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Back Muscle Pain When Breathing

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Why Your Back Muscles Hurt

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This may sound suspiciously like common sense, but your back muscles hurt when you pull them too far or place them under too much strain.

But contrary to common misperception, the underlying cause of this back muscle pain is not poor posture, how much you exercise or even your genetic history.

Instead, poor posture can be strong evidence of the real cause. Exercise of the wrong kind can make it worse . And the good news is you can do something about this underlying cause of back pain regardless of your genetics.

The root cause of virtually all non-trauma related back muscle pain and a major contributor to many back conditions like herniated discs are muscle imbalances.

One way to visualize muscle imbalances and how they cause back pain is to think of your car. If the wheels are out of alignment, the tires will wear unevenly, making them more susceptible to an early blowout.

Imbalanced muscles do the same thing to your back. Muscle pain results when one muscle or group of muscles overpowers an opposing set of muscles that get stretched out of shape.

And heres the kicker many of the muscles affecting your back pain arent in your back!

For example, sitting all day long leads to weak abs, glutes, and hamstrings which go unused much of the day. In the meanwhile, your hip flexors, quadriceps and lumbar muscles remain tight to keep you in an upright position.

This video explains how muscle imbalances affect your pain, and how to fix them.

Causes Of Lower Back Pain While Breathing

If you experience any incident of lower back pain while youre breathing, this could signify an underlying condition that needs attention.

When the pain is sharp and sudden, back pain while breathing could also point to a medical emergency like a pulmonary embolism or a heart attack.

From inflammation and chest infections through to spinal curvature and even lung cancer, there are many causes of lower back pain while breathing. You should educate yourself about this type of lower back pain. The more you know, the better the chances of catching serious health issues before its too late.

To help you do just that, well look now at just 5 of the leading causes of this form of lower back pain.

What Causes Back Pain When Breathing

Why does my back hurt when I breathe and what can I do about it?

Youre getting ready to relax after a long day when *yawn* OUCH!!!! Your deep breath caused a sharp pain in your back. You take another deep breath and sure enough, you still have pain when breathing.

Someone who experiences pain in their back when breathing may feel worried, but sometimes its nothing more than a short-lived twinge. Unfortunately there are instances when its a nagging pain that wont go away. Could it be something serious? Is something wrong with your lungs or heart? Do you need medical attention?

Read on to discover the top causes for back pain when breathing and what you can do about it .

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See Sarah’s Treatment Video Explaining Upper Back Pain

Sarah’s downloadable video has valuable information about the anatomy of the thoracic spine, including how the ribs work. In it, she explains all about the biomechanics of upper back pain – and its treatment.

  • the workings of the thoracic spine, the chest and ribs.
  • the complex notching of the ribs into the sides of the vertebrae
  • how you can stretch the most important soft tissues – including the nerves!
  • how you can mobilise the chest cage and ribs
  • how you can strengthen your upper back yourself to maintain posture correction

Most upper back problems can be fixed this way!


What Upper Back Symptoms Warrant A Trip To The Doctor

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Most bouts of upper back pain gradually go away on their own or with conservative at-home treatment . However, some symptoms are more serious than others and require swift medical attention.

  • Severe, persistent upper or mid-back pain that develops suddenly

  • Pain that is progressively worsening

  • Pain that hasnt gone away in a week

  • Pain that is interfering with your daily life

  • Pain that isnt responding to conservative treatment

  • Neurologic symptoms

In rare cases, upper back pain is indicative of a serious and/or painful medical problem, including lung cancer, kidney stones, or spinal infection.

Additionally, because the thoracic spine is linked to the ribs, some people with upper back pain report sharp pain when filling their lungs with air to take a deep breath. Though this symptom may be benign, it could also be a sign of a blood clot. If you feel faint, short of breath, or a spike in upper or mid-back pain when you take a deep breath, see your doctor immediately to rule out a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism.

Finally, its especially important to see a doctor after youve endured a traumatic injury, such as a fall. Even if you arent experiencing any back pain, you should be evaluated by a physician to ensure your spine did not sustain damage .

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When Should I Seek Treatment For Back Pain

Whether you feel your back pain is chronic or acute, if youre in pain for more than two weeks and havent seen any relief in your symptoms, we highly advise you to get medical help. Finding a physical therapy center and making an appointment is a wonderful place to start whether the discomfort is new or you know youve injured something. Our physical therapists will provide strengthening and mobility routines that are specifically tailored to your requirements.

Acute back pain generally goes away after a few weeks. Chronic pain, on the other hand, seldom improves without medical assistance. Why? While home cures and short-term back pain treatments are beneficial, they only give temporary relief and do not address the root causes of persistent pain.

