COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) describes lung conditions such as chronic bronchitis and emphysema, which are characterized by long-term (chronic) lung damage that makes it hard to breathe. It is more common among smokers than non-smokers. Emphysema is a lung disorder that affects the alveoli (air sacs) of the lungs, while chronic bronchitis affects the bronchi (airways) that lead to the alveoli. Most patients have a combination of both disorders and their symptoms are very similar, that is why they are grouped together under COPD.
The main symptoms of COPD are chronic cough with mucus that comes out when you cough, and marked shortness of breath. These symptoms get worse progressively, especially when you do some exercise, and later, even when you do ordinary activities such as getting dressed or eating.
Pain And COPD
COPD patients may sometimes experience chest pain and back pain. Lung pain is not common in COPD, but pain usually comes from the chest wall, which may be due to coughing very hard. This may cause pulling and straining of the chest muscles. Chest pain may also be due to a rib fracture that results from coughing hard. However, this is not very common.
A heart attack may also cause chest pain in a patient with COPD. A new chest pain that is accompanied by pain around the neck and shoulders and down the arms may be a sign of a heart attack. Seek medical consultation immediately if you experience this type of pain.
Some patients also experience back pains, which may be due to osteoporosis, a condition characterized by thinning and weakening of the bones. Osteoporosis is one of the possible complications of COPD, and it may be worsened by the use of steroids to treat COPD. It occurs in up to 20 percent of COPD patients. The exact cause of osteoporosis in COPD is not clear, but some scientists think it may be due to chronic tobacco use and lack of physical activity. It is possible that back pain may be caused by a vertebral fracture in the thoracic or lumbar area, which occurs secondary to osteoporosis.
Treatment Of Chest And Back Pains
Consult your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment if you are experiencing new or significant pain in the chest or back. Pain management for pain in COPD depends on the cause of pain and how much lung function you have. Over-the-counter pain medications and prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may be used to treat mild to moderate pain.
For moderate to severe pain, pulmonary rehabilitation may be needed to strengthen the muscles of the chest wall and reduce pain. Narcotic painkillers (opiates) may be prescribed, but used with caution, because when taken in large doses, opiates can dangerously reduce breathing. Antidepressants may be prescribed for patients who are suffering from pain and emotional stress.
Treatment with calcium and vitamin D are recommended for COPD patients with osteoporosis, with more aggressive treatment for those who are using corticosteroids.
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