Pleurisy Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Pleurisy Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

Pleurisy, also known as pleuritis, is a painful condition characterized by inflammation of the pleura, the lining surrounding the lungs. This inflammation can cause sharp chest pain, especially during breathing. In some cases, pleurisy pain can extend to the back, leading to discomfort and distress. In this article, we will explore the various aspects of pleurisy back pain, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and prevention strategies.

Causes of Pleurisy Back Pain

Causes of Pleurisy Back Pain

These are some of the causes of pleurisy back pain:

Viral Infections

One of the most common causes of pleurisy is viral infections, such as influenza or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These infections can trigger inflammation in the pleura, resulting in pleuritic pain that may radiate to the back.

Bacterial Infections

Bacterial pneumonia can also lead to pleurisy, causing intense chest and back pain. Prompt treatment with antibiotics is essential to prevent complications.


Severe cases of pneumonia can cause pleural effusion, where fluid accumulates between the pleural layers, causing pain and discomfort in the back and chest.

Pleural Effusion

Apart from pneumonia, other conditions like congestive heart failure or kidney disease can lead to pleural effusion, contributing to pleurisy back pain.

Rib Fractures

Injuries to the chest, such as rib fractures, can result in pleurisy pain that affects the back as well.

Lung Cancer

In some instances, lung cancer can cause pleurisy, with pain extending to the back. Early diagnosis and treatment are crucial in such cases.

Autoimmune Disorders

Certain autoimmune conditions, like lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, may cause pleurisy due to an inflammatory response targeting the pleura.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

pleurisy can cause back pain as well, especially if the inflammation affects the lower parts of the lungs and the diaphragm.

Symptoms of pleurisy back pain:

  • Back pain: The pain associated with pleurisy can sometimes radiate to the back, particularly in the lower regions of the chest and upper abdomen. The pain may be sharp, stabbing, or aching in nature.
  • Chest pain: The primary symptom of pleurisy is chest pain, which can be felt on either side of the chest, depending on which lung pleura is affected. The chest pain may worsen during breathing or coughing.
  • Shortness of breath: As the inflammation of the pleura progresses, it can lead to a reduction in the normal space between the lung and the chest wall. This can cause shortness of breath, especially during physical activity or deep breathing.
  • Dry cough: Some individuals with pleurisy may experience a dry, non-productive cough as a result of the irritation of the pleura.


If you experience persistent chest or back pain, especially when accompanied by difficulty breathing, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for proper diagnosis and management. To diagnose pleurisy, a healthcare professional will typically perform the following:

  • Medical history and physical examination: The doctor will inquire about your symptoms and medical history. They will also conduct a physical examination, including listening to your lungs with a stethoscope for abnormal sounds.
  • Imaging tests: Chest X-rays or other imaging tests, such as computed tomography (CT) scans, may be ordered to visualize the lungs and identify any signs of inflammation or other abnormalities.
  • Blood tests: Blood tests can help rule out other potential causes of chest or back pain and may also show markers of inflammation.
  • Pleural fluid analysis (if necessary): In some cases, the doctor may need to extract a small sample of fluid from the pleura using a procedure called thoracentesis. This fluid can be analyzed to determine the cause of the pleurisy.
  • Lung function tests: These tests measure how well your lungs are functioning and can help assess the extent of the pleural inflammation’s impact on breathing.

Treatment Options

Treatment Options

The treatment of pleurisy aims to relieve symptoms, reduce inflammation, and treat the underlying cause. The specific treatment plan will depend on the severity of the condition and its underlying cause. Here are some common treatment options for pleurisy:

  • Pain management: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or prescription pain medications may be used to alleviate pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Treating the underlying cause: If pleurisy is caused by an infection, such as pneumonia or a viral respiratory infection, the focus will be on treating the infection with appropriate antibiotics or antiviral medications.
  • Rest: Getting enough rest can help the body heal and reduce stress on the affected lungs.
  • Thoracentesis: In some cases, if there is a large amount of fluid buildup in the pleural space (pleural effusion), the doctor may perform thoracentesis. This procedure involves draining the excess fluid with a needle and syringe to relieve pressure on the lungs and improve breathing.
  • Antibiotics or antifungal drugs: If pleurisy is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, specific medications will be prescribed to target the underlying infection.
  • Anti-inflammatory medications: Corticosteroids may be prescribed to reduce inflammation in more severe cases of pleurisy, especially when autoimmune or inflammatory conditions are the cause.


