Living with lower back pain is highly uncomfortable, and can feel almost debilitating when even deep breathing causes discomfort. If you experience lower back pain when breathing deeply, treating the issue ASAP is essential.
Research into the topic shows that low back pain accounts for 3.15% of all emergency visits. While lower back pain can surface in a range of situations, experiencing the symptoms when breathing deeply will naturally cause a significant impact on your quality of life. This quick guide will help you identify the potential causes, along with the best way to seek treatment
Why does my lower back hurt when I breathe?
Lower back pain has been the leading cause of living with disabilities for over 30 years. When asking “why does my lower back hurt when I breathe in?”, there are a variety of potential underlying issues that could be the reason behind your discomfort.
From acute to chronic lower back pain when breathing deeply, the most common causes are listed below:
Like lower back pain, obesity is now one of the most common health issues to impact modern society. Data on links between the two have been inconclusive and controversial. However, research into The Association Between Obesity and Low Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis by Rahman Shiri et al. included multiple studies that show a positive correlation.
The extra weight will place added pressure on your organs, particularly when breathing. Many people find that excess fat accumulates primarily around the abdomen, which further escalates the problem. As well as soreness, you may experience tightness. When obesity is the cause of your lower back pain, the discomfort may also extend to your knees.
Reducing your BMI through healthy living choices will make a big difference. Even if obesity isn’t the only cause, it will make the symptoms less noticeable. Alternative treatments can include gastric surgery and liposuction. Before completing any treatment, it is essential that you gain medical advice.
Scoliosis is a condition that impacts around 2-3% of the population. While it primarily occurs during infancy or between the ages of 10-15, it can often go unnoticed for many years. The condition is defined as a curvature of the frontal plane (coronal) and can cause significant lower back pain, which may also spread down to your feet.
While lower back pain attributed to scoliosis won’t be limited to deep breathing, it’s likely that the symptoms will worsen when breathing heavily because the misshapen spine and ribcage will put pressure on the heart and lungs. The pain may start out mild but can get progressively worse if left untreated.
Treatment for the pain itself can include injections and anti-inflammatories. For permanent relief, it will be necessary to correct the curvature of the spine while also working on building a better posture, which extends to hip and pelvic alignment.
Perhaps the most serious cause of lower back pain when breathing is lung cancer, which is likely to be characterized by acute pain. If you feel this when breathing, laughing, talking, or swallowing, it’s advised that you seek virtual urgent care. Even when it’s not cancer, an accurate diagnosis will help you gain the necessary support – and provide peace of mind.
Other lung conditions can also cause lower back pain that is more noticeable when deep breathing. Pleurisy is the inflammation of the lung lining and can cause lower back pain, although it is more commonly associated with pains at chest level. A fever or cough may also be experienced when this is the source of pain,
The treatment for lung-related conditions can vary greatly, ranging from antibiotics to cure bacterial infections to chemotherapy and other cancer procedures. An accurate diagnosis will be the first step to helping you secure the right program.
If lower back pain when breathing deeply suddenly onsets after a physical trauma, it’s likely that this will be the cause. Anthony Ho et al. identify lower back pain when breathing as one of the common issues following multiple rib fractures in their paper Acute pain management of patients with multiple fractured ribs. Any injury near the thoracic area may cause pain.
Trauma could be caused by sporting injuries, road accidents, or workplace slips. Tearing, overstretching, or otherwise putting too much stress can lead to acute pain on each deep breath. Muscle spasms and discoloration around the localized area of discomfort are symptoms that commonly accompany this issue.
The body is very good at repairing itself. In many cases, rest is the best medicine, although medication or hot/cold therapy can alleviate the pain. Depending on the nature of the injury, physiotherapy or surgical interventions may be required.
Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes the air sacs to be inflamed and filled with fluid. Breathing difficulties are a common symptom, but the pain can also extend to the lower back. Over 1.5 million cases are reported each year, with 41,000 deaths being recorded as per the CDC. a significant percentage will experience lower back pain when deep breathing.
Additional symptoms can include coughing, coughing up blood (rare), shivering, chest pains that accompany the lower back pains when breathing, increased heart rate, and a high temperature. Given that it can be a serious respiratory condition, it is important to seek help quickly from a registered professional.
Staying hydrated and getting lots of rest will form the bulk of your treatment. However, medications may be needed while it is also an opportunity to investigate other symptoms and reasons for the presence of lower back pain while breathing.
When to see a doctor?
The cause of lower back pain when breathing deeply may be a minor temporary issue or a symptom of a major health condition. Therefore, knowing when to see a doctor is key. If the pain lasts longer than two weeks and impacts your daily lifestyle, you should call a medical expert. Alternatively, if acute pain is unbearable, you should seek help ASAP.
Get help from an online doctor
Getting to a local doctor can be very difficult when your lower back pain makes it difficult to move. Thanks to DrHouse, you can now book an appointment with an online doctor today. A full consultation into your lower back pain symptoms will help diagnose the issue and point you towards the right treatment, thus allowing you to bring some normality back to your life.
While lower back pain can be attributed to injuries, there is also a strong possibility that your condition is connected to an underlying problem. In many cases, it is linked to placing too much pressure on the lower back, which could be due to weight issues or problems with the spine.
A range of medications may be available to fight pain and tightness, but treating the underlying cause is the only way to truly combat lower back pain when breathing in style.
- Pneumonia. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/pneumonia.htm
- Ho, Anthony M.-H.; Karmakar, Manoj K.; Critchley, Lester A.H. Acute pain management of patients with multiple fractured ribs, Current Opinion in Critical Care: August 2011 – Volume 17 – Issue 4 – p 323-327. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1097/MCC.0b013e328348bf6f
- Scoliosis. American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Available from: https://www.aans.org/Patients/Neurosurgical-Conditions-and-Treatments/Scoliosis
- The Global Burden of Low Back Pain. International Association For The Study of Pain. Available from: https://www.iasp-pain.org/resources/fact-sheets/the-global-burden-of-low-back-pain/
- Waterman BR, Belmont PJ Jr, Schoenfeld AJ. Low back pain in the United States: incidence and risk factors for presentation in the emergency setting. Spine J. 2012 Jan;12(1):63-70. Available from: 10.1016/j.spinee.2011.09.002
DrHouse articles are written by MDs, NPs, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. The contents of the DrHouse site are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.