Back discomfort symptoms include stiffness, spasms, tenderness, and headaches often caused by unhealthy posture and overuse muscle strain. Breathing back discomfort can be caused by injuries to the spinal musculoskeletal system, conditions and/or disease in the back, lungs, or heart, and other conditions unrelated to the back. When taking a breath, the intercostal muscles surrounding the rib cage contract, expanding the chest and allowing the lungs to fill with air. These muscles directly affect the spine, which is why back issues can present when breathing. Chiropractic care, decompression, and massage therapy, combined with a functional medicine approach, can realign the spine, release tight muscles, and restore function.Breathing Back Discomfort Causes Chiropractor

Breathing Back Discomfort

A problem in the back could be a root cause for discomfort and back problems while breathing.

Spinal Conditions


  • Scoliosis causes the spine to curve sideways, either in one direction, creating a C shape, or generating an S shape in two directions.
  • The curvature can be so minimal that it cannot be seen or so severe that it can be life-threatening. Most scoliosis cases fall in between.
  • Taking deep breaths can cause discomfort and pain because the spine curvature puts extra strain on certain muscles meant to support the body’s weight in tandem with other muscles that have limited function or are no longer functioning.
  • The condition normally begins in adolescence but can start later in life.

Scoliosis treatment varies depending on the severity.


  • A spinal physician will monitor the individual for mild curvature, as sometimes the process stops before it becomes serious. This is known as the wait-and-see, what-happens approach.

Activity, Chiropractic, and Physical Therapy

  • Yoga can stop and even reverse the progression.
  • Chiropractic care and physical therapy can help alleviate symptoms.


  • Bracing can be effective at stopping the progression.


  • For severe cases, surgery may be necessary.
  • In this case, spinal fusion is the most common surgical procedure for this condition.
  • Newer procedures like vertebral body tethering and ApiFix have been approved and could be an option.


Kyphosis is another curve in the back that is supposed to be there.

  • Instead of curving like scoliosis, kyphosis causes a curve forward in the thoracic spine/upper back.
  • Problems arise when the curve is too pronounced.
  • This curve can come from unhealthy posture, Scheuermann’s disease, or being born with it.
  • Kyphosis causes breathing back discomfort by straining the muscles in the upper back, which are used for each breath.
  • Treatment often involves chiropractic and/or physical therapy to restore proper curvature and reduce inflammation.
  • A back brace could be prescribed if discomfort and pain continue.
  • Spinal fusion could be recommended for severe cases.


The lungs and the spine are close to each other, which is why back discomfort and problems with breathing are connected.


  • Pneumonia is an infection in the lungs that causes the tiny sacks known as alveoli to fill with fluid.
  • This is where the body takes oxygen from the inhaled air to the bloodstream.
  • The infection causes inflammation and discomfort symptoms in and around the chest and back while taking deep breaths.

Lung Cancer

  • Lung cancer can cause back issues and pain.
  • Frequently coughing causes the muscles around the ribs and back to become overused and strained from the jerking and heaving.
  • The strained muscles cause discomfort and pain when taking a breath.
  • Tumors can push on sensitive nerves in the back, causing inflammation and pain.


  • There is a thin layer of protective tissue surrounding the lungs called pleura.
  • Pleurisy describes the layer becoming infected and/or inflamed, which causes discomfort symptoms in the back when breathing.
  • Pleurisy can be caused by injury, infection, or cancer.
  • Individuals with autoimmune disorders are more at risk of developing the condition.


  • Pneumothorax describes a full or partial lung collapse, usually on one side.
  • The lung can collapse as a result of severe illness or injury.
  • The lung collapses because air gets between the pleura and the lung and not allowing the lung to expand.
  • Pain with breathing is a common indicator of pneumothorax.
  • Individuals with this condition also experience severe shortness of breath and chest pain on one side.

Pulmonary Embolism

  • A pulmonary embolism occurs when a blood clot gets stuck in an artery, blocking blood flow to part of the lung.
  • The lungs will display signs of distress through back pain when trying to take a deep breath.
  • This is a life-threatening condition that causes chest pain, coughing up blood, a heart rate over 100 beats per minute, dizziness or leg swelling, and painful breathing; get to an emergency room immediately.


Heart Attack

  • The nerves associated with pain in the muscles and bones differ from those surrounding the organs, including the heart.
  • However, a heart attack can cause back pain as the nerves of the heart travel along the same path as spinal nerves, specifically in the upper back.
  • The brain can misinterpret pain signals from the same roots that supply peripheral nerves in the chest, arm, jaw, and back.
  • Because they share nerve pathways, the upper back can present with pain during a heart attack.

Aortic Dissection

  • The largest artery in the body is called the aorta.
  • It comes off the top of the heart and then drops to supply blood to the rest of the body.
  • Sometimes, the vessel can get a small tear in the chest area, which grows from the blood circulation pressure.
  • Aortic dissection can cause intense back pain while breathing.

Chiropractic care, decompression, and massage therapy combined with functional medicine can help realign the spine, stretch and loosen the overused and strained muscles, and provide postural training and nutritional planning to help alleviate symptoms and restore function.

Deep Breathing Back Pain


Costumbrado J, Ghassemzadeh S. Spontaneous Pneumothorax. [Updated 2022 Jul 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Floman, Y., Burnei, G., Gavriliu, S. et al. Surgical management of moderate adolescent idiopathic scoliosis with ApiFix®: a short peri- apical fixation followed by post-operative curve reduction with exercises. Scoliosis 10, 4 (2015).

Hunter MP, Regunath H. Pleurisy. [Updated 2022 Jul 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Mansfield JT, Bennett M. Scheuermann Disease. [Updated 2022 Aug 21]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Raitio A, Syvänen J, Helenius I. Vertebral Body Tethering: Indications, Surgical Technique, and a Systematic Review of Published Results. Journal of Clinical Medicine. 2022; 11(9):2576.

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