It's a Pain
Shortness of breath is one of the most common symptoms of COPD. Many people who have COPD feel like their chest is so tight that they just can’t breathe. They might do a lot of coughing. On those days that I struggle with my COPD, my breathing, as well as allergies and pain. I question myself with how anyone could cope with these physical struggles, as intense as they are. T-shirts with a snap fleece cardigan is my favorite to wear, along with sweat pants or something loose. Loose from head to toe most days. My COPD takes credit for much of the pain and discomfort. Yet fibromyalgia and arthritis are often my primary pain conditions, however, COPD does it’s share.
COPD is not only about breathing
Some people think that COPD is only about breathing. It can affect more than your lungs. Some say that their lungs hurt because of COPD. I had a pulmonologist tell me that lungs do not feel pain. That they don’t feel. With things I have read, there is nothing said about lungs experiencing pain. Usually, I see talk about a tight chest, mucus, wheezing, and pneumonia.
My doctor told me that I was experiencing referred pain, where the pain from pneumonia may feel like it’s the lung hurting, but in actuality, it’s pneumonia. I get severe and burning chest pain when walking up stairs, carrying things, walking at a quicker pace and cleaning, even with a mask on. Sometimes it feels like a stabbing pain. I remember getting that same pain when I was a teen, when I ran as fast as I could, which wasn’t very fast or long. But I loved to run. My mom said she thought there was a possibility that I had some respiratory problems in younger days. Asthma? I wasn’t diagnosed with asthma, actually exercise-induced asthma until 2007. That fits a lot of things that I have experienced, but with the COPD diagnosis, things began making sense too.
Ok I’m getting off track. We’re talking about pain.
Have you ever heard people say “I felt better and wasn’t this sick when I smoked”? I heard it and likely said it myself. There was a pain with cold turkey withdrawals, I felt like I had the flu. I had chest pains.
For 2 days I had such intense pain in the center of my chest through my back. I finally went to the ER. They thought I was having a heart attack, so they put me in ICU. The next day, with more testing, it was decided that I had Gastroesophageal reflux disease which is also known as GERD. Another word for GERD is reflux. My reflux that mimicked cardiac pain and ulcers that caused pain and irritation from stomach to throat.
Pain from rib cramping
Rib cramping is one that I’ve heard of but hadn’t a clue what it was until it happened to me. Then there was no question what was happening. That cramping was like the spasms I frequently get with my back spasms. These have brought tears to my eyes. I stretch and add a warm wash rag or heating pad across the ribs and it somewhat helps. Do ask your doctor for his/her recommendations. What is the actual cause? This is something I should ask my doctor about.
So many talk about pain under their ribs, and how it could be tied to their COPD. There’s a possibility it’s gallbladder, or something else. I had gallbladder and it felt like a balloon blowing my ribs up and out. That was horrible. Do check with your doctor, suggestions and ideas from others may help you see various things that could be causing your pain. Only your doctor can diagnose your pain. I know that’s who I called right away. If it is gallbladder you may have to have it removed. Or, it maybe something else. Only your doctor or ER physician would have the answers for you.
Pain from mouth sores
Mouth sores sometimes happen because of your oral medications, some can cause a yeast infection, which is a fungal infection called Candida or thrush. Advair is a known culprit and there are others, so do check your other oral medications. Other causes are antibiotics, chemo, steroids, dry mouth and even cigarettes. Antibiotics have always been the worst for me anyway. I usually get vaginal yeast infection from these.
When I get the oral yeast infection or thrush, the first things I see are reddish and whitish spots in the back of my throat. As it progresses, I see a whitish, yellowish coating over my tongue, and more patches on the inside of my cheeks and lips. These can cause pain as well. Oral hygiene is so important before you have oral health issues and during this spell of thrush. This is brushing and using mouthwash. Be sure to change your toothbrush often. Plain, unflavored yogurt or yogurt with lactobacilli has bacteria that can help you get rid of your yeast. If your yeast infection progresses, do see your doctor for a prescription. You don’t want this to go down the back of your throat and beyond. Did you know that thrush can be contagious?
Pain from coughing
Coughing can cause such pain too. When you cough, put a pillow or something similar across your abdomen and ribs, to prevent muscle tears and broken ribs. Some people might be more prone to injured ribs. Osteoporosis might cause this weakening, however, it can happen to anyone.
Edema is often told to be caused by Pulmonary Hypertension (PAH) which causes the arteries from your heart to your lungs to narrow. This makes it difficult for blood to flow from your heart to your lungs. Without this regular blood flow, your lungs don’t receive enough oxygen. This puts extra strain on your heart, which makes it harder to pump blood to your lungs.1
My pain story
This is some of my pain story. I’m sure that you have one too. This story can all fall into my COPD story because the pain does affect my COPD. You see, pain can affect breathing, as can some of the medications that you are taking. Make sure that your pulmonologist and your other doctors are aware of all medications and the things that you experience. Keep a diary, it’s easy to forget things when you finally get in to see your doctor.
One thing I will say, COPD isn’t for sissies. Breathe easy.
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?