Each year the first Tuesday of May is observed as World Asthma Day. This year it was celebrated on May 2 to raise awareness about asthma. The World Health Organisation defines asthma as a long-term condition affecting children and adults, in which the air passages in the lungs become narrow due to inflammation and tightening of the muscles around the small airways.
This causes asthma symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. These symptoms are intermittent and are often worse at night or during exercise.
As per the study published in the Indian Journal of Community Medicine, asthma is a significant public health concern in India, with a prevalence rate of approximately 2-5 per cent in adults and 10-15 per cent in children.
The European Spine Journal’s 2019 study established that respiratory disorders (such as asthma) present risk factors for lower back pain. It concluded that patients with asthma and/or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease COPD have more risk of developing “troublesome” lower back pain, defined as lower back pain occurring at least a couple of days each week and affecting the individual’s work capabilities or normal activities to at least some degree, during the previous six months.
“We are finding empirical evidence that there is a significant link between back pain and asthma, though these two conditions might seem unrelated at first glance,” said Dr. Rajkumar, Sr. Consultant, Internal Medicine, Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, commenting on the linkage between asthma and back pain.
Dr Rajkumar, explaining this connection, commented, "Firstly, asthma can affect a person's posture and breathing patterns, which can lead to muscle imbalances and tension in the back muscles. This can cause discomfort and pain in the upper, middle, or lower back."
The doctor further mentioned that some asthma medications can cause bone loss and increase the risk of osteoporosis, which can also lead to back pain. Moreover, he conveyed that back pain can worsen asthma symptoms by making it difficult to breathe properly.
Asthma cannot be cured, but experts convey that good management with inhaled medications can control the disease and enable people with asthma to enjoy a normal, active life.
Dr. Pritha Nayyar, Consultant, Respiratory and Sleep Medicine, Asian Institute of Medical Sciences, stated that there are many triggering factors that can cause flare-ups of asthma symptoms, including outdoor pollen, pollution, allergens, and indoor air pollution.
Dr Nayyar further stated, “By understanding the triggering factors and taking the necessary precautions, we can create a healthy environment for individuals with asthma. With proper care and management, individuals with asthma can lead a healthy and fulfilling life.”
Delineating the domino effect of back pain on asthma, Dr Rajkumar stated, "Stress associated with chronic back pain can also exacerbate asthma symptoms. Inflammation is yet another link between back pain and asthma. Asthma is caused by inflammation in the airways, while back pain can be caused by inflammation in the muscles, ligaments, and bones in the back."
Prescribing the requisite treatment in this case, the doctor added that its treatments include medications to manage asthma, physical therapy to strengthen the back muscles and improve posture, and lifestyle modifications such as exercise, weight management, and stress reduction techniques.