Painful breathing & back pain

Image by, courtesy of Mike Rolph

The back, more specifically the muscles on the back, are closely connected with the muscles in the front of the body associated with the respiratory system. The human lungs are situated near the trapezius muscles on the back and are therefore influenced by the movement exhibited in those muscles. When muscles of the back are excessively stressed, individuals can experience trouble breathing because the pain limits muscular motion and hinders the lungs.

The Facts

Generally, back injuries can lead to pain and aches while breathing because of the interaction of the back muscles with the lungs and the muscles in the abdomen and torso. The upper-back muscles, which include the deltoids, latissimus dorsi and trapezius work in conjunction with frontal chest muscles to perform articulary movements while breathing. Lower-back muscles are connected to the the abdomen and diaphragm muscle, which are also used during respiration.


According to, trouble breathing influenced by back pain can be caused by one of two things: muscle injury or severe illness. Many times recreational and physically demanding activities incur severe strain upon back muscles, sometimes even damaging tissue. These injuries make it difficult to move, and since breathing causes many major muscles on the back to move, you can experience pain. This pain can travel to your chest and abdomen because the abnormal movements of muscles on the back will cause other muscles to work unconventionally. Painful breathing and back pain that is not caused by muscle injury is most likely the result of some serious cardiac or pulmonary illness; lung cancer also shows similar symptoms.


If the back pain exhibited from breathing continues for a prolonged period, then you may experience muscle spasms in the back. Spasms are the tightening of muscle tissues in a specific area to limit motion and protect the body from external forces. Spasms are generally sporadic and immobilise individuals. They are caused from chronic muscle pain and oxygen deprivation; both of these are results of painful breathing and back pain.


If you are experiencing pain while breathing or frequent spasms, try and practice slow, deep breaths. These will likely reduce the pain, which will also limit the number of spasms. Resting the muscles and using your energy conservatively are also methods of reducing pain. Generally, torn muscles will heal within a few days, which may stop the spasms.


Muscle recover, pain medications and ice/heat treatments are all ways to alleviate the pain. If the pain is severe and seriously impedes breathing, consult your doctor or local hospital for help.

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