Pain in the back when breathing


Pain in the back when breathing can have different causes. Many people suffer from such ailments at one point in their life. The pain is often harmless in nature and occurs as a side effect of a flu-like infection or as a result of muscular tension. However, since serious causes that require treatment can also be concealed behind the symptoms, a medical examination is advisable. A conversation with the doctor and a detailed physical examination can usually quickly determine the reason for the back pain when breathing and an adequate therapy can be given.
Read also under: Pain when breathing, stinging in the chest when breathing


Basically, there are various possible causes of pain when breathing in the back, which can be responsible for the symptoms. The pain is often caused by muscular hardening and tension. An unfavorable posture, predominantly sedentary activities and a lack of exercise lead to cramps in the muscles. These in turn irritate nerves in the area and cause pain. Blocked vertebral joints can also be responsible for the pain.
Often, pain in the back when breathing occurs in the context of flu-like infections, especially if there is also a cough. The chest muscles are stressed by the frequent coughing. This can lead to irritation, which in turn causes pain to breathe. However, an infection can also spread to the lungs and further to the pleura. With pleurisy (pleurisy) there is typically pain when inhaling, especially in the chest and back area.

Of course, external violence can also lead to back pain when breathing. Breathing in bruised or broken ribs from a fall or accident can be very uncomfortable. Last but not least, anatomical changes in the musculoskeletal system can also cause the pain. For example, if the spine is misaligned. Between the individual ribs, a nerve and blood vessels run around one side of the chest. These so-called intercostal nerves can be irritated by various circumstances and cause what is known as intercostal neuralgia. This is characterized by belt-shaped, stabbing pains that pull around the upper body, which can usually be aggravated by strong breathing movements, coughing or pressing. Since the possible causes of back pain when breathing are diverse, only a medical examination can reveal the definitive cause if the symptoms persist.

Read more on the subject here Bruised or broken rib?

Pain when breathing due to tension

Tension is a common cause of back pain. The symptoms can also occur when breathing, as the chest expands and pulls on the tense muscle areas. Tension occurs particularly often in the shoulder and neck area as well as on the side of the spine. Heat applications and massages help to gently release the tension. To prevent tension, adequate physical activity and strengthening of the muscles are essential.

Pain when breathing due to pinched nerve

A pinched or irritated nerve can be the cause of breath-dependent back pain. The nerves run in the chest area between two ribs around the halves of the chest. If such a nerve is irritated, it can cause severe pain. In particular, when you breathe in, the chest expands and the muscles and nerves located there stretch. The stretching of an irritated nerve can then express itself as a sharp pain. If the cause is a blocked vertebra, straightening it usually provides quick relief. In many cases, however, no cause of the nerve irritation is found. It usually disappears by itself over time.

However, pain when breathing through a pinched nerve also causes breath-dependent pain under the ribs. However, since there can be other causes behind this, we recommend our site to: Pain under the ribs when breathing

Read more on this topic at:

  • Intercostal neuralgia
  • Pinched nerve
  • Pinched nerve on shoulder

Pain when breathing while lying down

Pain in the back when breathing, especially when lying down, can indicate muscular causes. Especially for people who lie down a lot - for example through prolonged illness - Unpleasant tension and hardening of the muscles can occur, which can be painful when breathing. Dislocated vertebral joints can also cause the symptoms. Since there are a large number of possible causes, a doctor should be consulted if the symptoms persist for a long time.

Pain in breathing when moving

Often, muscle tension causes, e.g. Bad posture causes pain when moving, even when breathing. Nevertheless, it is important not to restrict yourself in terms of movement. A lack of exercise does not improve the symptoms. Other musculoskeletal problems can also lead to pain when moving - such as a herniated disc or nerve irritation. Other rare causes are also possible.

Pain in breathing when swallowing

Pain in the back when swallowing and breathing can be caused by a disease of the esophagus. Pain originating from the esophagus is mainly felt behind the breastbone and is not dependent on the breath. Radiation in the back is not excluded. A common disease of the esophagus is heartburn, in which stomach acid enters and irritates the esophagus. In advanced stages, esophageal cancer causes pain when swallowing. Now and then they can also present themselves in the back. However, esophageal cancer is rare and in very few cases lies behind these symptoms.


Lower back pain when breathing

Lower back pain when breathing can have a number of causes. In the lower back, changes in the musculoskeletal system are often responsible for the symptoms. For example, it can be a herniated disc, an irritated nerve or a vertebral body fracture. The cause is even more often in the muscular area. The lower back is exposed to high levels of physical stress every day. Correspondingly, tension often occurs there. Since the chest and abdomen are moved a lot, especially when breathing deeply, the muscles in the lower back also stretch. Tension or irritated nerves in this area can lead to pain.
Internal organs can also cause lower back pain, such as the kidneys and the lower urinary tract and the internal sexual organs. Persistent complaints should therefore be clarified by a doctor.

Read also the Signs of a herniated disc.

Middle back pain when breathing

Middle back pain when breathing can be due to different causes. Here, too, the cause is often in the musculoskeletal system, as a chronic lack of exercise and predominantly sedentary activities cause many people to develop problems in the back area. Muscular tension, blocked vertebrae and irritated nerves are the result and can cause breathing-dependent pain in the middle back.
Inflammation of the lungs and pleura often results in breath-dependent pain in the middle back. When you breathe in, the lungs expand, when you breathe out, they contract again. These movements often cause pain in infections. Typically, breathing in is more painful than breathing out in this case.

Read also the Signs of pneumonia.

