Discussions By Condition: I cannot get a diagnosis.

Like a giant rubber band squeezing my ribcage

Posted In: I cannot get a diagnosis. 33 Replies
  • Posted By: firefly646
  • March 8, 2008
  • 03:42 AM

Like so many on this forum, I have fought a mysterious ribcage/back/chest pain for the last year. It feels like a giant, thick, tight rubber band is squeezing me around my ribcage. I frequently feel short of breath, but I was a college track runner and marathoner in top form before this started.

The main symptoms include a constant "tight" feeling, shortness of breath, tingly and stabbing sensations in my entire ribcage, breast pain, immobility, and muscle spasms. Oddly, my upper body almost always feels cold and tingly, even when the rest of my body is warm. Also, I have woken up in the morning with bruises on my chest, exactly where the pain is the worst. My theory is that the "tight" feeling was so bad in my sleep, that I was rubbing my chest, desperately trying to loosen it somehow, and bruised myself accidently. But who knows?

The first doctor told me I have asthma, and gave me an inhaler. It made no difference. I saw a second doctor, who X-rayed me and gave me blood tests, all of which came back fine. She concluded it was my Lat muscles being injured, and gave me physical therapy, muscle relaxers and NSAIDS. These help relieve pain in the short term a bit, but doesn't fix the source of the problem.

Otherwise, I am in good shape. I've made my desk ergonomic, started therapuetic yoga, and gotten cracked my my chiro... but the problem is still there.

Help! How can I get back to my normal life without the "rubber band"?

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33 Replies:

