What Causes Pain In Back When Breathing And Moving?

Experiencing a sudden pain in your back when breathing is not unusual. But, what causes sudden back pain, and what actions can you take to get rid of it? Is your pain caused by a muscle strain or something more serious like a herniated disc in your back? Pain in the back caused, especially when moving or breathing deeply, is a symptom of a bigger problem, so before you treat it, you should figure out why it’s there.

Repetitive heavy lifting, incorrect breathing techniques, chronic lung disease, and obesity are among the most common causes of pain in the back when breathing. Also, back pain when taking a deep breath is frequently caused by diaphragmatic irritation. This happens when the muscles and bones of the diaphragm are not working properly.

Some important medical issues are also the underlying reasons for chronic back pain and are preventable. But what does it mean when it hurts to breathe in your back? Keep reading to learn more about what causes pain in the upper back when breathing and moving and actions you can take.

What Does It Mean When You Take A Deep Breath, And Your Back Hurts?

You may experience back pain for several reasons. Muscles strain, lung problems (by asthma, bronchitis, tuberculosis, or different infections), some diseases of the heart vessels, and even hernia. Now have you ever left the doctor’s office leaving with a prescription for painkillers right after getting diagnosed with back pain? I have—and it makes me wonder: am I that sick? What did my doctor know that I didn’t?

Here’s how you can know for yourself if your back pain is a serious emergency call-the-ambulance type of event.

How Do You Know If Your Back Pain Is Serious?

More often than not, back pain is pretty easy to identify and is relatively benign. If you’ve rolled your ankle before, chances are, you know what back pain feels like. It’s hard to forget that dull aching(usually on both sides of your body) kind of pain, after all.

If you’re wondering if your back pain is serious, there are some common symptoms doctors and physical therapists look for — as well as some tell-tail signs that suggest you should see a specialist immediately.

But first, you got to answer – do you have neck pain, back pain, and/or radiating pain? Do you have difficulty doing some things and cannot pinpoint the cause of your pain? If so, you could have a medical issue.

Most medical issues are easily treatable that won’t cause any long-term difficulties. However, people often overlook a dozen medical issues related to back pain that could actually be quite harmful to them. These “minor” medical issues are much more serious than others, but many people don’t know how to recognize them.

So, if you are wondering: why does my back hurts when I take a deep breath, you must determine if the pain occurs only when breathing or when moving. Also, you must determine where the pain is located. Keep reading to learn the common types of back pain that people suffer from breathing and moving.

What Are The Common Types Of Back Pain People Experience When Breathing Or Moving?

Back pain can be very serious business. However, most of the time, there are some simple reasons that are affecting your back. The most common reason for lower back pain is because you’re sitting too much and doing too much bending and lifting – which can cause muscle injury. But you may also suffer from other types of back pain, such as the following:

  • Pain In Right Side Back When Breathing Or Moving: Pain in the upper right back, especially when breathing on the right side, can signal a disorder of kidney function, kidney stones or sprains, and strains.
  • Pain In Back When Breathing On The Left Side: Experiencing sharp pain in the back when breathing on the left side sometimes occurs due to muscle strain. But chronic upper back pain is a symptom of lung cancer. Experiencing intense pain in the back behind the lung is a serious concern, and you must seek medical assistance immediately.
  • Pain In Back When Breathing And Coughing: Sometimes lower back pain occurs due to coughing for a long time. Chronic coughing exerts pressure on the back, and this results in sharp lumbar pain.
  • Pain In Back Shoulder Blade When Breathing: Shoulder back pain on the left or right side is a common sign of heart attack, pleurisy, or pleural disorders. Such type of pain in the back under the shoulder blade when breathing passes horizontally, dispersing through the neck and the arm.
  • Pain In Back When Breathing And Swallowing: Back pain, especially when swallowing and breathing, can indicate underlying health issues. However, people with epiglottitis suffer from painful swallowing and breathing difficulties, and the pain sometimes traverses toward the lower back and causes acute right side chest pain.
  • Pain In Back When Breathing And Bending: If your back hurts when bending down, it may be due to an injury or a slipped herniated disk. Suffering from chronic back pain when breathing and bending or stretching is also a common symptom of arthritis. If you’ve trouble bending, you would want to consult with an orthopedic specialist, but if you are suffering from severe shortness of breath whenever bending, it is time to consult a cardiologist.
  • Pain In Back When Breathing During Pregnancy: It is normal to experience back pain during pregnancy, but if you experience pain in the back just when breathing deeply, it can be due to several reasons, including weight gain, posture change, or at times due to hormonal change. It is best to consult and seek advice from an Ob/Gyn.

Some patients like to self-diagnose and try home remedies before seeking medical help. But if you’ve felt any of these symptoms for more than a few days, it’s time to schedule an appointment to discuss your back pain. It’s always best to get a second opinion from a doctor or physical therapist before deciding on treatment options.


  1. Pleural Disorders. (Accessed at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/pleural-disorders)
  2. Epiglotittis – Symptoms, and causes. (Accessed at https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epiglottitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20372227)
  3. “Back pain when breathing: causes, symptoms, treatment.” Healthline. (Accessed at https://www.healthline.com/health/back-pain-when-breathing#strained-muscle)

Show more sources      

  1. “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (Accessed at https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet)
  2. “Back pain in a patient with lung cancer.” Journal of the advanced Practitioner in Oncology. (Accessed at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4093317/)
Marzia Khan
Marzia Khan

Marzia Khan is the director of content and operations at RobustAlive. She contributes to content strategy and process management across product initiatives, RND, and the editorial. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Frontline, and the PBS. Before joining RobustAlive, she also co-authored award-winning research on health and wellness and participated in various initiatives to increase awareness about healthy living and chronic disease prevention. She acts as the co-editor for RobustAlive and brings an expansive network of connections to the table while managing activity execution where required.