Understanding the Link Between Back Pain and Breathing

We tend to take automatic bodily functions like breathing for granted until something goes wrong. During a typical day, you may not pay much attention to your breathing patterns. But when you start to experience back pain when breathing, this might alert you to realize that something isn’t quite right. Other symptoms that occur alongside the back pain may give you some indication of what is going on, like whether you may have a cold or are dealing with something else. If you are experiencing back pain and having trouble breathing, it’s important to see a doctor specializing in back pain as soon as possible.

Why Does Back Pain Affect Breathing?

The relationship between back pain and breathing is complex, though there are several key factors that can help explain the link. The muscles used for breathing are located in the back, including the muscles between the ribs and the diaphragm. There are several ways back pain can affect breathing. When you experience back pain, you may tense up the muscles in your back, which can actually make it more difficult to take deep breaths.

Back pain can also cause changes to your posture, which can, in turn, affect your regular breathing. For example, hunching over or slouching because of back pain can restrict your airways, making your breathing shallower. Sometimes, pain from other parts of the body can be felt in the back, which is known as referred pain. This type of pain can also make it difficult to breathe, depending on the cause. Back pain caused by nerve compression can also interfere with the normal functioning of nerves that control the muscles that support healthy breathing.

Types of Back Problems Causing Back Pain When Breathing

Types of Back Problems Causing Back Pain When Breathing

There are several types of back problems that can cause pain while breathing.


Scoliosis is a spinal condition in which the spine curves to one side, which can lead to difficulty breathing when too much pressure is placed on the lungs and ribcage.


Kyphosis is a spinal condition where the spine curves excessively in the upper back, causing a hunchbacked appearance. This can lead to pressure on the lungs and ribcage, making it more difficult to take deep breaths.

Strained Back Muscle

A strained back muscle can make it more difficult to breathe deeply and comfortably. Certain types of back pain from a strain can cause you to instinctively try to protect the area by hunching forward, which can make the pain worse.

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the gel-like center of a spinal disc bulges out of a crack or tear, putting pressure on nearby nerves. This can cause pain, tingling, numbness, and other symptoms like difficulty breathing.

Lung Problems Related to Back Pain and Breathing

Back pain and breathing difficulties can also be related to lung problems. Here are a few examples of lung problems related to back pain and breathing.

Lung Cancer

Lung cancer is a progressive disease that can make it difficult to breathe due to the narrowing of airways and damage to lung tissue.


Pneumonia is a type of infection in the lungs that can cause fluid buildup and inflammation in the area, which can make it more difficult or painful to breathe.


Pleurisy is a condition where fluid accumulates in the space between the lungs and the chest wall, which can put pressure on the lungs and make it more difficult to breathe.

Bruised or Broken Rib

A bruised or broken rib can occur from a direct impact or blow to the chest or side, which may result in a sharp pain when you breathe in and your ribcage expands with your lungs.

Heart Conditions Related to Back Pain and Breathing

Some heart conditions can also result in back pain and breathing difficulty.

Heart Attack

A heart attack occurs when the blood that flows to part of the heart becomes blocked, which can cause chest pain and shortness of breath. A heart attack can also cause pain in the arms, jaw, neck, back, or abdomen.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a heart condition in which a blood clot forms in a vein, typically in the lungs, and travels to the lungs. This can block blood flow to the heart and also make it difficult to breathe.

Other Conditions Associated with Back Pain and Breathing

What Causes Delayed Back Pain After A Car Accident

Back pain and breathing difficulties can also be related to a number of other conditions, including:

Soft Tissue Injuries

Back pain and breathing difficulties can be related to soft tissue injuries like sprains or strains, which can occur with car accident injuries, sports injuries, or other accidents.

Posture Changes

Changes to posture can also impact healthy breathing and result in back pain. Hunching over or overcompensating by putting too much pressure on one part of the back can result in back pain and stress on the lungs, making it difficult to take a deep breath.

Referred Pain

Pain can occur elsewhere in the body and act as back pain, known as referred pain. Gastrointestinal conditions like acid reflux or a hernia can result in back pain and difficulty breathing.


A person who is overweight may also experience back pain and difficulty breathing due to the pressure that additional body weight can put on the back and lungs.

How Can Chiropractic Treatment Help with Back Pain and Breathing?

Your Killeen chiropractor can help with back pain and breathing difficulties by addressing the root cause of the problem. Chiropractic treatment may involve spinal adjustments, soft tissue therapy, exercises, and stretching that all target back pain relief and improved breathing by reducing strain on the spine and the musculoskeletal system. Visit a trusted chiropractor at Affordable Chiropractic Killeen to learn more about the link between back pain and breathing and find out how you can experience lasting relief with chiropractic care.