Upper Back Pain When Breathing | Definition, Causes & Treatment [Definitive 2021 Guide]

Upper back pain is a common condition among adults. Sometimes the cause of upper back pain is easy to find. And other times, it's more mysterious. It has many faces, presents many symptoms, and can signify anything from a muscle strain to lung cancer. 

This pain can happen while running, standing, bending, in pregnancy or when sneezing and can attack the right or the left side of the back. Suppose you are worried about your upper back pain when breathing and consider visiting a doctor. In that case, this article will give you a solid knowledge of everything you should know about upper back pain when breathing - what it is, why it hurts, when it usually happens and how to treat it.

Firstly, let's first define what it is.

What Is Upper Back Pain When Breathing?

This is the type of pain that can make a person avoid taking deep breaths. Shallow breathing can result in insufficient oxygen getting into the body, which may damage health over time. So, it's vital to understand upper back pain when breathing. 

Upper back pain when breathing is a type of pain that usually extends around the chest. A sharp pain could be a sign of pleurisy or a heart attack. A dull ache might be due to a fractured vertebra or muscle strain. To help you recognize back pain when breathing, here are the most common symptoms.


When breathing, upper back pain can often be accompanied by shortness of breath or severe pain in your chest, shoulder, back, or neck on the affected side, irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, or rapid breathing.

You could be restless or have trouble breathing at night, cough up blood in the morning, and feel sluggish throughout the day. Headaches and discoloration around the injury that causes pain are also common.

Muscle spasms or twitching can cause some discomfort. Unexplained weight loss is among the most severe symptoms.

When Can Upper Back Pain When Breathing Happen?

Upper back pain when breathing can happen on its own, while still or lying down, but it most often occurs while performing some of the activities or being in states mentioned below.


Upper back pain when breathing after a running session is likely a result of poor posture while running. According to the Marathon Training Academy, when runners are exhausted, they start relaxing their posture. The head moves forward on the neck, which causes strain to the upper back, leading to upper back pain while breathing.


Upper back pain when breathing during pregnancy can occur at any point but is most common in the third trimester. As pregnancy progresses, the growing size of the baby and the uterus shift the center of gravity forward, exerting increased pressure on the muscles in the back.


Having back pain alone isn't necessarily a symptom of COVID-19. Other viral infections like the flu can also cause body aches. The only way to know if your pain is a symptom of COVID-19 is to receive a positive diagnostic test. However, even with a positive diagnostic test result, there's a slight chance of an inaccurate result.


The sudden tensing of your abdominal muscles during a forceful sneeze can cause a strain on your back muscles. A violent sneeze can also injure the ligaments, nerves, and discs between your vertebrae.


Like sneezing, you may also feel upper back pain when you take a deep breath to cough because the vertebrae (the spinal bones) in your upper back (also known as the thoracic spine) connect to the ribs.


Soft tissue injuries commonly cause upper back pain. Sprains or strains or muscle tension caused by poor posture or looking downward for long periods can cause this type of pain. Poor posture and a tense neck can combine to hurt your upper back.


If you sit hunched over your food during a meal, you may finish eating with soreness in your back while breathing.

Learn more about upper back pain when breathing.

Upper Back Pain When Breathing Causes & Treatment

Muscle Strain

Upper back pain when breathing may worsen after an injury or strain of a muscle. A muscle strain, or pulled muscle, occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. The tear usually occurs as a result of fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle. Strains can happen in any muscle, but they're most common in your lower and upper back. Ultrasound can often help distinguish among several different types of soft tissue injuries. They are often the result of improper use of muscles (deconditioning).

You can cure muscle strain or an injury by resting. Avoid physical activities that cause pain, but be careful not to become utterly passive since movement accelerates healing. You can condition your muscles to be stronger or more enduring through exercises and weight training when you get well. Start correcting your posture and if you are sitting for more extended periods, take breaks, standing or walking. You may consider getting a standing desk.


Upper back pain injuries can happen in car accidents, when slipping and falling, work-related accidents, lifting heavy things incorrectly, or working out too hard.

You'll typically feel the pain when breathing in the upper back immediately after the injury. However, some injuries don't produce symptoms until the condition becomes severe. Such injuries can put you at risk of lasting complications, including chronic pain, nerve damage, and paralysis. It is obvious now that you should take upper back pain when breathing seriously.

While some of these injuries may require visiting a physiologist or physiotherapist, others may need surgery.

Herniated Disc

Discs in the spine prevent the vertebrae from rubbing against each other. A herniated disc is more common in the lower back but can happen in the upper back too. Herniated discs occur when a piece of this cushion pokes through and puts pressure on the spine.

Even a tiny amount of pressure can result in significant pain in the upper back when breathing.

Luckily, herniated discs are usually cured by resting for a few days and taking anti-inflammatory drugs.

