an example of my chest/ribcage size). I have almost no muscle on my chest. Sometimes I think that may be a bit of the problem, but I can't seem to justify my pain with that alone. I do have a history of costochondritis, but again, this happens every time I wear something tight under my bust.
Any thoughts on what's going on? I had talked to my doc about this months ago, and his only thought (after spending a few days thinking it over) was to do "exposure training" and wear a top for a bit, then go a bit longer the next day to "build up a tolerance". However, now that it's starting with bras too, idk what to do about that! I bought new bras and now I'm stuck wearing the same 2 bras b/c they're the only ones that don't usually cause problems.
I'm at a total loss!
Greetings leelee28! I might head to the emergency room in case it is the heart. Of course it could be other things such as a pinched nerve, tissue inflammation of some type or chostochondritis etc. but the health professional should be the one to properly evaluate what it is in case it is serious. Of course everyone makes their own health care decisions. If desired I would be interested to know how things go. I might drink a good amount of water, 6.25 cups for every 100 pounds at least or more and if it is costochondritis personally I might try a heating pad. Peace, sjb
LeeLee, This is strange, but I do have some ideas for you. I think you may have costochondritis of the xyphoid cartildge causing the pain, and possible muscle weakness of the intercostal (between ribs) muscles and perhaps diaphragm causing the shortness of breath. This can be caused by inflammation of the muscles, and can go along with inflammation of the cartilage. To try to substantiate this, I would get a sed rate, CRP and CK done on your blood. These are tests your PCP could order. The levels can fluctuate so they may need to be done more than once, and get them done on a "bad" day, if you have those. The other test is a "sniff" test, done by pulmonolgists, that measure the movement of the diaphragm during inhaling quickly to check for weakness of diaphragm. If you have weakness in any muscles in extremities, an EMG might be helpful, but I would do the others first. You mention you have little muscle mass in your chest and weight loss there. That could be from muscle atrophy, which occurs in myositis. Myasthenia gravis is rare disorder, different than myositis, that effects the junction between nerves and muscles. That can be checked by testing antibodies to acetylcholine, a chemical messenger at the MN junction (blood test). That usually presents with drooping eyelids and muscle fatigue after use. If you think about it, a bra impairs both your intercostal muscles and diaphragm from moving, so increases the workload of both. You might try a sports type bra that is very stretchy or even the stick on cups that women wear for strapless attire. Good luck and please let us know what you find out.
Great ideas sjb and ladybud put out there. Here's one more: Digestive issue. Sometimes a tight band around the chest or abdomen can produce heartburn, which is sometimes felt there. Might that be the issue?
The Following User Says Thank You to janewhite1 For This Useful Post: sjb (08-27-2012)
I saw my doctor about this a number of months ago, closer to when it started. We just didn't know what to make of it, and the rest of my exam was fine, so he wasn't too concerned about it.
I do have a history of costochondritis, but I thought it was intermittent, not so chronic. I guess it could just be from irritation, but it still seems odd to me.
I had a ESR done in May, my result was 7mm/HR (normal is 0-20). I haven't had a CRP in over a year (normal), but in May I had a bunch of tests run for connective tissue diseases, including SLE and scleroderma, and everything came back negative. Over the past 1.5-2 yrs, I have had an ANA done 3 times (All negative). [All of these tests were done b/c of what has since been diagnosed as erythromelalgia. I also have chronic joint pain, but have been tested for RA multiple times over the past 3 yrs and it's never come back positive]
I've thought about GI, but I'm not sure I get heartburn. It does hurt right over the epigastrum (the soft tissue just below/inferior to the xyphoid).
Pressing on my xyphoid hurts. I just don't understand why. And then why that makes me feel short of breath. Sometimes I feel like I can feel by heart beat below that area (under the diaphragm) - and more than what one would typically expect. Part of me (or maybe a large majority of me) thinks I'm just paranoid. But since I deal with an overly sensitive sensory system, I notice things easily and then get worried quickly.
Thanks for the input! Any more is certainly welcome!!
If it hurts to press on the xyphoid, this is part of the chronic costochonditis, as there is cartidge surrounding the xyphoid, attaching it to the sternum and ribs. I would take an anti-inflammatory med and apply a heating pad internittently for relief, but be sure to eat with the med so not to upset stomach.
I have EXACTLY what you both have described. I have given up wearing bras altogether. I am only a "barely b" so I can get away with stretchy tank tops - I get symptoms even if those are too tight...
I would at least like a name for it, so I can throw it out there when confronted about my BRALESSNESS.
ANY information you can share about this would be appreciated!
The following user gives a hug of support to Xandyland: sjb (07-13-2013)
I also have this problem. I'm having it right now which made me find this forum. The pain radiates to my jaw just like with a heart attack. This has been going on for over 30 years. I have pectus carinatum also called pidgeon chest. It's not severe but my sternum definitely protrudes slightly in the middle. I've had EKGs, Chest Xrays, Echocardiograms .
I have mitral valve prolapse but no evidence of heart attack. I've come to believe that pain is heartburn / acid reflux. For sure wearing bras puts pressure , maybe on the aorta (?) which mimics the pain of a heart attack, or maybe pressure on the sphincter where the esoghagus meets the stomach.
I found very light wireless pullover bras that I buy a size larger, it's all I can tolerate. Even when I don't wear a bra... if I have caffeine, drink soda, OJ or alcohol .. the pain starts again and I start thinking I need to get to the ER but I've gone through it before so I just pray it will end. I take deep breaths , drink water and wait for it to end.
You must get checked out by a doctor but if all turns out okay - consider changing your diet to avoid caffeine, soda, alcohol, chocolate and fried food and see if that helps.
While I think the costo might be the cause, I will relate what happened with a friend who had the exact same symptoms. It turned out to be gallbladder! Strange but true. Didn't show up till she had a HIDA scan. Something to think about.
All great information! Thank you for posting! For me I resonate with the idea of the pressure on the sphincter where the esophagus meets the stomach. Also the worst times I've had it is when I've had alcohol. And it DOES mimic the feeling of a heart attack. Eating and drinking "clean" definitely helps - in all areas of our health.