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Pain in Back When Breathing: Should I Ignore It or Do Something?

Any form of pain in the body is never a welcome sign. The constant sensation of pain is a negative sign of leading a healthy life. As such, a feeling of backache when breathing is never a pleasant thing and maybe more than what one initially predicts.

So, what causes pain in the back when breathing?

The reason can range from something as simple as a muscle strain, infections, or anxiety attack to something much more concerning like a fracture of vertebrae, heart attack, and even severe forms of infections. Whatever the cause, make sure to give it the required attention and relieve the cause. Constant negligence may only serve to aggravate the condition.

Let’s jump into the article to know these in more depth!

Table of Content


Pain in Back When Breathing

Several causes can be attributed to causing pain in the back when breathing. Often, the cause may include more than one factor. 

I have divided the causes into 3 sections. Let’s have a look at them:

01. Causes Behind Upper Back Pain When Breathing:

upper left back pain when breathing

The upper back is the region of your backside starting from your shoulders to the middle of your back. There can be many reasons for pain in the upper back. 

These include:

Muscle Strain:

You might strain a muscle from repeated use. A typical sign of strained muscle is a sharp pain in back when breathing. 

This pain occurs in the affected site from doing even the simplest of tasks like breathing and movement.

Breathing causes inward and outward movement of air which subsequently causes a pull in the back muscles and leads to back pain.

Vertebrae Fracture:

Any form of serious accident such as a car accident, fall from a height, or a sports injury can fracture your vertebrae or bones that make up the spine. You are likely to experience pain around the region of the fracture while breathing. 

The pain can be differentiated from other causes for its characteristic alleviation when movement is limited.


A very common condition especially among the older population is a decrease in bone density or osteoporosis. 

The condition leads to thinning of the bones and ultimately backache during breathing.

Panic Disorder:

Panic or anxiety attack is a very common condition amongst aspiring examinees or people with extreme behavioral conditions. 

People suffering from such neurological conditions often complain of difficulties in breathing, and backache among other symptoms.


Scoliosis is the curving of the spine along a sideways position. This is a birth condition.

The signs of this condition show up quite early in life. It causes backaches while breathing, and performing basic movements.

Heart Attack:

Feeling a sharp upper back pain when breathing can be related to a heart attack. 

An irregularity in heart rate and congenital heart conditions can together lead to a heart attack. 

The person experiences sharp pain along with breathlessness during the attack. It’s an emergency condition that requires an immediate response for survival!


Back Pain When Breathing is common for people with asthma. 

An increased frequency of labored breathing, rapid ventilation, and persistent cough can cause upper back pain in individuals.


You might wonder whether ‘Pain in the back when breathing, pregnancy’ is common or not. Well, this is common mostly in the third semester of pregnancy.

Although upper back pain may be felt at any time of pregnancy.

Pulmonary Embolism:

Any hypercoagulable state such as pulmonary embolism has a common feature of back pain. 

The pain though, may not be exclusive only to the upper chest. It may also be felt in the lower chest, or the middle pain in back when breathing. Or it may also be felt simultaneously on both sides.

02. Causes Behind Lower Back Pain When Breathing:

Lower Back Pain When Breathing

A  few common conditions causing pain in both the upper and lower back are:

  1. Back pain from muscles
  2. Pulmonary embolism pain
  3. Lung cancer-related pain

Other conditions causing lower back pain include: 

Herniated Disc:

A herniated disc can cause pain in the lower chest from breathing as a result of the strain produced by respiratory muscles. Other symptoms include numbness on the affected sides.

Acute Appendicitis Syndrome:

Appendicitis pain is characterized by a sudden pain that initiates near your belly button and gradually shifts to your lower back. 

This condition occurs when the appendix gets inflamed. 


Pain and aches all over the body are some of the most common symptoms following covid. A very commonly reported site for covid pain is lower back pain.

Experts believe an increased release of pro-inflammatory cytokines which are chemical mediators of inflammation can be attributed to the pain.

03. Causes for Radiation of Pain from Back: 

As discussed above, in certain conditions there might be a radiation of pain from the back to other parts of the body and likewise radiation from other parts to the back. 

A few such instances are caused by:


The pain starts around the belly button and gradually shifts to the lower back on breathing.


The tumor may press on any nerve and then the pain may radiate beyond the back region and spread to other areas.

Musculoskeletal Cause:

One of the most common causes of lower left back pain is any damage to the soft tissues of the muscles or ligaments that support the spine. 

In most cases, the pain in the back is felt after exercising.

Splenic Rupture:

Any rupture or anomaly to the spleen, one of the principal lymphatic organs of the human body, is left as a pain in the left ribs which may be felt in the back.

Treatment And Remedy

pain in back when breathing pregnancy

The treatment plan for pain in back when breathing can involve multiple phases. It is primarily dependent on the cause. 

Some minor remedies based on the condition include:

01. For Musculoskeletal Cause

Pain from any strain to the smooth muscles or ligaments should be given first aid treatments:

02. Any Mass Formation

It’s a common trait in people to ignore any mass formation in their body until it has grown or swollen to the point of pressurizing the nerves and causing back pain.

Don’t ignore such masses in your body. Get the required treatment plan and ensure to remove any chance of cancer.

03. Cardiac Conditions

A characteristic feature of cardiac conditions is a sharp pain felt in the back. Dealing with such conditions can be tricky given the sensitivity and emergency turn it can take. 

A few measures include:

  • If you suspect a heart attack, rush to the hospital immediately and get the needed medical care.
  • Myocarditis and pericarditis are very common conditions that shouldn’t be neglected.
  • Take proper care of the symptoms eg: take pain killers, treatment for breathing difficulty, etc.

04. Respiratory Tract Complications

Pneumonia and Pulmonary Embolism are very common causes of pain in back from breathing. Proper management and treatment are necessary for the relief of such conditions.

Given that covid is the hot topic these days, it wouldn’t hurt to know more.

It’s necessary to take symptomatic treatment beforehand to combat any conditions before it aggravates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Why does my upper back hurt when I breathe?

Answer: Your upper back pain from breathing might be a consequence of a simple muscle strain or it can be due to severe conditions such as cardiac problems, fractures, etc.

Why does my back hurt where my lungs are?

The condition might be caused by inflammation of the lungs eg: pleurisy which is characterized by sharp pains in the back and chest. Also, infections, asthma, and inflammation of rib cartilage may be responsible.

What to do if your back hurts when you breathe?

Don’t be alarmed. If you experience pain after a session of exercise, it’s likely from muscle strain. Take painkillers and appropriate rest. If you suspect any other underlying causes, take expert advice and treat accordingly. 

Final Words

A feeling of pain in back when breathing is never a pleasing sign. To think that the condition might be a manifestation of something serious makes it much more concerning. So, what can be done?

First off, be conscious enough to get the required help. In most cases, a few remedies beforehand can save a lot of trouble in the long run. 

Most importantly, remember to consult a doctor in due time!

Stay safe and try leading a healthy, happy life.

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