  • I feel that you are being exposed to a pollutant. I had to leave Phoenix for cleaner air. I don't think people are suppose to breathe grey air. When you go out of town, do you feel better? I think there is something in your environment that you are reacting to--the air, your car exhaust, mold in your house or maybe something as simple as a pilot light out on the stove and small amounts of gas. You will need to track it down or, like me, move.
    Monsterlove 2,921 Replies Flag this Response
  • Go to a GI ASAP and get an upper endoscopy possibly for starters... need to rule out ulcers, hiatel hernia, gastro-paresis, gallbladder, liver problems. You are on or have been on NSAIDS so getting an endoscopy could show how healthy your stomach lining is; NSAIDs thin the stomach lining. I think now some drs give another medicine along with the NSAIDS to help protect your stomach lining as you take them. Maybe Zantac? It could be gastritis or an ulcer... so get this checked out by a GI dr asap. Can you stop the NSAIDS? Thats where I would start out... then look into the possible neurological symtoms. Links:http://wrongdiagnosis.com/medical/gastritis.htmhttp://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/gastritis/ Like so many on this forum, I have fought a mysterious ribcage/back/chest pain for the last year. It feels like a giant, thick, tight rubber band is squeezing me around my ribcage. I frequently feel short of breath, but I was a college track runner and marathoner in top form before this started. The main symptoms include a constant "tight" feeling, shortness of breath, tingly and stabbing sensations in my entire ribcage, breast pain, immobility, and muscle spasms. Oddly, my upper body almost always feels cold and tingly, even when the rest of my body is warm. Also, I have woken up in the morning with bruises on my chest, exactly where the pain is the worst. My theory is that the "tight" feeling was so bad in my sleep, that I was rubbing my chest, desperately trying to loosen it somehow, and bruised myself accidently. But who knows? The first doctor told me I have asthma, and gave me an inhaler. It made no difference. I saw a second doctor, who X-rayed me and gave me blood tests, all of which came back fine. She concluded it was my Lat muscles being injured, and gave me physical therapy, muscle relaxers and NSAIDS. These help relieve pain in the short term a bit, but doesn't fix the source of the problem. Otherwise, I am in good shape. I've made my desk ergonomic, started therapuetic yoga, and gotten cracked my my chiro... but the problem is still there. Help! How can I get back to my normal life without the "rubber band"?
    TaylorDeelwithit 382 Replies Flag this Response
  • Look into gastritis, ulcers. more links.... http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&ie=UTF-8&rls=GWYA,GWYA:2006-23,GWYA:en&q=Gastritis Like so many on this forum, I have fought a mysterious ribcage/back/chest pain for the last year. It feels like a giant, thick, tight rubber band is squeezing me around my ribcage. I frequently feel short of breath, but I was a college track runner and marathoner in top form before this started. The main symptoms include a constant "tight" feeling, shortness of breath, tingly and stabbing sensations in my entire ribcage, breast pain, immobility, and muscle spasms. Oddly, my upper body almost always feels cold and tingly, even when the rest of my body is warm. Also, I have woken up in the morning with bruises on my chest, exactly where the pain is the worst. My theory is that the "tight" feeling was so bad in my sleep, that I was rubbing my chest, desperately trying to loosen it somehow, and bruised myself accidently. But who knows? The first doctor told me I have asthma, and gave me an inhaler. It made no difference. I saw a second doctor, who X-rayed me and gave me blood tests, all of which came back fine. She concluded it was my Lat muscles being injured, and gave me physical therapy, muscle relaxers and NSAIDS. These help relieve pain in the short term a bit, but doesn't fix the source of the problem. Otherwise, I am in good shape. I've made my desk ergonomic, started therapuetic yoga, and gotten cracked my my chiro... but the problem is still there. Help! How can I get back to my normal life without the "rubber band"?
    TaylorDeelwithit 382 Replies Flag this Response
  • Take a laxative for a week and see what happens. It could be constipation, because a lot of people complain of upper abdominal pain and tons of doctors visits with no answers. Probably because you need to detox and cleanse your system. And even if it doesn't help, it will still be really good for your body to rid of all that waste...then it can concentrate hopefully more on your current issue.
    k333ly 59 Replies Flag this Response
  • seriously, I would add I have the same thing, but I also have what is called Tarlov Cyst. You should know if you are constipated and if that is the only meds you are on you have no reason to detox. May want an MRI.
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I had the same exact symptoms and it took a third gastro doctor to use an ultra soundto diagnose a stone caught in my main bile duct. I have to tell you the same symptoms occured 3 years earlier, which was my gallbldder. They removed it but unaware that a stone slipped thru and layed there until it was diagnosed. You must insist on a procedure called an ERCP. They sent a tube down your throat all the way until they can see blockage, if there is they take care of it right then, if there isn't, then certain things are ruled out.Just one last note. They did not catch my stone on an ct scan or the ultrasound the 1st time. You need a really good technician and doctor. Good luck, I know what your going thru.
