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Back Pain when Breathing

Back pain when breathing can have many different triggers. An injury to either the bones or muscles in your back can cause the pain. Or a medical problem that affects your internal organs such as your lungs or heart can be the cause.

In this article, we take a closer look at 11 possible causes of back pain when breathing. We will also discuss the symptoms and treatment alternatives for every cause.


back pain when breathing

Causes: Strained Muscle

A strained muscle can be caused by an injury or from repetitive use. If you've strained a muscle in your back, you'll probably notice a sharp pain on the side of your body where the injury occurred.

Symptoms of a strained muscle consist of:

  • unexpected pain when breathing and moving;
  • muscle spasms;
  • reduced range of motion;
  • problem with bending over.

The strained muscle usually isn't too severe and might improve with rest. Yet a proper diagnosis from a medical professional can aid in identifying if your injury is a muscle strain or a more severe concern.


upper back pain when breathing

Causes: Pulmonary Embolism

Pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in an artery of your lung. The condition is potentially life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.

One of the most common symptoms of lung embolism is shortness of breath. It may additionally trigger severe discomfort in your chest, shoulder, back, or neck on the afflicted side.

Other symptoms consist of:

  • irregular heartbeat;
  • feeling lightheaded;
  • fast breathing;
  • restlessness;
  • coughing up blood;
  • chest discomfort;
  • weak pulse.


middle back pain when breathing

Causes: Scoliosis

Scoliosis is an unusual side to side curvature of your back. It most usually occurs throughout the fast growth spurt related to adolescence. The exact cause of scoliosis isn't always known. But developing issues, genes, and neurological conditions may contribute.

Individuals with scoliosis may have pain when they take a breath due to pressure from their ribcage and back against their heart and lungs.

Symptoms of scoliosis consist of:

  • pain in the back;
  • pain with breathing;
  • uneven shoulders;
  • one hip more than the other.

Symptoms of scoliosis can occur progressively and may not be visible initially. If you assume you may have scoliosis, it's an excellent idea to visit your physician for a proper diagnosis.


upper back pain when breathing deeply

Causes: Obesity

More weight around the abdomen, neck, and back can cause breathing problems and discomfort when breathing. Individuals with weight problems can develop obesity hypoventilation syndrome.

Symptoms of obesity hypoventilation syndrome include:

  • trouble breathing at night;
  • feeling sluggish throughout the day;
  • feeling out of breath;
  • migraines.


pain in back when breathing

Causes: Wounded or Broken Rib

The signs of a wounded rib or broken rib are similar. An X-ray, CT scan, or MRI is often required to differentiate then.

Both kinds of rib injuries can trigger pain at the site of the injury when you inhale, sneeze, laugh, or make other jerking motions with your abdominal area.

Other symptoms of a wounded rib or broken rib consist of:

  • discoloration around the injury;
  • muscle spasms or twitching;
  • inflammation around the injury.


chest and back pain

Causes: Pleurisy

Pleurisy is a condition that triggers inflammation of the lung lining. This lining, known as the pleura, contains two thin membranes that line and safeguard each lung. The severity of pleurisy can vary from light to life-threatening.

When this lining becomes inflamed, it can make breathing hard. You might feel a sharp, stabbing discomfort on one or both sides of your chest. Or you might feel a constant ache in your chest. The discomfort typically becomes worse when you take a breath. The pain might likewise spread to your shoulders and back.

Other signs and symptoms consist of:

  • shortness of breath or shallow breathing;
  • coughing;
  • a rapid heartbeat;
  • fever;
  • frustration;
  • unexplained weight loss.

Treatment depends on the underlying reason:

  • Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat microbial infections.
  • Drugs may be prescribed to eliminate a cough or break up blood clots or significant mucous amounts.
  • In much less severe cases, over the counter medications might help reduce discomfort and inflammation.


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Herniated disk

Between each of your vertebra is a rubbery disk that absorbs shock. Each of these disks has a jelly-like center and a harder outer side. A herniated disk, or slipped disk, happens when the disk ruptures and the jelly-like center ruptures via the external layer.