Injuries to the ribs or vertebral bodies can also cause painful breathing in this area. Bruised or broken ribs should be considered in the event of external violence, for example in the event of a fall or accident. Intercostal neuralgia is also more common in the middle back. An intercostal nerve is irritated and causes sharp pain. These can sometimes be triggered by breathing and typically run in a belt shape around one side of the torso.

Upper back pain when breathing

Breath-dependent pain in the upper back can also have various causes. Here, too, the cause is often in the musculoskeletal system. Tension is a common cause, especially in the shoulder region. There are also vertebral blockages and pinched nerves, which come into consideration in the case of breath-dependent pain. Herniated discs in the cervical spine area can also cause such complaints, whereby the pain then occurs less often depending on the breathing.
However, infection and inflammation of the lungs and pleura typically cause back pain (especially when inhaling). These can also be specifically located in the upper back. In the case of flu-like infections that are accompanied by a strong cough, pain in the upper back can also be caused by excessive strain on the chest muscles. Last but not least, upper back pain can also occur with injuries to the ribs or vertebral bodies.

Pain in the ribs when breathing

Nerves that originate in the spine run under the ribs. With intercostal neuralgia, these nerves are irritated. A reason can e.g. age-related changes in the spine or an injury. By stretching the chest while breathing, these nerves are irritated and the pain is triggered. Inflammation of the pleura also causes pain when breathing. They often assume pneumonia. Those affected usually have shallow breathing.

Pain in breathing in the shoulder blade

Here, too, the respiratory pain is often caused by the holding apparatus. Bad posture and stress are very common. It is not uncommon for intercostal neuralgia to be the cause of the pain. By e.g. Age-related wear and tear on the spine can irritate nerves that pull from the spine along the ribs. This leads to pain that can radiate into the shoulder blade. More rarely, the cause lies in the lungs themselves.

Pain in the abdomen when breathing

In addition to possible widespread muscle-related pain or nerve entrapment, breathing-related pain that pulls into the abdomen can also have other causes. On the one hand, pleurisy can lead to pain in the Oberbach. The spleen, which is located in the left upper abdomen, can also lead to breathing-dependent complaints - e.g. as part of a splenic infarction or a spleen abscess. An abscess is a cavity of pus. In a splenic infarction, spleen tissue perishes due to a vascular blockage. Both cases are rare, but cause pain in the spleen. Chest pain due to a heart attack is usually not dependent on the breath, but it can lead to shortness of breath. Especially in women, the pain can sometimes be localized in the upper abdomen after a heart attack.


A doctor's visit is necessary to diagnose back pain when breathing. With a precise description of the symptoms and an exact description of the situations in which and where the symptoms occur, the doctor can usually narrow down the most likely causes. For further clarification, a physical examination is essential, in which the doctor, for example, palpates the spine and muscles and listens to the lungs and heart. A diagnosis can often be made through these examinations. Additional examinations could include an EKG, an ultrasound scan, or an MRI.

Concomitant symptoms

Back pain when breathing can be accompanied by various other symptoms. This depends on the underlying cause. Back pain that occurs as part of infections is usually accompanied by coughing, runny nose, sore throat and other cold symptoms. A fever can also occur. In the case of tension or dislocated vertebrae, there is usually pressure pain in the affected region and a palpable hardening of the muscles.A pulmonary embolism usually results in shortness of breath, a fast heartbeat and pain, especially when inhaling. Sometimes sweats and a fever occur.

Pain in your back and chest when you breathe

Pain when breathing in the back and chest can occur in the context of flu-like infections or problems with the musculoskeletal system. In the case of flu-like infections with coughing, the chest muscles can be stressed. This is then irritated and makes breathing painful. Pleurisy can also cause this type of breath-dependent pain. If there are no symptoms of a cold, the symptoms can also come from tension or dislocated vertebrae.
Last but not least, the heart should always be considered when having chest pain. Heart attacks can cause chest and back pain, even if these symptoms are not typically breath-dependent. Nevertheless, a medical examination is generally recommended in the case of chest pain. Breath-dependent pain in the chest area, which occurs mainly when inhaling, can also indicate a pulmonary embolism. The pulmonary arteries are blocked by blood clots. This can come from the deep veins of the legs, for example. Pulmonary embolism should be considered if the person concerned was last immobile, had to take physical rest for a long time due to an injury, has a tumor or has returned from a long flight, train or car journey, for example. Usually there is also shortness of breath.

Read also the Pulmonary Embolism Symptoms.

Pain in breathing with pain in the lungs

Pain when breathing in the back in connection with lung pain can occur in the context of flu-like infections.

If the infection spreads into the deeper airways or into the lung tissue, bronchitis or pneumonia occurs (pneumonia). This can lead to breath-dependent lung and back pain - especially if there is a strong urge to cough. The resulting pleurisy can also cause severe pain. Medical treatment is absolutely necessary in these cases in order to achieve the fastest possible healing and to avoid complications.

Read more about this at: Lung pain when coughing such as Pain on inhalation right

Treatment / therapy

The therapy for back pain while breathing depends on the underlying cause. Since tension is often the cause, heat and massages can help alleviate the symptoms. It may also be necessary to correct a slipped vertebra. In the case of flu-like infections, the back pain usually subsides on its own, even if the infection recedes. Very unpleasant complaints can also be treated temporarily with painkillers, although serious illnesses should be excluded as the cause of the pain beforehand.


Pain in the back when breathing is usually temporary, as it is usually an expression of a temporary disorder in the musculoskeletal system or a symptom of an infectious disease. If the cause is eliminated, the back pain will usually subside again soon. Persistent complaints should definitely be clarified by a doctor in order to be able to provide relief as soon as possible.