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I think I know what you're talking about. Over the years I've had it where the right side just under my rib cage starts to tighten and then can go extreme. Sometimes I can stop it right away by raising both my arms up in the air, stretching to stand real tall, while breathing in slowly to break loose the stitch under my rib and try stretching some more and breathing even deeper to pull it out. It really hurts. Then I exhale very very slowly, because sometimes it can escelate and tighten like a strap pulling even tighter as I exhale which makes it harder each time to inhale. There are times it has taken me out for several hours almost crippling me into a knotted ball...........very painful!!! The pain of the tightening keeps clamping the muscle under the rib cage and has at times traveled up to my shoulder and to my back. By this time any movement is pain unexplainable, you can't talk or move, only pant with very short breaths, barely breathing, because every breath hurts and every exhale tightens. You can't imagine the pain. I was really surprised one day when my son started experiencing the same thing. I had read some where about something similiar and it had to do with a lack of vitimans and or electrolytes. Muscles can cramp when you're low on electrolytes. So it's still really a mystery, so I just do my exercise before it gets out of hand and take it easy. I've wondered if a muscle relaxer or warm bath might help. However, I don't think I would want to get stuck in a water situation all crumpled over???
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I also had a tightening around my ribcage. mine however was just below the ribcage and felt the same way as you do. I found out that I have food intolerence to wheat and soya. Since I have cut out wheat and soya, I feel a lot better. You may have food allergies or intolerence to some foods. I think that I went through every test known to man, and one day I ate my own banana cake, and got very ill right after. I knew then it must be some kind of food intolerence. Try it for a week and cut out wheat in your diet,and see if you feel better. I had to play around with certain foods and do alot of illiminating, but then you will find out what you are allergic to and you will feel much better. Good luck!
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
  • Hi Fire, I'm new on here, this is my first time but saw your post and just had to add one more thought to what might be happening to you. I developed a lot of the same symptoms you've described here after an abdominal surgery back in '93, but I've since found that's just one way to develope it. I have what they call " paralyzed diaphragm" from intercostal nerve damaged from the surgery and have since developed COPD ( asthma for me) from not being able to open my lungs enough to keep them clear. It's the same feeling you've described, the giant rubber band squeezing your ribcage and I can't get it to let go to take a deep breath. the stabbing, the sternum pain, immobility, while I don't have the external bruising it feels as if my whole ribcage is bruised, hot and sore, especially after lying down. I really hope this isn't what's happen to you, in any way, as it can be disabling, like having to breath with only a portion of your lungs, but just thought I'd bring this to you as a possibility as it took 4 years for me to get an answer to what was wrong. I get injections every 3 months on the lumps in between the ribs where the nerves are located which help for a while but that's all I've found that helps. Lots of luck, Katb
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
  • Thanks everyone for your replies, I know this has been a while since I originally posted. Do you think it could be GI related, when I'm not having any digestive problems at all?"Who knows" - Your description is very close to the way mine is. I have found a warm bath to be BAD for the situation. I thought it would help, but in actuality, my ribcage muscles are so weak that with the weight of he water pressure around my body, they are not even strong enough to push my breath in an out. I think that is a really bad sign."Katb" - I agree that it sounds very similar to what you have. I think the fact that my ribcage can't even expand while under water kind of points us in this direction. What kind of specialist do you see? Do you recommend any resources for this?Thanks.
    firefly646 8 Replies Flag this Response
  • Hi Firefly, I just received notice of you're reply at my email addy, I was hoping you'd found some kind of relief by now. I'm sorry to hear you're still having to deal with this. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like after being a runner like you have. I've reread your original post and the replies you've gotten and I know you're desperate to find some answers, I had to work it out by myself, looking it all up and getting the info then taking it to the Dr to ask if this is what ( the paralized diaphram part, they knew about the nerve damage) it could be. He was good enough to check into it for me and found it was right, I thought about charging him but decided against it. :) There is something else that I wanted to mention to you, it's considered fairly common (sure doesn't feel like it though) and thought I might let you know about it, it would explain a lot of what's happening to you. It's called costalchondritis, meaning the muscles around your ribcage are inflamed and can feel like a heart attack if around that area. While it's considered benign the pain and problems it can cause are anything but benign. Here's a link to a page of other links that might help out, if it looks like what you are dealing with be sure and ask your Dr. http://www.webmd.com/search/search_results/web_results.aspx?sourceType=web_search&query=costalcondritis I do hope you can find out what this is and get better, my heart goes out to you. Take good care, honey. Katb
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
