Does copd hurt your back?

Understanding COPD and Its Effects on the Body

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD is a disease that gradually damages the lungs, leading to an obstruction in airflow to and from them. It affects millions of people globally, and the symptoms can be different for each individual. The primary cause of COPD is long-term exposure to irritants, such as smoking, air pollution or chemical fumes. People with COPD experience symptoms like cough, wheezing or shortness of breath. But does COPD hurt your back? Let’s take a closer look.

How Does COPD Affect Muscles?

The muscles in the body work harder when a person has COPD because the lungs are not functioning at full capacity. The body needs to work extra hard to get enough oxygen from the air, leading to the muscles compensating for the body’s lack of oxygen. These muscles can become fatigued, leading to stiffness and pain throughout the body, including the back. COPD also causes inflammation that can spread throughout the body and contribute to back pain, especially in the upper back area.

Can COPD Cause Spinal Issues?

COPD can sometimes lead to spinal issues because of a lack of oxygen to the spine. The discs between each vertebra have limited blood flow, and when there isn’t enough oxygen, these discs can become damaged, causing them to shrink or become herniated. This can also cause pressure on the spinal cord, leading to pain, tingling, or numbness in the back.

Can COPD Worsen Existing Back Problems?

If a person already has back problems, such as poor posture or weak muscles, then COPD can worsen these problems. COPD issues can lead to a hunched posture, leading to stress in the spine, causing more wear and tear. This can cause the back muscles to become inflamed, leading to pain and discomfort.

How to Improve Back Pain in COPD Patients

Back pain can significantly affect people with COPD, leading to limited mobility and a reduced quality of life. Here are some ways that COPD patients could manage back pain:

  • Respiratory therapy to help reduce breathlessness and increase the oxygen supply to the body. This can ease pressure on the spine.
  • Physical therapy to help build muscle strength in the back and improve flexibility. This can help to relieve tension and stress in the muscles.
  • Ice or heat therapy, which can reduce inflammation and relax the back muscles. This therapy can help to relieve spinal stiffness and pain.
  • Medication, such as pain relievers, muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatory drugs that can help to ease pain and reduce inflammation.

How to Prevent Back Problems with COPD

There is no sure way to prevent back problems from developing in COPD patients. However, some lifestyle modifications can help reduce the risk, including:

  • Quit smoking and avoid exposure to irritants that may cause COPD
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the extra pressure on your spine
  • Engage in regular physical activity to keep your muscles in good condition
  • Use correct posture when sitting, standing, and walking to reduce strain on the spine


While COPD does not directly cause back pain, the effects of COPD on the body can lead to stiffness, pain, and inflammation in the back. COPD patients may be able to reduce this pain through physical therapy, medication, and lifestyle modifications. By maintaining muscle strength, weight management, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining a healthy posture, COPD patients could lower the risk of spinal issues arising from their condition.

Common Questions and Their Answers

  • Does COPD cause upper back pain?

    Yes, COPD can cause upper back pain due to stiffness and inflammation in the muscles caused by the body compensating for a lack of oxygen in the lungs.

  • Can COPD lead to spinal issues?

    Yes, COPD can lead to spinal issues due to lack of oxygen reaching the spine, causing damage to the discs between the vertebrae and pressure on the spinal cord.

  • What are some common treatments for back pain in COPD patients?

    Common treatments for back pain in COPD patients include respiratory therapy, physical therapy, ice or heat therapy, and medication.


  • “COPD and Back Pain: What’s the Connection?” Healthline, 29 March 2019.
  • “Can COPD Affect Your Back?” Lung Health Institute, 5 February 2021.
  • “COPD and Back Pain.” Lung Institute, 5 December 2020.