When Back Pain Makes Breathing Difficult

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


Back pain can cause symptoms and issues in a number of other areas of our body. Nerve impingement can cause shooting pain in your arms and legs, while cervical spine tension can lead to headaches. One other area that can be affected by a back problem is your lungs and your ability to breathe. Today, we explore why back pain can sometimes make breathing difficult, and how to treat the issue.

Back Problems That Can Affect Breathing

The following spinal issues don’t always result in breathing issues, but inhibited breathing can be a symptom of each of these conditions:

  • Spinal Muscle Strain – There are a lot of muscles between your spine and ribs, and straining or tearing one or more of these muscles can cause pain when taking a deep breath. This leads to the patient taking a bunch of smaller breaths to avoid affecting the muscle.
  • Scoliosis – Scoliosis is a condition categorized by an abnormal sideways curvature of the spine. In more extreme cases, this spinal curvature can place extra pressure on the lungs, making breathing more difficult.
  • Kyphosis – Kyphosis is another type of spinal curvature disorder, but this involves a forward curvature of the spine. Unaddressed kyphosis can eventually affect a person’s breathing ability.
  • Obesity – Although it is not specifically a spinal condition, obesity can cause more issues for both your spine and your lungs. This excess weight puts more pressure on your spinal discs and on your lungs, which can cause problems for both.
  • Pinched Nerve – A pinched nerve will not directly affect your lungs, but depending on the location of the compression, the movement of the lungs and your chest cavity as you inhale and exhale can lead to more compression and pain. Again, this leads to a person taking shallow breaths in order to avoid the sharp pain from disturbing the compressed nerve.

Treating Spine Problems Causing Breathing Issues

As is the case with many health conditions, the best way to treat the issue is to ensure you have a good understanding of the underlying problem. Muscle strains and pinched nerves are treated differently, so you need to visit a spine specialist to determine exactly what’s going on in order to move forward with the best treatment plan. With the help of a physical exam, asking questions and taking imaging tests, Dr. Sinicropi and his team can get to the bottom of your spine issue.

Once diagnosed, Dr. Sinicropi will walk you through an expected treatment plan. Again, specific treatment will depend on your individual diagnosis, but for breathing problems related to a muscle strain, pinched nerve or excess weight, a variety of conservative care measures can help alleviate discomfort and improve breathing. Physical therapy, rest, stretching exercises and muscle relaxers can all help you find relief.

For more serious cases or for certain spinal deformity issues, surgery may be on the table. These operations focus on stopping your spine from curving any further while also stabilizing the spine and improving any breathing issues. They tend to have very high success rates when performed by a skilled surgeon.

So if you are having back pain that is making breathing difficult or painful, don’t wait around to see if the problem will go away on its own. Reach out to a spine specialist today and get your spine and lungs back to normal. Contact Dr. Sinicropi’s office today for more information.

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