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, today, into mid-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 The information about COPD is often hopelessly inaccurate (old and outdated, perhaps?).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