Pain in COPD….

Recently I’ve been suffering greatly from previously transient COPD symptoms becoming permanent – specifically, pain, often severe, in the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs), either on lying down or after a night hour in bed. This can persist for several hours after rising or, as with today, into the afternoon.

Searching the Internet for a cause, I kept getting answers from Google Books popping up, and I have to say that some of the books, which actually look as if they should hold accurate information, are pretty poor. The information about COPD is often hopelessly inaccurate (old and outdated, perhaps?).

The pain is a fairly normal feature in the progression of COPD  (I knew that, what I didn’t know was what it was called – I still don’t!), though why, in my case, it has come on so suddenly and severely I have no idea, and I need to get it investigated soon. Staying in bed for more than 6 or 7 hours seems to be the main trigger, so getting up earlier is one possible solution (with maybe a nap later in the day if necessary).

Actually, I can get by perfectly well on 6 or 7 hours sleep most days, but being up and active brings its own burden of pain, so there’s always a temptation to grab just a few minutes longer in bed – which can grow into a couple of hours, at which point this pain, which gets increasingly intolerable, drives me out of bed.

However, my conclusion is that, if you’re searching Google, especially Google Books, for accurate information about COPD, there’s a dearth of useful information. This book** appears to be very well researched and uses non-technical language – essential for many people – and I’d advise going straight there. Indeed, if you’re new to COPD you could do far worse than treat yourself to a copy. Just don’t look to it to cheer you up, it won’t, but I’m of the view that chronically-sick patients are entitled to all the information they can get, and actually have a duty to educate themselves about the nature, treatment and prognosis of whatever it is they have.

Knowledge really is power in this case, as if you can have an intelligent, informed dialogue with your doctor, you’re likely to get better treatment. It’s also worth bearing in mind, too, that GPs, by the very nature of their job, can’t be expected to have in-depth knowledge about everything – that’s what consultants are for. You, the patient, should have that in-depth knowledge – ignorance is not your friend.

A lot of websites I looked at, other than Google Books offerings, were also inaccurate, the opinion that COPD isn’t at all painful is very popular – and it’s wrong. Long before my asthma and bronchiectasis slid into COPD, with the development of emphysema and Cor Pulmonale, I would experience a great deal of chest pain.

Mostly it was some form of intercostal muscle pain, localised (intercostal ischemia), rather than generalised as it is now, and transient. Scary, too, at times, as it can feel like angina, especially if you’ve never experienced angina (once you have, there’s no possibility of confusion – angina is far worse).

One problem I’ve found with this pain is that many doctors are also of the opinion that COPD, or even pre-COPD conditions, aren’t painful (and for some they’re not), and you may need to get a little creative, or extremely persistent, to get adequate analgesia.

** COPD: Your Questions Answered,  By David M. G. Halpin

Update:- Regular anti-inflammatories, 500mg Naproxen after my evening meal, have got this under control, whatever the cause.

5 thoughts on “Pain in COPD….

  1. Hi,
    I wanted to pass along a tip for you about getting sleep and not waking in pain each morning. I’ve found that I can’t sleep without a mattress topper, (the temprapedic kind) that is at least 4 inches thick. I found mine at my local discount store and it has been well worth the price. Now I can get a full night sleep without being in pain.
    I have always had problems with my ribs and while I still persistant pain in my back and chest at times, at least now I can lay on my sides to sleep. Besides having COPD I also have rhuematoid arthritis, so the pain can get out of control. So I use my pain meds and rest on my bed till I can get control of the pain again and keep going for the rest of my day.
    I hope this tip helps you to finally get a restful night 🙂

    • Thanks, Brenda – I’m sure others will appreciate that too. Buying a new, orthopaedic, mattress is right at the top of my to-do list.

      And talking of pain meds, for years I’ve taken mine a couple of hours before I’m due to get up (along with my COPD meds), and then gone back to sleep again. Then, when I do get up, they’re already in my system and doing their thing. Makes a big difference. It’s particularly noticeable on Thursdays, the one day I have to be up early, within minutes of taking my meds. No fun at all.

      It’s worth mentioning, too, that I’m pretty sure than when it comes to thoracic pain, my bed wedge is a major contributor. However, unless I want ro risk inhaling my stomach contents every single night, not using it isn’t an option, unfortunately.


  2. Hi! I am soo sorry to hear mention of soo many others with the COPD and broncheoctesis( still learning how to spell it)…I found this site by typing in pain with COPD because I was officially diagnosed in 06 and have major problems which of course comes with the disease itself.. I expected the shortness of breath and had already experienced the coughing of blood..but I truly was NOT expecting the pain to stick around!!! I have found though that it does help like you said get out of bed earlier than I would like…and when I do arise around 5:30 I make sure to use my nebulizer.( also before bed) .not only does this help soo much to lessen the amount of infections I get (which are way too many to count)..but it really does help relieve some of the pain I am allergic to all nsaids so I have been very concerned about this…I know from experience that if I am in pain I do NOT breathe right and therefore have a copd exassperation or get a serious infection usually pnuemonia. Thank You so much for putting all this on really does help to know this is NOT in my head..but in my lungs!!! I truly have been thinking maybe I am just a big baby about all this!! But through it all I am trusting the LORD because I know he is in full control.
    thank you again for this page,
    Eccl. 3:1 ” To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

  3. I have been looking for a blog on copd for months but not find any where anyone had mentioned pain. I have met several people with copd and they tell me they have no pain. It really scared me as I hurt under my rib cage at the bottom of my left lung, and if I skip by symbicort it starts hurting at the top of my lung also. I have an appointment for a check up on my lungs as well as xrays the 29th. This is scary for me as I am easy to think the worst and I do try to stay positive. One more thing, I have so much trouble with pain I can’t sleep in my own bed, I will try a new mattress topper. Thanks to you all for you blogs.

  4. thank you at last found someone who talks plainly .i was diagnosed a year ago and to be honest i think if you have not got it you cannot comprehend. i also think doctors are feeling thier way at the moment try this try that.

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