Can fibromyalgia cause shortness of breath?

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Written By Dr. Carlos Roberto Babá

MD, PhD. Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation Physician from São Paulo - Brazil. Pain Fellowship in University of São Paulo.

This article explores the connection between these two conditions while offering helpful strategies for managing this symptom.


Coping with fibromyalgia can be exhausting due to its many symptoms, such as widespread musculoskeletal pain and fatigue. In addition to these challenges, some individuals also experience shortness of breath, which can further complicate daily life activities.

Fibromyalgia and Shortness of Breath: Examining the Connection

Although shortness of breath is not a typical symptom of fibromyalgia, many people have reported experiencing it.

Studies suggest that there could be several underlying causes for this occurrence, including conditions such as anxiety or depression. Dyspnea or shortness of breath is a common issue that affects many people with fibromyalgia.

Not only can it be a distressing symptom, but also potentially debilitating. So how does fibromyalgia contribute to this problem?

Let’s weigh in on some potential causes.

The Impact of Pain on Breathing

One possible explanation for the link between fibromyalgia and shortness of breath is pain’s impact on respiratory muscles and nerves. Chronic pain can lead to muscle tension or strain surrounding the lungs, causing breathing difficulties.

Furthermore, trying not to worsen the discomfort might involuntarily lead individuals with fibromyalgia to take shallow breaths.

Autonomic Dysfunction and Respiratory Difficulties

It is also possible that autonomic dysfunction could be responsible for dyspnea among people living with fibromyalgia.

This vital bodily system controls several involuntary functions like breathing regularly; however, this chronic condition may affect its balance, resulting in heart rate fluctuations, changes in blood pressure, and respiratory abnormalities.

Strategies for Managing Dyspnea

Living with dyspnea as someone who has fibromyalgia may appear insurmountable at times, but here are some helpful tips you could try:

Are you looking for relief from shortness of breath? These strategies can provide extra support:

  • Practice deep breathing exercises such as diaphragmatic or pursed lip breathing techniques until you feel more relaxed and under control.
  • Stay active with low-impact exercise options like walking, swimming, or yoga to strengthen your respiratory system and improve overall lung function.
  • Reduce muscle tension and stress with mindfulness exercises like meditation or progressive muscle relaxation to ease feelings of anxiety that may trigger shortness of breath.
  • Consult with a healthcare professional about medication options, especially if there is an underlying condition causing the symptom.
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M.D. Orthopaedic Pain Management - University of São Paulo

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