Pinched Nerve

A herniated disc can slip far enough out that it compresses the nearby nerve and causes pain. The treatment is similar to a herniated disc, but doctors may recommend spinal steroid injections in some cases.


According to the United States National Institute on Aging, osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis among older adults. It is due to the wearing away of the cartilage that protects the bones as a person ages.

Myofascial Pain

Fascia is the connective tissue in the back. It may last for a short period, but it is one of the cases when an unattended injury can cause intense pain in the upper back when breathing. Doctors recommend doing myofascial release therapy to enable a person to work the fascia and relieve the pain.

Spinal Infection

A spinal epidural abscess can form, grow and swell, leading to pain. A spinal epidural abscess is a collection of germs and pus that form between the spinal cord and bones of the spine. Spinal infection is the rarest condition that can cause upper back pain when breathing. Surgery is essential, and antibiotics can help.

Pulmonary Embolism

A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in an artery of your lung. You may experience shortness of breath apart from upper back pain.

Other symptoms include irregular heartbeat, lightheadedness, rapid breathing, restlessness, coughing up blood, chest pain, and weak pulse.

If you are experiencing any of the above accompanied by upper back pain when breathing, seek immediate medical help since this condition can be life-threatening.

Lung Cancer

In sporadic cases, back pain may occur due to lung cancer. It can be surgically removed.

Some other common causes of upper back pain when breathing are kyphosis and scoliosis, which physiotherapists can treat successfully.

So we have concluded that upper back pain when breathing can indicate a variety of more minor and more severe conditions. It would be best to avoid them altogether, so how to prevent upper back pain when breathing?

Upper back pain when breathing.

Preventing Upper Back Pain When Breathing

To work on the prevention of upper back pain when breathing is not quantum physics. All you need to do is introduce a healthy lifestyle.

Avoid smoking, take care of your body weight, prevent obesity, and exercise regularly.

None of these guarantees that you will never have to experience upper back pain when breathing, but it can make the cause less severe and easier to tackle. 

Pay special attention to the way you exercise. Namely, lift properly when you lift heavy weights. This rule applies to any weight lifting, such as you might have when renovating your apartment, for example.

Take care to maintain good posture, and if you are already suffering from scoliosis or kyphosis, make sure to introduce a set of exercises as a daily routine.


Throughout this article, we have discovered how upper back pain when breathing feels, its causes, and how to treat/prevent it properly. Many of the conditions that might have been causing you upper back pain when breathing are not easy to tackle, and you cannot treat them by resting, applying ice, or exercising correctly.

Many would require surgery and lengthy recovery times.

But what if we told you that there is a completely painless, very efficient, and successful treatment option cleared by the FDA and is considered cutting-edge technology? One that could free you of pain in a short period no matter how severe your condition is?

Yes, there is. It's called Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT®).

What is Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT) & How Will It Help Me?

Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT®) is a form of extracorporeal shock wave therapy. It's the most advanced, completely safe, and highly effective non-invasive treatment method for pain without risks, complications, or long recovery periods.

It has been proved that EPAT's success rate is equal to or greater than the success rate of traditional treatment methods, including surgery. 

This technology is based on a unique set of pressure waves that stimulate metabolism, enhance blood circulation, and accelerate healing. As a result, damaged tissue gradually regenerates and eventually heals. 

EPAT represents a breakthrough treatment option for a broad range of musculoskeletal conditions and includes the following areas: neck, shoulders, back, upper arm, elbows, forearm, wrist and hand, pelvis and hips, thigh and knee, foot and ankle. It's also proven that EPAT is helpful in erectile dysfunction treatment.

The beneficial effects are often experienced after only three treatments. Some patients report immediate pain relief after the treatment, although it can take up to 4 weeks for pain relief to start. The procedure eliminates pain and restores full mobility, thus improving your quality of life. Over 80% of treated patients reported they are pain-free or have significant pain reduction.

Cleared by FDA, this technology was developed in Europe and is currently used around the globe. A wealth of medical experience, state-of-the-art engineering, and optimal quality have been integrated into each EPAT® device. The extensive clinical studies and tests have confirmed its safety and efficacy. Extracorporeal Pulse Activation Technology (EPAT®) has virtually no risks or side effects if performed by a qualified caregiver.

How does EPAT work?

The treatment is performed in your physician's office or clinic and doesn't require anesthesia, and takes a minimal amount of time. Patients can immediately bear weight and return to regular activity within a few days of the procedure. 

The technician performs treatment by applying coupling gel to the specified treatment area to enhance effectiveness. Then, non-invasive low frequency (8-12 Hz) acoustic sound waves are released into the painful area using an applicator. The applicator moves over circularly while the sound waves penetrate deep through your soft tissue, reaching the most distant regions.

Every process for a patient suffering from an injury or disease is unique. Our leading EPAT® pain treatment provides significant pain relief after only three treatments.

Let us help you. Contact us and start the fantastic recovery journey for more information, clients' experiences, reviews, and more.