Can Emphysema Cause Back Pain?

… Continued …


Although the exact cause of emphysema is not fully known, but again smoking is often to blame. In fact, cigarette smoking is the leading risk factor of this chronic lung disease.

There is also a link between smoking and back pain. In general, smoking is bad for the health of your spine. It may affect the ability of your body to get enough nutrients to the disks of the spine, increasing the risk of back pain. Smoker’s cough may worsen the symptom. Furthermore, back pain in smokers is likely to last longer (more difficult to relive).

Lack of physical activity

Getting adequate physical activity is essential to help nourish and repair the joints, muscles, discs, or ligaments of the spine. Therefore people with low physical fitness are more susceptible to have problems affecting the spine, such as back pain.

Staying active through exercise is also important for people with emphysema. Regular exercise will carry numerous different health benefits, including good for the overall health of the lungs.

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to keep active if you have emphysema. The symptoms of the disease may drive you to become a sedentary individual. Even shortness of breath (the main symptom of the disease) can get worse on exertion.

Furthermore comorbid conditions of the disease, particularly such as osteoporosis, may also limit your ability to exercise.


It is a condition in which the bones are easily to break and fracture because the mineral density of the bones is lower than normal (even if compared to what’s expected as a consequence of the normal aging process). Older age is the main risk factor, but it may also be linked to particular health condition.

Osteoporosis in COPD (including emphysema) is quite common – it affects about 20 percent of people with COPD. A number of reasons may link the two conditions, the main ones include:

  1. Both COPD and osteoporosis share some same risk factors such as advanced age, smoking, and lack of physical activity (sedentary lifestyle).
  2. The long-term use of steroid. The use of corticosteroids medicines may be prescribed frequently for some people with COPD, but this medicine may contribute to increase the risk of osteoporosis.
  3. Inflammation of COPD may also have an effect. Chemical mediators of inflammation and similar inflammatory cells associated with the disease may also cause destruction to the bones, not only the lungs. But this issue is not fully known – more researches are required to find a definitive conclusion.

Osteoporosis can affect all bones in the body, including spine and ribcage. In people with emphysema, it may also raise the risk of back pain from the enlargement of the lungs.

Article sources:

  1. “Correlates of osteoporsis in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease”, Incalzi RA et al. Respir Med 2000;94:1079-1084.


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