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  • Hello again. I wish I were here to post that I have miraculously recovered from this ailment, but unfortunately I am only getting worse. It didn't previously wake me up in the night, but now I wake up feeling like I've been stabbed.I thought I would share my updates: just completed a second round of physical therapy, which did not make it any better or worse. Also, just got the results of a spinal MRI: everything looks absolutely perfect. According to the MRI, there is no evidence of nerve damage (but sure FEELS like there is!) or inflammation (ditto!), no disc problems, no fractures, no spinal cord problems, no tumors, no lesions, nothing. The next thing to try is trigger point injections. If these fail, the doctor is convinced the problem is not musculoskeletal in nature. As some of you have mentioned, he suggested possibly a GI problem. I will probably set myself up to see a GI specialist soon. Although, still no digestive problems. It doesn't matter what I eat, as far as I can tell.SOOO here's my plan. Since the healthcare professionals are being extremely not proactive with my dilemma, I will compile a list of every possible thing I can think of to cause this, and weed it down. Here are a few, although I do plan to expand this this extensively. Feel free to offer your opinions too:1.) Musculoskeletal: some kind of muscle strain that refuses to heal that can not be shown in the MRI?costochondritis - although wouldn't the inflammation show up on the MRI?2.) GI related:Ulcer of some sort?Celiac Disease?Sensitivity to some other food?3.) Tropical Disease - I did some travelling in remote parts of tropical third world countries, up until about a year before symptoms started. Maybe I picked up some bizarre disease or tapeworm (eww) that lay dormant for a while? (although I'm not losing weight, no fever or anything)4.) Internal Organs - Who knows, there could be something wrong with lungs, heart, kidneys, liver, etc.?5.) Endocrine/hormonal etc. - Thyroid disease does run in my family, although not sure how this would be directly related.Addison's disease - rare, yes, but I mention it because it is known to cause muscle pain and weakness, low blood pressure, and salt cravings, among other things. I have very low blood pressure and strong salt cravings - I eat olives or pickles even for breakfast often, because I feel like I must have something salty or I will perish. Also, I was placed on a steroid a while ago, for an unrelated cough, and for a couple of days while taking it, I was like "hey my ribs feel improved!" My doctor didn't seem to think this was vital information.6.) Connective Tissue- I'm by no means an expert in this area, but could the connective tissue around my ribs just be somehow messed up?7.) Neurological - I know the spine MRI was clean, but could there be nerve damage that doesn't show up in an MRI?One thing I know for sure: this is not just in my head, and it is not just normal aches and pains. My gut instinct is practically screaming at me: something is very wrong. I've come to trust myself when it comes to strong gut instincts that I can't shake. Thanks for any help!Hi Firefly, I just received notice of you're reply at my email addy, I was hoping you'd found some kind of relief by now. I'm sorry to hear you're still having to deal with this. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like after being a runner like you have. I've reread your original post and the replies you've gotten and I know you're desperate to find some answers, I had to work it out by myself, looking it all up and getting the info then taking it to the Dr to ask if this is what ( the paralized diaphram part, they knew about the nerve damage) it could be. He was good enough to check into it for me and found it was right, I thought about charging him but decided against it. :) There is something else that I wanted to mention to you, it's considered fairly common (sure doesn't feel like it though) and thought I might let you know about it, it would explain a lot of what's happening to you. It's called costalchondritis, meaning the muscles around your ribcage are inflamed and can feel like a heart attack if around that area. While it's considered benign the pain and problems it can cause are anything but benign. Here's a link to a page of other links that might help out, if it looks like what you are dealing with be sure and ask your Dr. http://www.webmd.com/search/search_results/web_results.aspx?sourceType=web_search&query=costalcondritis I do hope you can find out what this is and get better, my heart goes out to you. Take good care, honey. Katb
    firefly646 8 Replies
    • September 9, 2008
    • 03:09 AM
    • 0
    Flag this Response
  • Hmmm website keeps losing my replies. Hope it works this time. Anyway, I wish I was here to post that I am miraculously cured, but alas no, its getting worse. It didnt used to wake me up in the night but now it is.I wanted to share the following updates: I just completed my second round of physical therapy. It made no difference for the better or worse. I also got back results on a spinal MRI: completely normal. No evidence of nerve damage (although it feels like it!) or inflammation (ditto) or disc problems, fractures tumors, lesions, anything.At this point, we are going to try trigger point injections, If that doesn't help, doc thinks it is not musculoskeletal. Perhaps GI, as many of ou have suggested, although still no obvious GI problems... doesn't seem to matter what I eat.SOOO since my healthcare providers have been less than proactive, I have decided to make up a list of everything it could possibly be, and then weed the list down. Please feel free to send your suggestions too. 1.) Musculoskeletal - some kind of muscle strain that refuses to heal?Costochondritis? Although wouldn't evidence show up on MRI?2.) GI: Ulcers? Gastritis? Celiac Disease Intolerance for some kind of food?3.) Tropical Disease- I previously travelled in remote areas of tropical third world countries, up until about a year before symptoms started. Perhaps a bizarre tropical bug or tapeworm (eww) that lay dormant for a while? (although no weight loss or fevers)4.) Internal Organs- Who knows it could be some kind of liver, kidney, heart or lung thing for all I know.5.) Connective Tissue - Obviously no expert in this, but could it be some issue with connective tissue in ribs?6.) Hormonal etc.Thyroid disease runs in my family, but not sure how this would be directly related.Addison's disease - rare, yes, but I mention it because it is known to cause muscle pain and weakness, low blood pressure, and salt cravings. I have quite low blood pressure, and crave salt like its my job. I eat olives/pickles/capers for breakfast sometimes because I feel like I need salt asap. Also, I was put on oral steroids a while back for an unrelated cough and I noticed it made my ribs improve for the couple days I was on it. Doc didn't think this was significant.7.) Pain disorder - maybe its just a pain disorder, nothing else8.) Neurological - Maybe nerve damage that didn't show up on MRIAll I know is that it not in my head, and its not a normal ache and pain. My gut instinct is practically screaming at me that something is very wrong. And I've come to trust my gust instincts that I can't shake.Thanks for any help/Hi Firefly, I just received notice of you're reply at my email addy, I was hoping you'd found some kind of relief by now. I'm sorry to hear you're still having to deal with this. