In all of its incarnations, back pain is a highly unpleasant sensation. For a number of individuals, the discomfort of an aching back is amplified by breathing deeply. Many back pain sufferers agree that this is one of the worst forms of back pain, as each breath brings increased discomfort, ranging from a dull ache to a more persistent, sharp pain. Are you experiencing pain in your back while breathing? This symptom could be triggered by one of many treatable health conditions. Read on to learn more.
Experiencing Pain in Back When Breathing
If you are experiencing upper back pain when breathing, it is especially important to note any other symptoms you may be experiencing as well. A large percentage of patients complaining of sharp pain when breathing are also experiencing chest pain and constant coughing. If you are coughing and experiencing an aching in your lungs in conjunction with your back pain, it is highly probable that you are suffering from pleurisy.
Pleuritis, commonly known as pleurisy, is a condition in which the lining of the lungs (known as the pleura) becomes inflamed. The condition is commonly caused by viral or bacterial infections spreading from the lungs into the pleura. The condition has a number of other potential causes, too. If you have experienced any of the following medical conditions in the recent past, it is highly likely that your chest and back pain is connected to pleural inflammation:
- heart and cardiac conditions, including various heart surgeries, aortic dissections, pericarditis, ischemia, and more
- major chest injuries
- autoimmune disorders, including rheumatoid arthritis and various forms of lupus
- pulmonary embolisms
- lung cancer
- cystic fibrosis
- inflammatory bowel disease (IBS)
- and a number of other conditions
Though all of these conditions are known to cause pleurisy, a large number of individuals are diagnosed with the condition after a bacterial, fungal, or viral infection. Bacterial pneumonia, for instance, is one of the most common causes of pleurisy. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms in conjunction with your back and chest pain, you should consider visiting your local physician as soon as possible, as the condition can worsen when left untreated.
You may have pleurisy if you are experiencing chest pain and…
- back pain
- a rough, dry, or hoarse cough
- significant discomfort while breathing, resulting in shallow, short, or uncomfortable breaths
- a sore throat
- a fever
- chills or shuddering
- an uncomfortably rapid pulse
- arrhythmia in your heartbeat and pulse
- joint swelling and pain
Though your symptoms may indicate that you are suffering from pleurisy, the only way to definitely know what you are suffering from is by visiting your physician. If a doctor suspects that you may be suffering from pleurisy, he will likely try to rule out other potential conditions first. Doctors generally examine their patients’ medical histories, looking for any indications of recent illnesses or health problems before proceeding with an extensive physical examination. A doctor will likely listen to your breathing to determine whether he can detect audible signs of pleural irritation. Depending on the severity of your condition and the medical instruments available to your physician, you may also undergo a chest x-ray, biopsy, ultrasound, or other diagnostic examination. Once your physician has determined if you have pleurisy and what has caused it, you will be able to proceed with treatment.
There is no single method for treating pleurisy. Each treatment seeks to combat a different underlying cause of the condition, and as such will vary from person to person. An individual suffering from pneumonia-triggered pleurisy may receive a different medicinal treatment than an individual suffering from a cardiac condition. More severe cases of pleurisy may require manual draining of the lungs. Milder cases will generally be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs, cough suppressants, and antibiotics. If pleurisy is causing your symptoms, medical treatment should dramatically reduce the pain in your ribs, chest, and back.
What If It’s Not Pleurisy?
If your symptoms do not indicate that you have pleurisy, it is possible that you are suffering from one of a handful of other health conditions. If you notice that your back hurts on your left side in particular, it is possible that your pain is connected to a cardiac problem or heart condition. If you experience severe back and chest pain on your left side regardless of your breathing patterns, especially in conjunction with pain in your left arm, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
Though pain on the left or right side can be caused by less serious conditions, such as a bruised rib or a muscle strain, you should consult a medical professional before writing off your back pain. Back pain that is most noticeable when breathing could be caused by serious conditions such as lupus, spinal stenosis, or cystic fybrosis. Whether your final diagnosis is serious or trivial, it is better to deal with chronic back pain sooner rather than later, especially when breathing causes you pain. If you are, in fact, suffering from pleural inflammation, seeing a doctor soon may save you weeks of recovery time.
If your back pain occurs in conjunction with coughing, chest pain, or a sore throat, it is likely that you are suffering from the lung inflammation condition known as pleurisy. Though the treatment for this condition is relatively simple, you should consult a doctor soon so that you may be properly diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
If your back pain is ever-present but becomes slightly more pronounced when breathing, it is likely that you are suffering from a less serious condition, such as a bruised rib or strain. If, however, your pain is sharp, shooting, or chronic, it is possible that you are suffering from a more serious medical condition, and should visit a physician as soon as possible.
Regardless of your diagnosis, back pain while breathing is not a symptom to ignore. Track your symptoms, and listen to your body accordingly. If your pain persists, visit a doctor for a complete evaluation and diagnosis. The sooner you act, the sooner you will be living a pain-free life once more.