Medical Q&As

Painful breathing - smoking related?

I am a heavy smoker and lately I have been getting pain in my back when I breathe in. It is worse in the morning. Is this related to smoking?

There are many causes of pain in the back when breathing. The pain could be due to a condition of the lungs or pleura, which is the thin membrane that envelops the lung. For example if you had pleurisy, which is inflammation of the pleura you would experience pain every time you breathed in. The reason for this is that every time you take a breath the lung inflates and the inflamed pleura rubs off the inside of the chest wall thereby triggering pain. Many people experience this type of pain as a “catch” in their breathing. The technical name for this symptom is pleuritic pain and it can occur with a wide variety of conditions of the lung and pleura. Smoking could be a cause of several of these medical conditions. Alternatively the pain may have nothing to do with your lungs and might be related to a condition of your rib cage or spine. For example if you strained your rib cage or cracked a rib you would also experience pain when breathing in because the rib cage expands and moves with each inspiration. The pain could also be coming from your back. You could have strained your back or possibly pinched a nerve in your back and these problems could also trigger pain when breathing. It is also possible that you need a new mattress for your bed because it may be that it is not giving your back adequate support during your nights sleep. Since you are a heavy smoker and are suffering from breathing related symptoms I would advise that you visit your GP to be assessed. There may be a simple explanation for your problem but we cannot escape the fact that heavy smoking is a high-risk behaviour for a wide variety of diseases.