Can My Upper Back Pain Be Bronchitis?

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Upper back pain is a common complaint among millions of people every year. Mild to moderate back pain can go away on its own or with the help of over-the-counter medicines. But if your back pain worsens when sneezing, coughing, or breathing deeply, then it might be a sign of bronchitis or a more serious condition. 

So is your upper back pain a symptom of bronchitis? Acute bronchitis (or chest cold) refers to the inflammation of the bronchial tubes, causing increased mucus production among other symptoms. Patients experience bronchitis symptoms differently, but most of them experience “lung pain” in the form of upper back pain and chest pain.

Are My Bronchitis and Upper Back Pain Related?

According to a study about thoracic spine pain global statistics, about 15% to 19% of the general population suffer from chronic upper back pain. This is less than the number of people who experience lower back pain, but upper back pain is also a common symptom that should be given the same attention as other pain conditions.

Upper back pain can be triggered or caused by lots of different factors, including respiratory issues like bronchitis, pneumonia, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and more. To know whether your upper back pain is related to a respiratory condition or other diseases, it’s important to watch out for other symptoms and consult a trusted healthcare provider.

According to the American Lung Association, about 9 million American adults are diagnosed with chronic bronchitis while about 12.5 million have COPD. Although patients experience COPD and bronchitis symptoms differently, a lot of them had upper back pain bronchitis that persisted as their condition worsened.

1) What Causes Upper Back Pain Associated with Bronchitis?

Bronchitis is a chest infection that causes the bronchial tubes to inflame, leading to increased mucus production and decreased chest wall compliance. There are a few types of bronchitis depending on what caused the infection or how long the symptoms persist. 

Acute bronchitis refers to a respiratory infection that only lasts for less than 3 weeks. It’s usually caused by the influenza virus, coronavirus, adenovirus, or rhinovirus (the same virus that causes the common cold). Aside from being a viral infection, some patients may also develop acute bronchitis because of a bacterial infection. 

But unlike acute bronchitis which goes away after a few weeks, chronic bronchitis is a more serious respiratory condition. The symptoms may get worse or better over time, but they won’t go away completely.

The extended period of bronchial inflammation caused by acute or chronic bronchitis causes mucus to get stuck in the airways. This results in difficulty breathing, chest tightness, and lung pain – which can manifest as chest pain or upper back pain.

2) What Are the Symptoms of Bronchitis With Upper Back Pain

Aside from upper back pain, patients may also experience other bronchitis symptoms that overlap with pneumonia symptoms or asthma symptoms. Here are some of them:

  • Sinus infection
  • Headache
  • Whooping cough, which eventually develops into a productive cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose
  • Chills
  • Slight fever
  • Watery eyes
  • Difficulty breathing

3) Why You Should Treat Upper Back Pain With Bronchitis Immediately

Acute bronchitis typically goes away on its own after a week or two. But if the patient has a heart condition or other respiratory issues, then the symptoms they experience may worsen or last longer.

Chronic bronchitis is a different issue because it’s more serious. It can also mean that the patient has lung damage. Treatments for chronic bronchitis are often focused on managing the symptoms and reducing flare-ups.

If left alone without treatment, bacterial or viral bronchitis may worsen and develop into viral pneumonia, bacterial pneumonia, or COPD. Chronic bronchitis that progressed into COPD may also increase a patient’s risk of developing lung cancer.

4) Other Conditions That May Cause Upper Back Pain

Aside from bronchitis, some patients may also suffer from upper back pain because of other cardiovascular or respiratory-related diseases like:

  • Pneumonia – the infection of the lungs that cause the air sacs to be filled with pus or fluid
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – a chronic inflammatory disease that prevents proper airflow and causes breathing problems
  • Pulmonary embolism – a condition where a blood clot breaks off and gets lodged in a blood vessel connected to the lungs
  • Lung cancer – a type of cancer that may cause severe back pain and weakness as the tumor presses against the spinal cord
  • Pleurisy – the inflammation of the membrane that lines the lungs, causing fluid buildup and breathing issues
  • Pulmonary hyperinflation – overinflation of lungs due to airway blockage or faulty air sacs
  • Heart attack – a fatal condition that happens when the blood flow to the heart is blocked, requiring urgent care and causing the heart to lose oxygen and the tissues to start dying

Who to Consult for Upper Back Pain From Bronchitis

Upon consulting with a primary care physician about acute bronchitis symptoms, they may recommend different medications and treatment options. But if they determine that the patient’s bronchitis is chronic, then they might have to refer the patient to a pulmonologist – a doctor that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of various lung diseases.

