Asthma and Back Pain
Asthma is a long-standing condition suffered by millions across the globe. It can be almost debilitating with symptoms such as breathlessness and wheezing. Back pain and tightness are also a common occurrence in individuals with asthma and can be painful and frustrating when experienced.
If you have asthma, it is essential to understand which back pain related symptoms may occur so you can take treatment, if needed.
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The Link Between Asthma and Back Pain
Asthma is an inflammatory condition that narrows your airways, lowering the passage of oxygen through your lungs. It also causes mucus buildup and difficulty in breathing.
As muscles used for breathing are connected to your vertebrae, altered breathing may result in back pain. Back pain is also related to chronic cough associated with asthma.
While the exact correlation between these conditions is not known, studies show the following:
- Breathing exercises help to manage non-specific and long-standing back pain.
- Respiratory diseases are a predictor for low back pain.
- A significant correlation between breathing pattern disorders and low back pain.
- Patients with lower back pain had significantly altered breathing patterns during motor control testing.
Patients with asthma hold their shoulder and head more forward and have decreased internal rotation, lowered chest wall expansion, and decreased thoracic spine flexibility as compared to the general population So, lower back, shoulder, and neck pain are significantly prevalent in asthmatic patients.
Some associated symptoms related to back pain due to asthma or other breathing problems are:
- Altered vision
- Concentration difficulties
- Deep sighing
- Frequent yawning
- Chest pain
- General fatigue
- Breathlessness after exercising
Some other causes that have similar symptoms are:
- Brain stem injury
- Gastrointestinal diseases
- Cardiovascular disorders
- Breathing pattern disorders
- Other respiratory problems
Back pain, especially low back pain, is one of the commonest health problems in people living with a disability worldwide. The back is highly prone to injuries as it works to keep your body in an upright position and support your basic movements. If your back hurts with asthma it may make breathing more painful or difficult.
Breathing muscles and diaphragm play an essential role in spinal stiffness and postural control. In patients with asthma, hyperventilation affects the breathing muscles and thus increases the risk of back pain. Further being overweight is a risk factor for both asthma and backache. If you are obese, your back muscles have to work harder to support your day-to-day activities. Having excess fat around the back or chest also makes it harder to breathe.
Besides, other risk factors, such as genetic, lifestyle, and psychological disorders, increases the risk of backache.
Read more about important asthma facts here.
Your doctor may help you with medications to manage both backache and asthma.
The commonly used medications for low back pain are skeletal muscle relaxants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and opioid analgesics.
It is seen that skeletal muscle relaxants, NSAIDs, tricyclic antidepressants are effective for acute or short-term pain relief. For moderate or mild back pain, acetaminophen may be a better option as it has a favorable safety profile than NSAIDs, which is preferred for severe pain.
For severe and disabling pain, opioids may be considered to offer to improve function and adequate pain relief, despite potential risks. These days you don’t have to visit a doctor in person an online pharmacy is a great option to consult your doctor virtually from the comfort of your couch.
Beta-agonists are commonly used for treating both childhood and adult asthma as they are the most potent bronchodilators available. They suppress inflammation and relieves symptoms of asthma. These bronchodilators are advised to be taken by inhalation as it has a quicker effect and a better dose-effect ratio.
In some cases, a corticosteroid may also be needed to slow the unfavorable course of asthma.
You can also read our previous article on management of asthma here.
Breathing rehabilitation aids in reducing the negative effect of altered breathing on the back. This treatment offers to manage breathlessness, maintain or improve mobility, and clear the airways.
Here are some of the breathing exercises to manage asthma and back pain:
The diaphragm is a muscle on which your lungs rest and its movement helps you to breathe. In this breathing technique, you focus on breathing through your diaphragm instead of your chest. This technique helps to slow your breathing, strengthen your diaphragm, and lower your body’s oxygen needs.
To practice this type of breathing, you need to lie on your back with knees bent, and a pillow placed below the knees. Alternatively, you can also practice it by sitting straight on your chair.
Now, place one hand on your chest and the other on the stomach. Breathe slowly through your nose so that the hand on your chest remains still and the one your stomach moves. Breathe out through pursed lips.
The Papworth Method
This technique involves breathing slowly from your diaphragm through your nose. It also helps you to manage stress so that it does not affect your breathing. It is seen that the Papworth method improves symptoms and quality of life in people who have asthma.
Various studies have indicated a relation of mouth breathing with severe asthma symptoms. Nasal breathing, on the other hand, adds humidity and warmth to the air, which helps to improve your breathing.
Individuals with asthma tend to breathe rapidly, which aggravates shortness of breath. We also know that hyperventilation is a significant cause of backache associated with asthma. Buteyko breathing involves a series of exercises that help you breathe slower and deeper.
Yoga exercises are associated with deep breathing. Studies have shown the benefits of deep, controlled breathing in improving asthma symptoms and lung function.
Pursed Lip Breathing
This breathing technique offers to relieve shortness of breath and improve your breathing. You can practice breathing slowly through your nose and mouth closed. Now, purse your lips as you are about to whistle. You breathe out through pursed lips at the count of four.
Asthma is a common condition, which may be incapacitating due to its symptoms, including hyperventilation and shortness of breath. As muscles involved in breathing are connected to your spine, altered breathing may cause low back pain.
If you have asthma and notice frequent backache, your doctor can help you with treatment options to deal with it. They may prescribe medications to manage asthma and backache. Your doctor may also suggest breathing exercises to improve your breathing and thus manage or prevent back pain associated with asthma.