Preventing pleurisy involves taking measures to reduce the risk of respiratory infections and certain underlying medical conditions that can lead to pleural inflammation. Here are some preventive strategies:

  • Practice good respiratory hygiene: To reduce the risk of respiratory infections, follow good respiratory hygiene practices. This includes covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing, disposing of used tissues properly, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
  • Vaccinations: Stay up-to-date with vaccinations, including those for influenza (flu) and pneumococcal pneumonia, as they can help prevent certain infections that may lead to pleurisy.
  • Avoid exposure to respiratory irritants: Try to avoid exposure to environmental factors that may irritate the lungs, such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, and other respiratory irritants.
  • Manage underlying medical conditions: If you have an autoimmune or inflammatory condition like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or systemic sclerosis, work closely with your healthcare provider to manage the condition effectively. Regular check-ups, appropriate medications, and lifestyle adjustments can help reduce the risk of pleurisy in these cases.
  • Promptly treat respiratory infections: If you develop a respiratory infection, such as a cold, flu, or pneumonia, seek medical attention promptly, and follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for treatment and recovery.


Pleurisy, if left untreated or inadequately managed, can lead to several potential complications. Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are essential to prevent these complications. Some of the possible complications of pleurisy include:

  • Pleural effusion: Untreated pleurisy can lead to the accumulation of excess fluid in the pleural space, a condition known as pleural effusion. This buildup of fluid can compress the lungs, causing further difficulty in breathing and potentially leading to lung collapse.
  • Empyema: In some cases, the fluid that accumulates in the pleural space can become infected, resulting in a condition called empyema. Empyema requires specific treatment, including drainage of the infected fluid and appropriate antibiotic therapy.
  • Lung abscess: Pus-filled cavities can form within the lung tissue due to an untreated or severe lung infection. This condition is a lung abscess and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Pneumonia: If the underlying cause of pleurisy is a respiratory infection like pneumonia, and it is not treated adequately, the infection can spread and worsen, leading to severe pneumonia.

Living with Pleurisy Back Pain

Living with Pleurisy Back Pain

Living with pleurisy back pain can be challenging, but there are strategies and lifestyle adjustments that can help manage the symptoms and improve your quality of life. Here are some tips for coping with pleurisy back pain:

  • Follow your treatment plan: Work closely with your healthcare provider to follow the prescribed treatment plan, which may include pain medications, anti-inflammatory drugs, antibiotics (if there’s an infection), or other medications to manage underlying conditions.
  • Rest: Allow your body to rest and heal during flare-ups. Avoid strenuous activities that may worsen the pain or put a strain on the affected area.
  • Gentle exercises: Engage in gentle exercises and stretching routines that promote chest and back flexibility, but avoid activities that exacerbate the pain. Breathing exercises can also help improve lung function.
  • Posture: Maintain good posture to reduce strain on your back and chest. Practice proper ergonomics while sitting, standing, and lifting objects.
  • Breathing techniques: Learn deep breathing exercises to enhance lung expansion and help with pain management.
  • Pain management techniques: Explore pain management techniques like heat or ice packs, relaxation techniques, or guided imagery to alleviate discomfort.


Pleurisy back pain can be a distressing condition, causing sharp chest pain that may extend to the back. It is essential to seek medical attention promptly to identify the underlying cause and initiate appropriate treatment. Home remedies and self-care practices can complement medical interventions in managing the pain and discomfort associated with pleurisy back pain. By adopting preventive measures and leading a healthy lifestyle, individuals can reduce their risk of developing pleurisy and its related complications. Remember to prioritize your health and well-being and seek professional help whenever necessary.

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