Chest Pain with CPAP

by Sue
(M. Aurora, il)

My husband has used the cpap machine for 4 months and is getting sleep results with it, but ever since he started using it he will wake up after about 6-7 hrs sleep with extreme pain under his diaphragm and in his back.


The doctor doesn't seem to know why. He has decreased the pressure - with no results.

Do you know why and how to fix this problem? He is sleeping more, but with this pain upon waking, it is getting him down.

Answer


The chest pain from using CPAP is a mystery for many doctors, especially for those without experience. Sometimes a patient with CPAP chest pain needs to visit different types of doctors (pulmonary doctor, rheumatologist, cardiologist) to discover if there is a chest infection, or heart problems.

So it's very important to understand that any unexplained chest pain should be checked out by doctors.

Note: Unexplained means anything that is not related with stretched muscles from physical exercises or something similar.

Now, let's assume for a moment that your husband doesn't have medical problems (heart problems, infections, fybromialgia, etc.) then he clearly is not comfortable with the CPAP pressure.

By the way, you didn't say how high is the CPAP pressure. Is it over 15?

There are 2 reasons why a person may have CPAP chest pain:

  1. one reason is the high pressure, when your husband is probably breathing more deeply because of it. This can stretch the chest muscles more than they are used to being stretched.

    Stretching the chest muscles can cause chest pain, and this pain usually disappear in max 8 weeks of CPAP use.

  2. the second reason is that your husband sleeps now much better than before using CPAP, so he may not be moving around as much in his sleep anymore.

    This can put additional strains to his back, but he will probably get used to the strains in a couple of weeks.

Solution to CPAP Chest Pain


If your husband has problems with the CPAP pressure, a good solution is to lower the value to an acceptable pressure.

I know that his doctor already lowered the air pressure, but maybe is not enough. There is a solution to this, but it may be expensive:

  • it's possible to combine the CPAP with a sleep apnea dental device, which will dramatically lower the CPAP pressure without losing the benefits of the treatment.


  • The dental device is a mouthpiece that fits over the upper and lower teeth, holding the lower jaw slightly forward. This will keep the soft palate and tongue from falling back into your throat when you sleep, preventing snoring and sleep apnea episodes.

    So, a lot of mechanical work will be taken by the dental device, thus allowing the CPAP to do his job at a much lower pressure.

    Note: To use a dental device combined with CPAP, a nasal pillow or nasal mask will be needed.

  • you could try a sleep apnea dental device instead of CPAP. In this case, there is no air pressure, and no uncomfortable CPAP mask, hose, or CPAP machine. It should be much more comfortable.

  • there are some special functions on expensive CPAP machines, which help exhaling easier when you sleep with CPAP. These functions are EPR (on ResMed CPAP machines) and C-Flex (on Respironics CPAP machines). Check if these functions are enabled.

  • using a BiPAP machine can help the patients with high pressure, because the pressure drops through the whole exhalatory phase. It's not constant pressure like in CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure).

  • the final option is to work the chest muscles through breathing exercises and they will get use to it.

Other articles that can be interesting for you:

I hope it helps. Don't be afraid to comment back.

Remy Thierry
Founder of Sleep Apnea Guide


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