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The majority of back pain improves after a month of home therapy. Back pain, on the other hand, is a complicated problem that affects everyone differently. Many peoples discomfort lasts a few months, but only a few people experience chronic, severe pain. You may just require over-the-counter pain medications and the use of heat. Bed rest is not advised.

Continue your activities to the extent that you are able. Light exercise, such as walking and daily activities, are good options. Stop doing things that make you hurt, but dont stop doing things because youre afraid of getting hurt. If home remedies fail after a few weeks, your doctor may prescribe stronger medicines or other treatments.

You can even use heat therapy or cold therapy depending on your specific needs. If youre wondering Is heat or ice better for back pain?, we answer that question in our related blog.

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Upper Back Symptoms: When In Doubt See Your Doctor

Because the thoracic spine isnt as susceptible to certain spinal disorders as the cervical spine or lumbar spine , some people may think its immune to pain or other problems. This certainly isnt the case.

Common symptoms of upper back painlike muscle pain, stiffness, and tightnessare often caused by poor body mechanics or spinal injury. But in very rare cases, upper back pain is a sign of a more serious medical issue. If your upper or mid-back pain just wont go away or if its interfering with your daily life, call your doctor. He or she will get to the root of your upper back pain, create a treatment plan for you, and help you learn ways to potentially prevent it in the future.

Migala J. 11 Signs Your Upper Back Pain Is Serious Trouble. Readers Digest. https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/signs-your-upper-back-pain-is-serious-trouble/. Last accessed January 9, 2020.

Upper and Middle Back Pain. Michigan Medicine. https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/aba5320. Last reviewed September 20, 2018. Last accessed January 9, 2020.


Back Muscle Spasms With Deep Breaths

Upper Left Back Pain When Breathing – What Causes Upper Left Back Pain?

There are multiple structures that support the back, including many muscles, Dr. Ekstrom said. Those muscles can spasm when they are stretching, as would be the case when you take a deep breath.

The intercostals the muscles between the ribs that are used for breathing are likely culprits, but muscle spasms can affect any muscle group, including the abdominals, the spinal muscles, and the pelvic floor muscles. Spasms in any one of those muscle groups could cause pain with a deep breath, Dr. Ekstrom said.

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How To Diagnose Upper Back Pain When Breathing

Your back will be examined, and your ability to sit, stand, walk, and lift your legs will be assessed. Your doctor may also ask you to score your pain on a scale of one to ten and discuss how well youre managing your discomfort. These tests can reveal the source of your discomfort, how much you can move before pain causes you to stop, and whether you have muscular spasms. They can also aid in the elimination of more severe causes of back pain.

If your doctor suspects a specific ailment is causing your back discomfort, he or she may request one or more of the following tests.

  • X-ray: These scans reveal how your bones are aligned, as well as if you have arthritis or fractured bones. However, these scans will not reveal any issues with your spinal cord, muscles, nerves, or disks on their own.
  • MRI or CT scan: Herniated disks, as well as issues with bones, muscles, tissue, tendons, nerves, ligaments, and blood vessels, can be discovered with these scans.
  • Blood test: These might enable you to figure out if you have an infection or another disease thats causing your discomfort.
  • Bone scan: A bone scan may be performed in rare situations to check for bone cancers or compression fractures caused by osteoporosis.
  • Nerve studies: The electrical impulses produced by your nerves and the reactions of your muscles are measured using electromyography . This test can determine if nerve compression is the result of herniated disks or a narrowing of the spinal canal .

When To Seek Immediate Medical Care

Back pain while breathing may not be serious, but you should seek medical care right away to determine the cause and get appropriate treatment. If you experience intense, sharp or stabbing back or chest pain while breathing, you should always contact your healthcare provider or seek emergency services right away to receive immediate medical attention, as these symptoms can be life-threatening.

Clinically reviewed and updated by Julie McDaniel, MSN, RN, CRNI, June 2022.

Also Check: When To Seek Medical Attention For Lower Back Pain

How To Breathe Easier

When it comes to pain, the biggest thing you can do is stay as calm and relaxed as possible. Its also important that when you have trouble breathing, you try to put your head down and gently tilt it backwards. You may need to try a few different positions before you find one that works for you.

When we take shallow breaths, they are more likely to be shallower and interrupted. This will make our oxygen levels lower, which can cause us to feel lightheaded or dizzy.

Exercises like taking long, deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth can help increase air flow and oxygen levels in your body.

If youre having trouble breathing, try inhaling deeply through your nose. This will expand the chest and take more air directly into our lungs. Propping yourself up on pillows can also help to facilitate better breathing.

If you find that changing your position makes things worse, it may be a sign that something is wrong with your spine or chest. If this happens, its best to consult a physician immediately.

You may also want to try using a nasal spray that contains a decongestant like pseudoephedrine, or an antihistamine such as chlorpheniramine.

