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Date of last update: 10/15/2017.

Forum Name: Gastroenterology Topics

Question: Powerful muscle spasms and swollen feeling behind ribs

 echocrushed - Tue Apr 17, 2007 2:12 am

I am a 34 year old female, I have been having health problems off and on for many years, and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue last year, however the diagnosis is under some debate between doctors.

I am currently taking one flexerall nightly to help me relax my muscles so I can sleep, in addition to one zoloft nighly for anxiety.

I have been experiencing worsening symptoms this last few months in my upper abdominal region, just below my ribs.

Since I was a very young child I have experienced what I called contractions, if you have ever been pregnant they feel very similar to braxton hicks as they are coming on as they peak I have some sort of involuntary muscle contraction, it is hard to describe... something like "the urge to push" but I can't stop myself from doing it, they just take over... after one or two, with extreme concentration I can eventually deny the urge and it slows then stops.

I can't tell exactly WHAT is contracting, it seems to be somwhere around my diaphragm/stomach/colon but I can feel the clenching in both my upper and lower abdominal region so it's very hard to pinpoint. Most of the pressure resides in the middle right below my ribs. If I place my hand just below my breastbone when I have one I can feel the muscle there harden, and the worst of the pain seems to originate there.

When I was a child I only had these feelings on rare ocassions, now I have them nightly, and sometimes more than once a night. They are much stronger than before, and harder to make stop. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night because the contractions are coming on and I can't stop them.

They always start when I am at rest, usually just before falling asleep as my body begins to fall into a relaxation state. Lately (since about December) they don't just happen when I am going to sleep, sometimes they even happen in a car or other situation where I am relaxed.

I feel bloated almost constantly. About the time they became nightly I also began having my restless legs more frequently and experiencing "swollen ribs", at first I thought my ribs were swelling...

I can feel it in both sides, but it seems to be stronger on my left side. It is difficult to sit up or put any pressure on my ribs, laying down at night I have to be careful to tuck a pillow underneath my side to keep from putting too much weight on either side.

I have talked to numerous doctors, but none of them seem to take it seriously. One told me to lose weight and get a better bra, another said he thought it was a floating rib, and one thought it was my spleen swelling against my ribs. He ordered an ultrasound a few weeks ago and they said my spleen was normal. I've been to 7 or 8 doctors in the last year for my fibromyalgia, and none of them have helped with this.

These "contractions" are becoming quite painful, and my muscles there just feel constantly fatigued, like they are just exhausted from the near nightly workout.

Since the doctors don't know what it is I have researched heavily, and have found possibilities but none of them explain the wide range of symptoms in that one area.

Does anyone have any ideas? The pain and "swollen" feeling are driving me crazy, I'm still seeing doctors but was hoping someone had some ideas I could pass on... we are all at a loss here.

PS. The only tests they've actually done for this is the ultra sound of my spleen. I've had dozens of blood workups and tests for the fibro, and am having a nerve conduction test for my numb hand next week... any test recommendations?
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Mon Apr 23, 2007 10:56 pm

User avatar I can't pinpoint any thing specifically that would be cuasing your problems but you may have a condition in the category of myotonic problems.

You may also have a seizure disorder that is causing the contractions of the muscles.

You may want to see a neurologist for further evaluation. This may help get you a firm diagnosis.

Best wishes.
 echocrushed - Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:14 pm

It's getting worse, and I am having trouble getting a doctor to listen. I did ask my neurologist when I was in for my nerve conduction test (carpal tunnel) and he said he wouldn't have any idea about what I am describing.

The muscle contractions are getting stronger, and last night I woke up at least five times having them. I don't think I took my muscle relaxer last night, because I was so tired I fell asleep at 8, and didn't wake up until 1 this afternoon.

So maybe my muscle relaxers ARE helping it, even though I still have them they are not as bad as they were last night.

I just have a "funny" feeling today, like I feel the muscles trying to contract, but since I'm awake I'm holding it back... if I start to relax they come back again...

Could they be related to my PTSD? Or the fact that my body has always been tense, I can't relax without forcing myself to.
 echocrushed - Sat Apr 28, 2007 3:50 pm

I was just thinking, Last year when I first got sick my doctors were positive it was MS, the inability to walk etc. and the doctor said that she was sure it was neurological because of the accompnying vertigo, loss of balance etc.

However an MRI showed no brain lesions, and they said that ruled out MS...

I have been steadily getting better, I have full use of my limbs again, though still a bit weak (I can't stand for long periods) I can walk without assistance of a cane now.

Several people have mentioned myoclonus dystonia, and it does sound similar, only my muscle contractions aren't rapid... they last for a few seconds at least. Prior to the muscle contraction I have that creepy crawly sensation (like false labor felt) and the only thing that brings relief from the creepy crawly is to let it contract... but then the muscle gets fatigued.

As I was searching these muscle contractions I kept coming across MS again, I show so many of the symptoms I am wondering if my MRI was the only test that could have been done, and since it was a year ago, maybe another one could be done.

I don't want to have MS or anything else for that matter... I'm just tired of always feeling like this. It sure would be nice to have an answer.
 Dr. Chan Lowe - Sun Apr 29, 2007 6:52 pm

User avatar Absolutely your PTSD or anxiety can worsen your muscle symptoms. Anxiety tends to cause muscles to tense up which, I suspect, will only worsen your condition.

MS is an interesting thought. Generally the diagnosis is made by finding several lesions in the brain and spinal cord separated by space and time.

There are a few othe tests that can be done to help look for MS including a lumbar puncture to look for oligoclonal bands. These tests are not usually the method of diagnosis but can be helpful in difficult cases.

Best wishes.
 echocrushed - Wed May 02, 2007 3:00 am

Thank you for your response... I was warned when my mystery illness first appeared that it could take years to find a real cause.

They said my MRI was clear last year, and did not suggest another at that point. They've done a lot for me at our small clinic, but they can only do so much. I believe we started with Thyroid because of the fatigue, they did lupus, arthritis, B12 deficency, I can't even remember all of them anymore...

I did go on a "Drama free" diet last year... and I've stuck to it pretty well. When my Mom, my best friend, or anyone else known for bringing Drama into my life calls... I politely tell them I am now Drama free... and when my ex husband wants to talk, any hint of drama and I end the conversation...

I have to admit, the drama free diet is excellent for stress... you can't always avoid it of course, but I've found that in most cases people who are seeking drama quickly find another way to approach me. *Grin* maybe it will continue to work and I can be cured totally...

still the feeling of having been kicked in the ribs constantly isn't fun, and the funny little contractions have gotten worse, so I guess I'll keep looking... maybe it's Drama withdrawls???? LOL

Anyways... thank you for your time and attention, and all I can do is keep looking and keep trying to make healthy lifestyle changes, eventually something has got to work.

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