Why Does My Back Hurt When I Sneeze?

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi

Sneezing Back Pain


A sneeze is a helpful maneuver your body initiates when there are objects in the nasal passage that it wants to clear out, but due to the forces involved, a sneeze can also be quite painful if you’re dealing with a pre-existing back condition. In today’s blog, we take a closer look at why it can be so painful to sneeze if you’re dealing with a back issue, and how Dr. Sinicropi can help you treat these problems.

My Back Hurts When I Sneeze

When you sneeze, a number of muscles in your body tense up as your body goes through the process of attempting to clear the nasal cavity. If you are already dealing with a muscle or ligament strain in your spine or abdomen, this violent contraction of muscles can be quite painful. Similarly, if this violent sneeze is unexpected and you can’t really prepare for it, this quick muscle contraction can cause a new strain or cause a muscle to start to spasm, which can slo be uncomfortable.

A sneeze can also lead to pain at your spinal discs. Again, if you’re already dealing with a known problem like a bulging or herniated disc, the strain your back is asked to handle during a sneeze can end up irritating these structures. And while it is less common, it’s possible the degenerated discs could actually end up bulging or herniated as a result of a forceful sneeze. In summary, a sneeze tends to cause back pain as a result of a forceful contraction of a previously strained muscle, or a new muscle strain that develops as a result of the violent sneeze. Less commonly, the sneeze irritates or causes new problems for a spinal disc.

Treating Back Pain From Sneezing

If your back hurts when you sneeze, don’t just hope that it will eventually heal before you have your next sneezing fit. Instead, proactively treat the problem. If you suspect you’re just dealing with the fallout of a muscle or ligament strain, try to protect the area and then work to safely strengthen it. Avoid overly strenuous activity for a few days while also working through some gentle stretching exercises to help the muscles recover. Painkillers and muscle relaxers can also be helpful, but like we usually say, these aren’t great standalone options and are best paired with more active options like physical therapy or controlled exercise.

If pain is more severe or it feels isolated along your vertebrae, your discomfort may be the result of an issue with a spinal disc. You can head to a spine specialist’s office for an official diagnosis, or you can try some simple conservative methods to help treat it. Again, it’s a good idea not to ignore it, because if it hurts when you sneeze, it probably also causes symptoms when you’re moving, lifting or running. Conservative care will include a number of the same techniques described above, including:

  • Rest
  • Anti-inflammatory medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Gentle exercise
  • Stretching techniques
  • Posture awareness/corrections

Many people find relief through these techniques, but if you’re still experiencing back pain when sneezing, coughing or other activities, more hands-on treatment may be required. Whether that involves a corticosteroid injection, physical manipulation or a minimally invasive surgery, we’re confident that Dr. Sinicropi and his team will be able to find a solution for you.

So if you fear sneezing because it’s uncomfortable for your back, get to the bottom of your pain and get set up with an individualized treatment plan today. For more information, or for help with your back pain, give Dr. Sinicropi’s office a call today at (651) 430-3800.

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