Causes of Back Pain While Breathing

Learn about the causes of back pain while breathing, from muscle strains to medical conditions. Find insights and tips to alleviate your discomfort.

Have you ever experienced back pain while breathing and wondered what could be causing it? In this article, we will explore some common causes of this discomfort and provide insights on how to alleviate it. From muscle strains to certain medical conditions, we will cover everything you need to know about why your back hurts when you inhale and exhale. So, keep reading to gain a better understanding of this issue and find some helpful tips to relieve your pain.

Causes of Back Pain While Breathing

Muscle Strain

Muscle strain is one of the most common causes of back pain while breathing. It occurs when the muscles in the back are stretched or torn, often due to overexertion, improper lifting techniques, or sports injuries. When this happens, you may experience pain or discomfort when taking deep breaths or even when breathing normally. Other symptoms of muscle strain include muscle spasms, stiffness, and a limited range of motion.

Treatment for muscle strain usually involves resting the affected area, applying ice packs or heat therapy, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and doing gentle stretching exercises to improve flexibility and strengthen the muscles. In severe cases, physical therapy or a referral to a specialist may be necessary.


Costochondritis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the cartilage that connects your ribs to your breastbone (sternum). One of the main symptoms of costochondritis is sharp pain when breathing or taking deep breaths. This pain may radiate to the back and can be mistaken for pain originating from the lungs or spine.

The exact cause of costochondritis is often unknown, but it can be triggered by physical strain, injury, repetitive movements, or respiratory infections. Risk factors for developing costochondritis include a history of chest trauma, arthritis, and certain infections.

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Treatment options for costochondritis include applying heat or ice packs to the affected area, taking over-the-counter pain relievers, and avoiding activities that aggravate the condition. In some cases, corticosteroid injections or physical therapy may be recommended.


Pneumonia is an infection that affects the lungs, causing inflammation and fluid buildup. Along with symptoms such as coughing, fever, and fatigue, pneumonia can also cause back pain and breathing difficulties. The pain may worsen when taking deep breaths or coughing.

There are different types of pneumonia, including bacterial, viral, and fungal, each requiring specific treatment approaches. Diagnosis is usually made through a combination of physical examination, imaging tests, and laboratory analysis of respiratory samples.

Treatment for pneumonia typically involves antibiotics, antiviral medications, or antifungal drugs, depending on the underlying cause. Rest, staying hydrated, and using over-the-counter pain relievers can also help alleviate the back pain associated with pneumonia.

Causes of Back Pain While Breathing


Pleurisy is the inflammation of the pleura, the thin membranes that line the lungs and the inner chest wall. This condition can cause sharp or stabbing back pain, particularly when breathing deeply or coughing. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, a dry cough, and a fever.

Underlying causes of pleurisy can vary and may include viral or bacterial infections, lung diseases, or chest trauma. Prevention measures such as quitting smoking and maintaining good respiratory hygiene can reduce the risk of developing pleurisy.

Management of pleurisy often involves treating the underlying cause, such as infection or inflammation. Over-the-counter pain relievers, cough suppressants, and breathing exercises may also provide relief. If pleurisy is severe or recurring, further medical interventions or surgery may be necessary.


Scoliosis is a condition characterized by an abnormal curvature of the spine, which can lead to breathing difficulties and back pain. When the spine deviates from its natural alignment, it can put pressure on the lungs, making breathing challenging. This can result in chronic back pain, especially during activities that require more effort from the respiratory system.

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The causes of scoliosis can vary, ranging from genetic factors to structural abnormalities or neuromuscular conditions. The condition can be diagnosed through physical examination, medical imaging, and sometimes genetic testing.

Treatment options for scoliosis depend on factors such as the severity of the curvature, the age of the individual, and the presence of other symptoms. Mild cases may only require regular monitoring, while more severe cases may require bracing or surgery to correct the curvature.

Rib Fracture

A broken rib can cause significant back pain, especially when breathing. The pain may worsen with deep breaths, and you may also experience tenderness or swelling in the affected area. Rib fractures can occur due to trauma, such as a fall or a direct blow to the chest.

Diagnosing a rib fracture typically involves a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays or CT scans. Complications of rib fractures can include lung punctures or infections, so prompt medical attention is essential.

The healing process for rib fractures usually involves pain management through over-the-counter or prescribed medications, rest, and avoiding activities that could worsen the condition. In some cases, stabilizing the ribs with a brace or bandage may be necessary. Severe or complicated fractures may require surgical intervention.

Spinal Infection

Spinal infections, whether bacterial or fungal, can cause both back pain and breathing difficulties. These infections can occur in the bones (vertebrae), discs, or the spinal cord itself. Symptoms may include localized pain, fever, fatigue, and neurological deficits.

Risk factors for spinal infections include a weakened immune system, recent surgery or invasive procedures, and bacterial or fungal infections elsewhere in the body. Diagnosis is made through a combination of medical history review, physical examination, imaging tests, and laboratory analysis of blood or tissue samples.

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The treatment for spinal infections usually involves a combination of intravenous antibiotics or antifungal medication, along with surgical interventions in some cases. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent further damage to the spine and surrounding tissues.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the soft, gel-like material inside a vertebral disc protrudes and presses against a nerve root or the spinal cord. This condition can cause radiating back pain and difficulty breathing, especially if the herniated disc compresses nerves or affects the diaphragm.

Causes of herniated discs can include age-related degeneration, trauma, or excessive strain on the spine. Symptoms may vary depending on the location and size of the herniation, but they often include sharp or burning pain, numbness or tingling, and weakness in the affected area.

Non-surgical treatments for herniated discs may involve rest, physical therapy, pain medication, and hot or cold therapy. In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to remove or repair the herniated disc and alleviate symptoms.


Back pain while breathing can have various causes, ranging from muscle strain to more serious conditions like spinal infections or heart attacks. It is important to consult a healthcare professional if you experience persistent or severe back pain while breathing, as they can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options.

Preventive measures such as maintaining good posture, practicing proper lifting techniques, and avoiding excessive strain on the back can help reduce the risk of developing back pain. Additionally, adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a balanced diet, and stress management can contribute to overall back health and reduce the likelihood of experiencing pain while breathing. Remember, your health and well-being are important, and seeking medical advice is always the best course of action when dealing with any form of discomfort or pain.

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