Acute Or Chronic Conditions

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Heartburn, injury, or a slipped disk can all cause back pain that gets worse when you breathe. These conditions may be the primary cause of your back pain, or they may worsen the symptoms like chest tightness and shortness of breath. While its possible to attribute back pain to these factors, a full consultation and testing with a medical professional is still the best course of action for a proper diagnosis and treatment options.

In these cases, treatment of the underlying condition usually eases or removes the back pain entirely. Rarely, more serious complications may require extensive amounts of physical therapy or minor corrective surgery.

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Most Upper Back Symptoms Relate To Your Spinal Muscles

Because upper pain is closely linked to soft tissue injuries, the most common symptoms affect your spinal muscles:

  • Tenderness when the injured area is touched

Some people with upper or mid-back pain feel pain when they sneeze or cough. Similarly, you may also feel upper back pain when you take a deep breath because the vertebrae in your upper back are connected to the ribs. However, severe pain when breathing may be a sign of a more serious medical condition .

Though upper back pain symptoms generally occur anywhere along the spine between the base of the neck and bottom of the ribs, you may also feel upper back pain in your shoulders and neck. That’s because all your muscles are connected, so if it’s a muscle problem causing your upper back pain, the other muscles in your shoulders and neck can be affected.

Upper back pain symptoms can stem from several causes. Poor body mechanics, twisting movements, poor posture, improper lifting techniques, carrying a heavy load , or repetitive movements are common culprits. Traumatic events may also lead to upper back pain. But there are many other possible causes of upper back pain, and your doctor will help determine the underlying cause of your pain to find the solution.

In most cases, upper back pain does not indicate a serious medical problem. However, some symptoms warrant urgent medical care.

Why A Strained Rib Can Cause Your Breathing Pain

Each rib moves like a bucket handle lifting up and down off the rim of the bucket as we breathe in and out. The synchronous movement of all the ribs inflates and deflates chest and brings about gaseous exchange in the lungs.

Each rib must be fully mobile and springy so that breathing can be as free as possible.

Being tired, unfit, physically overwrought, or in some other way below par, can make it easier to ‘rick’ a rib and give you upper back pain when breathing.

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Treatments Like Harnesses Or Braces

Patients that use devices like medical harnesses or braces for rehabilitation or physical therapy often experience difficulty breathing in the first few weeks of wearing them. In these cases, adjustments to the brace or harness can easily get rid of the pain and difficulty breathing.

A physician may also recommend different medical harnesses or braces to ensure that patients dont experience frequent bouts of shortness of breath or thoracic compression. Since these treatments are relatively uncommon, back pain experienced during breathing while wearing them often goes away once the patient acclimatizes to their setup.

Why Does My Back Hurt When I Take Deep Breaths

Back Pain When Deep Breathing | Solved

Summit back, neck, and spine specialist Erik Ekstrom, M.D., explains some of the possible reasons for back pain that happens with deep breaths.

Our bodies can certainly be mysterious and strange aches and pains are some of the confusing signs our bodies can send. But what does it mean when your back hurts each time you take a deep breath? Erik Ekstrom, M.D., back, neck, and spine specialist at Summit Orthopedics, explains some of the diagnostic possibilities from an orthopedic perspective.

First, a caveat: back pain with breathing is not necessarily an orthopedic issue at all. It could be anything from a sign of a heart problem, to a gastrointestinal issue, to a symptom of anxiety. Deep breaths can shift internal organs like the kidneys and intestines, causing discomfort, and it could also be a problem with the lungs, Dr. Ekstrom said. For those reasons, its important to talk with your primary care doctor to rule out nonorthopedic causes.

But if other causes have been ruled out, it may be time to consider the back itself. There are a range of spine-related conditions that could come into play with a symptom like this, Dr. Ekstrom said.

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Treatment Options For Back Pain

I would always suggest people start with a visit to their primary care doctor for an examination and to see if any other health problems could be causing the back pain.

This often leads to a referral to a specialist or an orthopedist. Between physical therapy, chiropractic care, massage therapy, acupuncture, or medications, there are many options for pain relief.

Doctors will often prescribe medications to help with symptoms such as muscle spasms or inflammation. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to repair or alleviate pressure on those nerves and vessels. There are also treatments that people can use at home, including hot baths and exercise.

One option is to use heat or ice packs. Dont go overboard with either one, but rather alternate between the two over the course of a day. Its also possible to use compression by using a back support belt, rolling towel around your abdomen or wearing an elastic waistband that fits tightly around your stomach area.

It might also be helpful to take breaks from sitting at work when possible and stand up every 20 minutes for about 3-5 minutes each break.

A new study by the American Association of Orthopedic Medicine found that chiropractic adjustments and acupuncture are two of the most effective treatments for back pain.

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