Montage of a woman in different poses suffering with her hand clenched on her back in pain.

Asthma and Back Pain

Have you experienced back pain due to your asthma, perhaps from frequent coughing and chest tightness? What do you do to manage your back pain?

There was that soreness that I had felt before. I wondered if it was from sleeping in a strange position or the usual cough that induced rib pain. Have you also experienced back pain that you thought may be connected to your asthma? I set out on a mission to understand the connection between asthma and lower back pain.

Lower back pain and asthma

Researchers have been looking at the connection between lower back pain and respiratory diseases. In particular, they have been examining the relationship between COPD and asthma in lower back pain. More research is needed to fully understand the relationship and it is not yet known which way this relationship works - if lower back pain can contribute to asthma or if asthma contributes to lower back pain.1

Researchers have found some interesting connections between dyspnea (shortness of breath) and asthma and its contributions to back pain. There are also thoughts that asthma with hyperventilation creates additional stress on the breathing muscles. The breathing muscles and diaphragm are thought to contribute to postural control. Changes in posture have also been linked to low back pain.1 This reminded me of the old PSAs reminding people to lift heavy objects by bending their knees and not bending their backs.

Finding relief

I have personally felt the effects of poor posture; although, I felt the pain was more in the mid to upper back and certainly related to hunched shoulders due to excessive coughing. It can feel like all your muscles are bound together so tightly and almost every position is uncomfortable.

I think the worst bout of back-related muscle pain to asthma that I have had was related to intercostal muscle pain. The pain was so significant that it impacted my ability to take a deep breath, which affected my breathing and generally made me feel miserable. After ruling out other serious issues that my back pain could have been (for example, a pulmonary embolism), it was ruled as not being internal to the lungs and likely muscular. I sought care from my chiropractor. I wanted any relief I could for this particular episode.

After weeks of a combination of chiropractic, acupuncture, and eventually massage therapy, I was back to life - back pain-free. It is important to note that addressing any underlining asthma control was also an important step in managing my posture issues.

Caring for lower back pain

I keep an ongoing routine of back care that includes moving as much as possible, I try to incorporate some work of physical activity into my day, almost every day. Even if my lungs are not up to a big walk or bike ride, I try to get a lap around the block in. I also love to swim and, not only is it a great workout, it does well for keeping me limber.

Stretch, stretch, stretch! I can say how important this has been to me, as tight muscles in your quads or gluts can affect your back and posture and how you carry your rib cage. It isn't always easy to stretch - and sometimes it can be downright painful - but it's so necessary.

I get regular tune-ups from my care team that includes physiotherapists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and - one of the things I have found extremely helpful - yoga therapy. It can be quite expensive, but it has saved me more than once. It follows the stretching principles but it works for me and has helped keep me accountable.

I managed my asthma back pain through a few methods: I try to move as much as possible. I have found that being physically active has shortened the duration of my back pain in general. My physical therapist explained that the stronger the supportive muscles, the better my posture, and the least I am impacted by back pain I will be.

Have you experienced back pain due to your asthma? What do you do to manage your back pain? I would love to hear about your experiences and tips.

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