The pulmonologist can prescribe different treatments for better disease control and management of chronic bronchitis and its symptoms. But if the upper back persists even after the other bronchitis symptoms have eased up, then there’s a chance that the back pain is related to another health condition.

In such cases, patients should then see a pain management specialist instead. Pain management doctors can help find the cause of upper back pain and recommend a treatment option that targets the underlying condition. This approach results in long-lasting pain relief and improved quality of life for the patient.

Treating a Cough With Chest and Upper Back Pain

In most cases, acute bronchitis can go away on its own after one to two weeks. Chronic bronchitis has no cure, so most procedures are directed toward reducing flare-ups. But if the symptoms keep bothering the patient, here are some treatments that doctors may recommend:

1) Medications

Antibiotic medications are typically prescribed for patients with bacterial bronchitis. Since a lot of bronchitis patients are diagnosed with viral infections, antibiotics might not be effective in relieving their symptoms. Depending on the circumstance, here are some medications that doctors may recommend for treating bronchitis:

  • Cough suppressant for patients who have difficulty sleeping because of their whopping cough
  • Inhalers and anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed to patients with asthma, allergies, and COPD to reduce inflammation, suppress chronic cough, and open narrow lung passages

2) Therapies

Aside from medications, patients with chronic bronchitis may also undergo different therapies to help them manage their symptoms – like pulmonary rehabilitation, which is an important part of most chronic bronchitis treatment plans. It’s a breathing exercise routine or program wherein the respiratory therapist teaches the patient how to improve their breathing.

Oxygen therapy is also another viable treatment option. This procedure involves delivering supplementary oxygen to the patient using different devices so they can breathe better.

3) Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes and home remedies are also essential to help patients recover quickly or manage their chronic condition better. Here are some of the commonly recommended self-care measures for bronchitis patients:

  • Avoid smoking and minimize exposure to lung irritants like paint or a strong household cleaning agent
  • Use a humidifier to relieve cough and loosen the mucus stuck in the lung’s airways
  • Wear a face mask when heading outside, especially if the cold triggers coughing and difficulty breathing

Treatments for Persistent Upper Back Pain at Gramercy Pain Center

If the upper back pain is caused by bronchitis, then there’s a huge chance that it goes away once the underlying respiratory condition gets better. But if the pain persists, then it might be a sign of a spinal issue or other health conditions.

At Gramercy Pain Center, we want our patients to return to a pain-free life as soon as possible. After diagnosing the possible cause of the patient’s upper back pain, we may recommend any of the following treatments:

  • Steroid injections are injected directly into the epidural space to deliver the pain medicine more quickly.
  • Nerve blocks are injectable treatments that deliberately block the pain signals from reaching the brain, resulting in immediate and effective pain relief.
  • PRP therapy uses the patient’s platelet-rich plasma and growth factors from their own blood sample to promote tissue regeneration and healing.
  • Physical therapy is a highly recommended treatment option for most pain problems because it alleviates pain using passive and active methods.
  • Interventional pain management involves finding the patient’s main problem and disrupting the pain signals to allow patients to experience long-lasting pain relief and enhanced quality of life.

Find the Best Pain Management Doctors for You at Gramercy Pain Center

Mild to moderate back pain by itself can be troublesome, but it can also be a sign of a more serious medical condition if accompanied by other symptoms. If you’re also suffering from other signs of respiratory diseases like bronchitis, it’s best to consult a doctor immediately and get the right treatment before your condition worsens.

There’s nothing more comforting than knowing your doctors are always ready to support you in your quick recovery. At Gramercy Pain Center, we help different patients alleviate and manage their upper back pain caused by bronchitis or other underlying medical conditions. Call us today to book an appointment.

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