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like after being a runner like you have. I've reread your original post and the replies you've gotten and I know you're desperate to find some answers, I had to work it out by myself, looking it all up and getting the info then taking it to the Dr to ask if this is what ( the paralized diaphram part, they knew about the nerve damage) it could be. He was good enough to check into it for me and found it was right, I thought about charging him but decided against it. :) There is something else that I wanted to mention to you, it's considered fairly common (sure doesn't feel like it though) and thought I might let you know about it, it would explain a lot of what's happening to you. It's called costalchondritis, meaning the muscles around your ribcage are inflamed and can feel like a heart attack if around that area. While it's considered benign the pain and problems it can cause are anything but benign. Here's a link to a page of other links that might help out, if it looks like what you are dealing with be sure and ask your Dr. http://www.webmd.com/search/search_results/web_results.aspx?sourceType=web_search&query=costalcondritis I do hope you can find out what this is and get better, my heart goes out to you. Take good care, honey. Katb
    firefly646 8 Replies
    • September 9, 2008
    • 03:39 AM
    • 0
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  • Hello,I'm back. I wish I could say I'm better, but no such luck. Since my last post I've had the following tests:abdominal ultrasound: perfectly cleanbloodwork, including lyme & thyroid - all cleanchect and abdominal CT scan With contrast - also cleanGI evaluated my situation, doesn't think it's GI related.The problem is really annoying my breathing. I haven't had a break from the pain, and hoping for any new ideas or help...
    firefly646 8 Replies
    • November 18, 2008
    • 01:41 AM
    • 0
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  • I have experienced this for many years I found it to be mostly wheat but when i got sicker it was also gluten may be exasperated by dairy which caused spinal pain not a fun dilemma easiest way I found to rem was only sprouted whole grain no flour and cut dairy Be good to yourself others are sometimes callus and will serve you the painful foods anyway we must make the choice ourself pleasing others as not to make waves is not always the best choice remove ALL stress and get back to giving yourself time for YOU ALSO a good sign of not digesting flours is white heads and chicken neck skin
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies
    • February 20, 2009
    • 09:23 PM
    • 0
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  • costochondritis?
    rad-skw 1,605 Replies
    • February 21, 2009
    • 09:56 AM
    • 0
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  • Sorry if this has been covered already but your symptoms jumped out at me..Costochondritis.................Have you ever had a HIDA SCAN ? this picked up Costochondritis for me and I can very much relate to your description.
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies
    • February 21, 2009
    • 11:46 AM
    • 0
    Flag this Response
  • You're going to hate this response, but I think you may be having panic attacks (not "you may JUST be having panic attacks"---panic attacks are very serious!) My panic attacks are often unprovoked and feel almost exactly the same way, though I tend to describe it as "my ribs are digging into my lungs". I was treated very effectively with a simple SSRI.
    MissPickwickian 15 Replies
    • February 21, 2009
    • 07:17 PM
    • 0
    Flag this Response
  • I understand exactly what you are going through. Here lately last at night is when I have my pain. It starts in my back and then it wraps around to under my breast, right up above my rib cage. I have tried and tried many thing to ease the pain. Hot showers, different meds, changing eating habits. Nothing works. It doesn't happen all the time, but more frequently than ever before. If you have any suggestions about what I can do about this pain please let me know. I would love to get this problem resolved.
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
  • I've suffered from panic attacks quite badly and wasn't necessarily shaken up about anything when they would happen. I couldn't breathe and sometimes couldnt even partially breath in and have to hold my my breath, stretching my arms up sometimes helped but still it interrupted my schooling. I felt the tight rubber band feeling around my chest also, I suspected it may have been my bra or bra straps and had to wear a light singlet under my garments for years in replacement.I've since cut wheat and diary and the cramps improved alot, i took up yoga which helped because i felt like i was gaining my strength in my chest and also helped improve my sleeping, no waking up with chest pains. I also experienced chest bruising like other have mentioned however I have a bleeding disorder so may not be related.The most effective thing I have tried is a psychologist, I believe my brain was sending my body false signals into a fight or flight mode and once i became concious of this connection I have fully fixed my problem. I've learnt to train myself not to let the chest pains occur anymore simply by recognising that the painful sensations such as you speak of is a false message from my brain. I truly believe this is a mind over matter situation, but what ever works for you I hope you overcome it as it's a terrible feeling. Good luck.
    Anonymous 42,789 Replies Flag this Response
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