Can Asthma Cause Back And Shoulder Pain?

Jun 18, 2004 Asthma

Asthma affects the respiratory system making it difficult to breathe.  It causes inflammation of the airways restricting airflow into the lungs.  Many people with asthma complain of having back and shoulder pain which is usually a result of coughing and the extra effort it requires to breathe.  The connection between the two is not definitive and is difficult to explain medically. (Source: Healthfully) Keeping your asthma plan up to date gives you greater insight into the cause of any pain you may experience.  People who are fully aware of their asthma triggers and symptoms will also be able to note changes in their condition.  You must not assume that all respiratory problems are because you have asthma. It is not unusual for people with lung conditions to suffer back and shoulder pain.  People with chest infections and pleurisy also suffer from sore shoulders. If you do suffer from asthma and are having shoulder and back pains it is more likely to be a symptom relating to a chest infection.  Therefore it is extremely important to visit the doctor to treat the infection.

What Is Asthma?

Asthma affects over 5 million people in the UK alone.  It is a common respiratory condition that restricts your airways making breathing very difficult.  The condition affects people's lives considerably and is fatal in some cases. Three people die every year of asthma attacks and the UK is particularly ineffective at controlling the condition.  It often runs in families and has a number of common triggers. (Source: Asthma UK). Triggers include; stress and anxiety, strong scents, dust, dander, changes in temperature and acid reflux.  Your airways tighten, the linings swell up and sticky mucus builds up in response to these triggers. Keeping an up to date asthma plan allows you to identify triggers and try to avoid them.  Understanding the nature of your condition also helps to keep it under control. The most common symptoms include; wheezing, shortness of breath, coughing and a tight chest. Many people with the condition also suffer from allergies and their asthma is worse at different times of the year and in certain situations.  Managing the condition well ensures it doesn’t get out of hand and become too serious. Treatment involves avoiding triggers and using inhalers. There are two types of inhalers one you take every day to prevent an attack and a reliever you take when you experience symptoms.  The former is usually brown and the latter is usually blue. Correct use of the inhalers helps to control the condition and improve your quality of life.

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Lung Conditions That Cause Back And Shoulder Pain

You are more likely to suffer back and shoulder pain with a lung condition rather than due to asthma.  There are a number of lung conditions that cause such pains. These include; chest infections, pleurisy and lung cancer.  Any upper body pain and a chest condition is a cause for concern so it is important to visit your doctor if you are suffering these symptoms.

Chest Infections

During severe chest infections, people sometimes experience a sharp pain in their back and shoulder.  This is due to difficulties in breathing and extreme coughing fits. Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) help to relieve the pain while antibiotics treat the infection.  It is important to see your doctor if you are suffering these symptoms because the cause may be more serious than you think.


Pleurisy is a rare condition involving inflammation of the pleura.  In normal conditions, the chest walls rub together without causing any pain.  Pleurisy causes them to hurt due to inflammation. In the past pleurisy was fatal but now effective treatments are available. Other symptoms include joint pain, muscle aches and headaches. Other conditions that cause pleurisy include; bacterial pneumonia, tuberculosis, chest trauma, blood clots and lung cancer.  It is important to seek medical advice if you suffer any of these symptoms. (Source: Healthline).

Lung Cancer

Often the first sign of having lung cancer is back or shoulder pain. This is due to referred pain where you experience pain in a different part of the body than where it originates.  A tumour pressing on a nerve is a likely cause. Other reasons include the spread of cancer into the bones causing pain in other areas of the body. It is difficult to differentiate shoulder pain caused by cancer from pain due to a chest infection.  This is why it is important to seek medical advice. An x-ray and blood test is the only way to confirm if it is cancer. A chronic cough is another symptom of lung cancer as well as wheezing and shortness of breath. Lung cancer is highly unlikely to be the diagnosis so don’t jump to conclusions if you are suffering back and shoulder pain. (Source: Very Well Health).   Don’t suffer in silence make an appointment with your doctor so your condition is diagnosed correctly. To review and purchase treatment asthma click here.

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