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Laying down makes me cough, and I can't breathe!

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On October 12, I did a stupid thing. At age 54, in terrible physical shape, I deadlifted an 80 pound ice chest full of soft drinks and ice up a lake cabin road over 150 feet long and at a 30 degree angle!

Result: Damaged muscles and ligaments in my lower left back, a subluxated L4 vertebrae and a dislocated right hip. That landed me on my back for almost 10 days in more pain than I have ever experienced in my entire life.

Toward the end of those 10 days confined mostly to bed, I developed a cough that I wrote off to the bed rest. Unfortunately, it developed into a chronic cough lasting over six weeks that eventually made it impossible for me to sleep flat in a bed.

Like others on this site, I could not lay down on my back or on my side without triggering a ticklish cough reflex. That forced me to sleep in a recliner until even the slight angle of the recliner made me cough. I moved on to my office chair in my home office, putting me sitting straight up to sleep. This impacted my back, neck and sides.

Last night, feeling a frightening amount of fatigue, I developed pressure in my chest that kept me from breathing normally and deeply. That led to a panic attack (why does it ALWAYS happen at night, and on weekends?) and four hours of hell while I struggled to calm the tense muscles in my upper pecs, arms and solar plexus just so I could breathe!

It's like a gorilla is sitting on my chest, and the feeling is high, just under my collarbone. Shoulder muscles, upper pecs and deltoids all involved in this mystery.

When I place my hands on a waist high table and push down, bending my torso over the table, deep breaths come deep and natural, as if something had been relocated by this exercise. Why?

I wound up taking a muscle relaxant tablet and, by 4 a.m., I came unhinged and fell asleep, as always, sitting up.

I am arranging a meeting with a specialist to discuss all of this and get to a solution, but I'm interested in any second opinions out there. If this was originally due to infection, I have been on Augmentin for nearly two weeks so any infection present should be in retrograde right now.

Upper body stress has started to build and if it continues, I'll be headed back to the medicine cabinet for another muscle relaxant. This is no way to live, and I am miserable. I need answers, and I need them now.

My original theory was that the chronic cough simply did its damage and the tissues in my throat couldn't heal from the coughing. Now, I'm about to entertain the idea of some involvement of stomach acid and GERD. I have no pre-existing conditions and do not smoke. I have no history of heart disease, and pluresy, congestive heart failure and pneumonia have all been eliminated.

WHAT COULD THIS BE?

Ricky
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replied March 15th, 2009
MY first thought was reflux. Try prilosec OTC for a week and see if it improves. I work as a nurse in an urgent care clinic and we give a GI cocktail to rule out GERD when these symptoms are present.
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replied March 15th, 2009
additionally, reflux can trigger asthma which can make you short of breath and trigger coughing, etc.
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replied March 15th, 2009
Laying down makes me cough, and I can't breathe!
You are very kind to have posted this older notice. You were not alone in believing that it could be GERD -- both my PCP and specialist agreed that was probably it. But I was disturbed by the close similarities between GERD-like symptoms and congestive heart failure.

One day shy of a month after I posted this, my PCP put me in for a stress test. The test never happened. An echocardiogram confirmed that my ejection fraction was a mere 15%, and I was near death. I had CHF for sure.

A cath scan done 24 hours later confirmed that I had no signs of heart disease. My new cardiologist was initially mystified. There were no deposits (except some insignificant calcium), no blockages, no valve issues, and nothing to stint or angioplast.

The CHF was caused, in its entirety, by an extremely severe case of SLEEP APNEA, the second worst case this cardiologist had seen.

And the apnea, in its entirety, was 90% due to a weight problem of about 75 pounds, before which there was no apnea. I am one of five individuals statistically who carries his fat mass INSIDE of his muscle mass. Two doctors had told me ten years ago: Lose the weight, lose the apnea. And it's still true.

The cardiologist's bad news was that had I had a problem he could have fixed with a stint, I would have gone home, gone on a diet and been fine. My long term prognosis is very bright -- the potential for an 80% to 100% full recovery -- but it's going to require 6 to 18 months of very hard work and strict care, starting with a CPAP machine used every night (to correct the oxygen deficiencies), a battery of cardio drugs (Coreg, Diovan, Isosorb, Florosemide), Coenzyme Q-10 (which I added, because it can reverse CHF by itself), Omega-3 supplements, and one baby aspirin (81 mg) per day, and a short time from now, a 12-week cardio training program to really ramp up my recovery process.

When I'm done, I will be back completely, and I will NEVER take my health for granted ever again. The CPAP will remain until a sleep study confirms that my apnea is arrested and the unit is no longer needed. I was a 5K runner/jogger in the 70s and 80s, and I will return to the fold again for my 50+ age group.

My cardiologist saw a patient worse than me, but with the same blessing -- no underlying heart disease, just sleep apnea. He did what I'm doing, and today, the doctor says that he "does cartwheels" and "we can't tell that anything was ever wrong with him."

I WILL BE HIS NEXT SUCCESS STORY. And I will work to make people aware of the dangers of sleep apnea, and give something back for all of the help that I'm getting.

I may have already saved a life recently when a new friend admitted to having edema in his legs, and with a little more exploring, I learned of his intense snoring. I told him my story, and scared him into getting a check-up, explaining that a CPAP machine is a great alternative to a grave.

I'll be teaching that lesson again, I'm sure.
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replied March 16th, 2009
You sound very knowledgeable and I am happy that you found out in time to get help. Being an advocate for others in the same situation is excellant. Good Luck.
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replied July 8th, 2009
This was very helpful to me. What made you go to see a cardiologist? I think I kind of might have the same problem. For about 3 years now, I have been experiencing disturbed sleep: I fall asleep and wake up with my heart beating in the 120's and 130's. I constantly have this bloated feeling. And when this happens, I can't breathe. I have been under all the cardio tests and nothing shows up on any of them except some tachycardia.
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replied February 3rd, 2010
born2sing2u, Thanks for sharing the information
born2sing2u
Thanks for sharing all the information based on your very own experience, it certainly enables one to evaluate their situation.
Off and on I have been experiencing this lingering cough specially when laying down to sleep while it went away for a short time but came back to haunt after a few months.
Your writing helps address the issue when consulting with the physician, since the conditions warrant that I may be suffering fom apnea probably.
Thanks and best wishes.
Ike
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