Chest and back pain: Cause and treatments

The simultaneous chest and back pain can be for various reasons. It may be due to tense muscle or skeletal issues, and in some cases, it can be due to some underlying diseases.

The chest and the back are close, and they share the ribs. Hence the problem in one is referred to another.

Sudden development of pain without any apparent reason is a matter of concern. A doctor should investigate any sharp pain which lasts more than a minute.

Let us look at the causes and treatment of various types of chest and back pain.

Causes of the upper back and chest pain and remedy

The upper back is a muscular part of the body, and the neck and shoulder also converge here. There can be various reasons for the pain to develop in the back. And this pain can travel to the chest.

Let us see some widespread causes of upper back and chest pain:

Musculoskeletal pain


In many strenuous activities like lifting weights, rowing, etc., the chest and back muscles come into play simultaneously. It leads to muscle fatigue and stress on the back and chest muscles.


  • Rest the strained muscle.
  • Apply cold pack / hot fomentation
  • Undergo physical therapies.
  • If necessary, take pain relievers, symptomatically.

Thoracic spondylosis


The degeneration of the thoracic spine is known as thoracic spondylosis. It happens because of osteoarthritis or foraminal stenosis.

These are fundamentally skeletal issues, which gives rise to pain in the back that is transmitted to the chest as well.


  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics (for pain), and muscle relaxants are the medications used.
  • Non- steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) also help in these conditions
  • Fomenting with heat pad over the painful areas relieves the pain
  • Stretching exercises, loosen up the muscles and help in movement.



The membrane lining the chest cavity is inflamed. Usually, these membranes are very smooth. But when inflamed, they rub against each other, which is very painful.

This pain from the chest is felt in the back also after some time.


  • Rest helps in this condition.
  • NSAIDs (for inflammation) and analgesics (for pain relief) are the most common medication.
  • In extreme cases, removal of the fluid between the chest and the lungs.

Lung cancer


The tumor in the lungs is painful. However, if the tumor is large, it presses against the spine. It develops pain around the spine in the back.


  • The treatment includes chemotherapy, targeted therapy.
  • Advanced stages may need surgery to remove an affected lobe of lungs(lobectomy) or triangular piece of the lungs (Wedge resection)
  • You need to consult a super-specialist.
  • No, self-medication advised.



The breast bone is connected to the ribs by cartilage. Inflammation of this cartilage leads to pain in the chest. At times this pain travels to the back through the ribs.


  • NSAIDs are necessary to control the inflammation.
  • Analgesics and pain-relieving injections to control and relieve the pain.
  • Stretching exercises help.
  • Aerobic exercises help.

Slipping Rib


The ribs connect to the spine at the back. If this connection slips, it results in pinching of the intercostal nerve. Since this nerve runs along the rib to the chest, the pain also travels to the chest.


  • Rest will bring relief.
  • Resort to hot fomentation or cold pack treatment.
  • Non-steroidal pain killers can manage the pain
  • Do stretching and rotation exercises.
  • In extreme cases, corticosteroid injection relieves pain.

Causes of pain in the left side of the chest and remedy

The left side of the chest houses the heart. Any problem with the heart will develop pain on the left side of the chest. This pain and discomfort beyond a point, will affect the back and, in some cases, shoulder also.

Some causes for pain in the left chest and back are;

Heart Attack


It is a situation where the heart muscles do not receive blood properly, and eventually, the heart muscle dies out. Constricted arteries or deposition of plaque in the arteries, generally known as artery blockage, is responsible for the non-supply of blood.

A sharp pain develops in the chest and travels to the back and shoulders also.

The secondary symptoms are tightness of chest, cold sweat, lightheadedness and nausea.

It is a dire situation and warrants immediate medical attention.


  • Lifestyle changes are a must.
  • Medications
  • Cardiac rehabilitation.
  • Surgery rectifies serious issues.



The blood supply to the heart tissue is disturbed or restricted. It results in severe pain in the left chest around the heart.

Subsequently, angina pain may travel to the shoulders and back.


  • Medications like antianginal, beta-blocker, anticoagulant relieve the symptoms to a great extent.
  • Stents and other surgical treatments are also done depending on the severity.



The pericardium is the membrane that encloses the heart as a protective and connective layer. Pericarditis is the inflammation of this membrane. Infection or post-operative reactions lead to pericarditis.

There is a sharp pain on the left side of the chest, which increases with breathing. The pain shoots upon lying down.

Pericarditis pain travels to the shoulder and back, and effectively the back and chest suffer from pain.


  • Over the counter pain killers relieve pericarditis pain.
  • Essential anti-inflammatory medicines lessen the inflammation.
  • No surgery is required.

Aortic Aneurysm


The Aorta is a very prominent artery, which supplies blood to all parts of the body. Sometimes the Aorta becomes weak. This weakness beyond a point results in tearing down of the Aorta.

The pain associated with this affects the left chest. This pain may travel to the back as well.


  • Lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and resorting to exercises help.
  • Close monitory is essential
  • If needed, the doctor may suggest surgery.

There are various reasons for the chest and back pain. The symptoms indicate the underlying cause.

Some of them are mild and get resolved in due course of time. But some are serious and need medical intervention.

Proper care and a healthy lifestyle can avoid many of the above-stated conditions.