Can Asthma Cause Back Pain?

  • 1st Revision: Silvi Alex
  • 2nd Revision: Shagun Dhaliwal
  • 3rd Revision: Kaamya Mehta

Short Explanatory Video

Which pains are associated with asthma?

Although asthma symptoms are typically that of the common cold, one can experience body pain as well.

Chest pain 

Many asthmatic patients experience chest pain as excessive coughing and wheezing can lead to chest discomfort. This eventually leads to the chest feeling sore and painful afterwards.

In cases of severe asthma, normal lung functions are disturbed, causing chest pain. The following two conditions can occur in extreme cases:

  • The air fills in the space between the lungs and other cavities. This increases pressure in the lungs causing chest pain.
  • In rare cases, a lung collapses, and the air leaks into the spaces between the lung and other organs.

The severity of chest pain lies anywhere between a dull ache to a stabbing pain. The pain can occur during or after an asthma attack.

When you experience pain, avoid coughing, heavy breathing, or changing positions as it will worsen the pain.

Using your inhaler can help ease the symptoms, such as coughing or wheezing, and also minimise chest pain.

In cases of severe pain, you must go to A&E when the inhaler or medication does not seem to be of any help.

Asthma and back pain

Although back pain is not one of the typical asthma symptoms, it is still a concern for many asthmatic patients.

Several studies suggest a strong link between asthma and back pain.1 Excessive coughing and chest tightness are the main reasons for back pain. 

Asthma narrows the air passages, causing difficulty in chest expansion when breathing. There are few factors which are responsible for causing back pain in asthmatic patients:

  • The lungs are situated inside the rib cage. The top of the lungs peak above the collarbone. At the back, the lungs extend to the bottom rib. The location of the lungs at the back directly affects your spine and causes back pain. 
  • The diaphragm is connected to your spine. Difficulty in chest expansion exerts pressure on your diaphragm and spine, resulting in back pain.
  • Chronic conditions like obesity, diabetes, and other problems can worsen your asthma and back pain. Being overweight is riskier for both asthma and backache. Excess fat around the chest and back makes it hard to breathe. Your muscles have to put in extra effort to continue daily activities and breathing.
  • Poor posture or lack of stretching caused by a sedentary lifestyle can make the muscles on your back stiff.

Can asthma cause severe back pain?

The backache due to asthma differs from person to person. Some may experience a pressing sensation on their shoulder blades or lower back while some may feel excruciating pain in their back muscles.

When your airways are narrowed because of asthma, your lungs exert pressure to continue breathing on the back muscles. This causes a pressing-like pain in the back. If you do not manage your backache, the pain can worsen and affect your quality of life.

If there is too much pressure on the nerve connecting the diaphragm to the spine, there may be severe pain in the spine.

How to treat back pain in asthma?

Asthma is incurable but you can manage the symptoms including the back pain. Here are some of the options:  

  • Medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and opioid analgesics can be effective for backache.
  • For moderate or mild backache, you can use painkillers such as paracetamol. It is important you consult a doctor before starting any medications for backache.
  • Using a heat pack or cold pack on your back can provide pain relief.

How to reduce the chances of developing back pain in asthma?

If you are suffering from both asthma and back pain, it is important you manage the symptoms. The following ways are effective to help you reduce the chances of developing back pain.


Stretching is a great way to ensure your muscles do not remain stiff. Stretching muscles, tendons, and ligaments support your spine. This additional support is necessary to compensate for the pressure exerted by asthmatic lungs and diaphragm on the spine.

Stretching also improves motion and overall mobility when you have a sedentary lifestyle. If you have a backache for 3 months or longer, you may require weeks or even months of stretching.

You can also include low-impact aerobic exercises to improve mobility and stretching of your muscles.

Maintain proper posture

Poor posture is one of the common factors for backache. As an asthmatic patient, it is important to stay mindful of your posture if you are sitting or standing for prolonged hours.

Unsupported postures provide an uneven load on your spine. This weakens the tissues on your lower back and puts painful pressure on your muscles, disc, and joints. The same thing occurs when you incorrectly lift heavy objects.

To start off with a healthy posture, sit upright as much as you can. Avoid bending your back, slouching, hunching your shoulders and lying on your belly.

Here is a resource that contains more information and descriptive images that demonstrates common posture mistakes and how to fix them. 

Stay hydrated

You would be surprised to know how your water intake can affect your backache. Staying hydrated can reduce backache in many ways.

Dehydration causes your body to transport fluid from other organs to the brain. Lack of fluid in the spine and tissues makes them a bit dry and brittle. Drinking plenty of water ensures there is no friction between your joints. Hence, reducing the chances of pain.

Breathing exercises

Several breathing exercises like diaphragmatic and pursed-lip breathing are helpful to help you breathe easier. These techniques alternate breathing patterns and can relieve the pressure from your lungs during breathing.


It should be noted that one of the additional symptoms of asthma that you may experience is body pain, especially back pain. It can be experienced amongst asthma patients due to excessive coughing and chest tightness. This backache can range from moderate to severe depending on the individual. However, making some changes to your lifestyle and including some simple exercises to your routine can help reduce the chance of developing asthma-related back pain.


  1. Lunardi AC, Marques da Silva CC, Rodrigues Mendes FA, Marques AP, Stelmach R, Fernandes Carvalho CR. Musculoskeletal dysfunction and pain in adults with asthma. Journal of asthma. 2011 Feb 1;48(1):105-10.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Sheza Asim

Masters in Microbiology - University of Karachi, Pakistan
Sheza is a young microbiologist with a masters and has environmental microbiology, clinical virology, and epidemiology as areas of interests.
As a microbiologist in Pakistan, she has worked in tuberculosis diagnostic unit in Dow University of Health Sciences and in food and marine research centre in Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Reserach. After moving to the UK, she is keen to explore more career options including writing for health and life sciences.

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