Back pain may negatively affect breathing patterns, overall health

Jun 21 2011
Chronic back pain often stems from an underlying medical issue like degenerative disc disease or spinal stenosis. However, few people realize that it may also cause other health conditions to develop.

Researchers from the Division of Musculoskeletal Therapy at Artesis University College in Antwerp, Belgium, looked at the breathing patterns of patients with chronic back pain in an effort to see if these are different, and if so, what impact this may have on these individuals' overall health.

Breathing not only delivers vital oxygen to every cell and tissue in the body, but it also helps people preserve the mind-body connection, achieve relaxation and handle stress.

On top of that, the Belgian researchers say, it is key to spinal stability because the diaphragm - a sheet of abdominal muscles that are key to respiration - supports and moves the lumbar spine, according to

The news provider reports that the scientists observed that many patients with back pain held their breath while performing dynamic tasks. They believe this stems from the central nervous system trying to control trunk muscles in order to increase lumbopelvic stability.

Such disrupted patterns of breathing may increase stress levels of individuals who already face a lot of anxiety in their daily lives due to their chronic pain symptoms.

The good news is that the scientists found that physical therapy approaches, such as motor control rehabilitation program, can improve breathing.

The study was published in the European Spine Journal.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, lower back pain is the second most frequent reason for a doctor's visit for a chronic condition and the fifth most common cause for hospitalization among Americans. Other statistics suggest that it affects nearly 80 percent of people at some point during their lives.