When the slipped disk presses against a nearby nerve or your spine, it can lead to pain, numbness, or weakness of one of your arms or legs. The most common place to experience a herniated disk remains in your lower back.

A herniated disk may trigger back pain when you take a breath. Various other common signs include:

  • pain as well as numbness on one side of your body;
  • tingling or burning near the injury;
  • muscle weakness;
  • the discomfort that extends your arms or legs;
  • the discomfort that worsens after standing or resting.

If you think you have a herniated disk, you should see a doctor right away to avoid permanent nerve damage.


back pain when breathing deep


Pneumonia is an infection that causes inflammation in the air cavities in your lungs. This creates the air sacs to fill with liquid, making it hard to take a breath. It can happen in one lung or both lungs.

Symptoms can vary in intensity as well as variety from mild to harmful. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • coughing that produces phlegm (mucous);
  • shortness of breath that can happen even when resting;
  • chest, abdominal, or back pain that gets worse when breathing or coughing;
  • fever;
  • sweating or chills;
  • fatigue;
  • wheezing;
  • nausea, or vomiting.

Bacteria, viruses, or fungi can bring on pneumonia. If a microbial infection causes pneumonia, your doctor might recommend antibiotics. Antifungal medicines might be prescribed to fight fungal pneumonia. However, most cases of viral pneumonia clear up with rest and home treatment.

In severe cases, you might need to be hospitalized.


pain in lower right back when breathing

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer often does not cause symptoms in the early stages.

A tumor in your lung that presses against the back nerves can trigger pain in the back on one side. Also, if cancer infects other body organs in the body, it might cause bone discomfort in the back or hips.

Other symptoms of lung cancer consist of:

  • a lingering cough;
  • coughing up blood;
  • breast discomfort that becomes worse when you breathe, cough, or laugh;
  • frequent respiratory infections;
  • pain while swallowing;
  • shortness of breath;
  • hoarseness;
  • unexplained weight loss;
  • appetite loss.

If you have any one of these signs, be sure to follow up with your physician for a correct medical diagnosis.


upper left back pain when breathing

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when a blockage cuts off the blood supply to your heart. As a result, the heart muscle begins to die.

Heart attacks can cause a feeling of pressure or discomfort in your chest that can infect your back. The signs can differ from one person to another. Also, not everybody has the very same types of symptoms.

Several of the most usual symptoms consist of:

  • chest discomfort;
  • ache in your left arm;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • tiredness;
  • nausea;
  • sweating;
  • indigestion.

A heart attack can be life-threatening and is a significant clinical emergency. If you believe you have a heart attack, call 911 immediately.


upper back pain when breathing on right side

Fractured Vertebra

A fractured vertebra in your back is usually caused by traumatic injury. Discomfort from a fractured vertebra usually worsens with activity.

The symptoms of a fractured vertebra can differ depending on what part of your back is injured. Damaged bone can press against your spinal cord and trigger symptoms such as:

  • numbness and tingling;
  • weakness;
  • bladder dysfunction.

Having osteoporosis puts you at a higher risk of developing a fractured vertebra. If you suspect that one of your vertebrae may be broken, make sure to obtain clinical attention as soon as possible.


pain in upper back when breathing

When to Seek Treatment

A few of the causes of pain in the back when breathing are possibly severe. If you observe any of the following symptoms, it is vital to obtain immediate clinical attention:

  • lack of breath or problem breathing;
  • loss of bladder or bowel function;
  • fever;
  • coughing up blood;
  • serious pain;
  • numbness or prickling.


Main Points from the Article

There are lots of potential causes of back pain when breathing. A few of these reasons may require prompt medical focus. This is why it's essential not to ignore this kind of problem.

See your physician if you have severe or worsening pain in the back when breathing. If you assume you have symptoms of a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or severe pneumonia, go to the therapist immediately.


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