Why Does My Back Hurt When I Breathe? What is it and how to fix it?

  1. Pain from the ribs. How’d it happen?
  2. Why does it hurt so bad?
  3. Painful but fixable

“It hurts right here (points to middle of back), especially when I take a deep breath in.””It’s like someone is poking a knife in the middle of my back””Every time I try to stand up all the way, my back spasms.””I just want to crack this pinch in my back.”

There are times when pain can literally take your breath away.  I know this feeling well because it’s one of the main things that brought me to the chiropractor’s office for the first time. That sharp, stabbing pain coming from a very pinpoint spot in the middle of your back.  Sometimes it’s just a really annoying feeling that won’t go away, but other times it can make you feel crippled by back spasms.

In many cases, this pain comes from the joint where your ribs connect to your spine. Sometimes people will say that you have a rib head that’s “out of place”, misaligned, or sprained. For the sake of today’s article, we’ll just call it rib pain.

It’s a frustrating problem because it can happen out of no where. Sometimes you just wake up with the pain, other times it’s from twisting or turning too quickly, and in my case, it was from lifting too much weight overhead. Fortunately, even though we don’t know much about the pain, we do have effective strategies to help manage it when you feel it.

Why Does It Hurt So Bad?

The interesting thing about pain from a rib head is that the intensity and level of annoyance is really high for a problem that is pretty harmless. It’s not like a herniated disc where you may have other serious complications that arise, but the pain can sometimes be as debilitating.

Although this joint won’t result in pinched nerves that can cause muscle weakness or loss of feeling, it is extremely dense in pain generating tissue.

How to fix it?

For most people, this pain will go away within a week without any treatment. However, if you have the pain for longer, you may need a little bit of outside help to correct the problem.

Most chiropractors can address the pain with a spinal adjustment to the thoracic spine or rib head. Typically patients will feel a substantial amount of relief within a few visits. When combined with some corrective exercise, you probably won’t have any further issues unless you reinjure the joint.

After my weightlifting injury I found myself having rib pain repeatedly even though I was getting regular adjustments to my back. You can say that I had chronic rib problems because I struggled to get long term relief.

I didn’t get long term relief until I got my upper neck corrected which finally seemed to make my spine maintain itself for months instead of a few days at a time. The way the neck influences the structure of the spine led to persistent muscle imbalance in my thoracic spine. Just like the image below, when the hips and shoulders rotate inappropriately, the rib cage can become a problem area.


Real Patient Testimonials

I can’t say enough how much my life has changed under Dr. Chung’s care. After 10 years of chronic pain and being dismissed by my neurologist, I came to Dr. C. He was caring, and really listened. After only 2 visits, I have already had a tremendous reduction in my pain! I feel like a new person.
Clemence Heller
I can't say how much Dr Jonathan Chung has given me back a full quality of life. Migraines was my daily focus, brought my on by a minor car accident few years before. I thought I was going to live with pain medications for the rest of my life. After seeing 2 neurologist prior I was convinced that was my life. But I never stop searching for holistic approaches which led me to Keystone Chiropractic. Thank you.
Michelle Graham
Dr.Chung has been a huge part of my journey to getting back to how I was before my dizziness and vestibular issues. Under his care I am now better than how I was before and I am able to live a normal life again. He is passionate about his patients and he’s such a great person. I’m so happy he’s my doctor! His staff is amazing as well!
Sabrina Kopejz
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