Back Pain Clinic, Specialists in Osteopathy, Chiropractic and Massage

The Effective Link Between Back Pain When Breathing

By Andrew Siyabalawatte, posted April 2021.

Back Pain when Breathing

Picture someone wincing as they breathe—showing how back pain makes each breath a challenge.

Ever wondered why you get back pain when breathing? Let’s unravel the mystery. Meet the diaphragm, the silent force beneath your ribcage, with a direct line to your spine. It tirelessly collaborates with every breath you take.

Back pain when breathing ? let’s explore the captivating interplay between our breathing and our back. We’ll delve into how they move together and, at times, experience a less-than-harmonious duet.

The Connection Between The Back And Ribcage


Right, now take a deep breath and with your hands (one on the chest and one on the back), try and feel the structures that move on the front of your body – you should notice the ribs elevate, the chest expand and the abdomen fill with air.

You should also feel how the upper, middle and lower back also expand and depress as you breathe in and out – see the connection?

Factors that Contribute to Back Pain When Breathing

It’s essential to acknowledge that various factors contribute to lower back pain when breathing. For example, a herniated disc can directly influence breathing mechanics as the muscles protecting the disc will be more focused on that, therefore the breathing pattern will automatically alter itself to accommodate.

From a structural perspective, poor posture is a significant factor. Prolonged periods of sitting, especially at a desk, can directly impact breathing. In simple terms, “slouching” due to overused core muscles and overstretched back muscles can compress the diaphragm, reducing its ability to expand and flatten, leading to breathing issues.

This reduces the space for the diaphragm to expand and flatten and thus, leads to breathing issues.

The Negative Effect Of Poor Breathing

From my experience in clinic, I often find that people who have constant or intermittent back pain for months or years even, have some form of breathing issue. I believe this issue develops over time as a “defence mechanism” to protect the back by tightening or recruiting the core muscles to engage more than they need to. This is why Osteopathic treatment of the diaphragm for example, can potentially alleviate symptoms of back pain almost immediately.

An image showcasing hands gently addressing the diaphragm, symbolizing the targeted care and relief brought by osteopathic treatment.

If you find yourself grappling with back pain while breathing for example, if your experiencing a shortness of breath or if you’re coughing up blood, prompt medical attention is absolutely crucial.

Physical Therapy To Improve Ribcage Function When Breathing

The exercise shown below focuses on gently decompressing the spine to help open out the ribcage and bring more air in. Focus on breathing in a slow controlled manner through the mouth to fill the abdomen during the stretch.

https://www.brisbanespineclinic.com.au/how-breathing-techniques-may-improve-your-back-pain/

Train The Diaphragm

The diaphragm is the muscle that’s responsible for 80 percent of your breathing. This muscle’s main function is to support breathing, which can help your body adjust to increases in intensity during your workout. Like your other muscles, you can do exercises to train your diaphragm and boost your overall aerobic performance.

The exercises shown here focus on improving strength and endurance throughout whilst being mindful of respiration.

Add a weight in the hold phase of each exercise to further challenge the body 💪

Did these exercises help? Book in with our back specialists and get the medical attention you need. We will help alleviate your back pain and help you address the issues affecting your breathing and chest pain concerns.

To find out more about breathing and backpain, click here to read our December newsletter.

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