My back hurts when I sneeze

Why does my back hurt when I sneeze?

Ever felt a sudden pain in your back after a sneeze? If yes then you may be wondering to yourself “why does my back hurt when I sneeze?”. 

Health professionals say such happenings cannot be taken lightly as there may be some underlying issues with the spine becoming vulnerable to serious disorders like a slipped disc, hernia, or in some cases, paralysis of the limbs.

Sneezing is the act of expelling air as a reflex induced by an irritation in the nose. According to Healthline, sneezing is your body’s way of removing irritants from your nose or throat. 

Sometimes sneezing, which is considered a simple action, can cause so much pain to the back. But what really happens in our bodies when we sneeze, sometimes with little or no warning? 

There are a lot of factors that come into play, so let’s find out about the anatomy of sneezing and explore why it is able to cause the back to hurt sometimes.

What happens when we sneeze?

When the inside of your nose gets a tickle, a message is sent to a part of the brain called the sneeze center. The sneeze center sends signals to the parts of your body that need to work together for you to sneeze. 

Your chest muscles, diaphragm, abdominals, vocal cords, and the muscles in the back of your throat all come together to enable you to expel foreign materials in your nose by the process of sneezing. 

It’s an involuntary action- like when someone tries to send his hand close to your eyes you do blink.

Have you tried to keep your eyes open when you sneeze? 

You will find out that it is almost impossible to keep your eyes open when sneezing since the sneezing center signals your eyes to close. Your vocal cords on other hand help produce the sound that comes with sneezing. AACHOOO!

Why does the back hurt when you sneeze

Sneezing as mentioned earlier involves some muscles such as the chest muscles, abdominal and muscles of the back of your throat. Fortunately, back pain associated with sneezing happens rarely and lasts a few seconds or much longer sometimes. 

A violent sneeze can also trigger back pain which can strain your chest muscles. And if your back muscles aren’t ready for such a sudden sneeze, the unexpected tensing of these muscles and movement during a sneeze can cause an involuntary and often painful contraction of one or more muscles. This is usually why your back hurts when you sneeze.

Those same fast and forceful movements of a big sneeze can cause injury to the ligaments, nerves, and discs between your vertebrae. This action may lead to the formation of a herniated disc from ongoing wear and tear. A herniated disc is also known to cause the back to hurt.

How to protect your back from hurting when sneezing

When sneezing the best thing to do is not to remain sitting when sneezing. Holding your sneeze in is a big NO! 

You could end up bursting your throat badly. The preferred position to be in when sneezing is standing upright to reduce the pressure on your spinal cord and back muscles. 

Also, you even benefit more by standing, leaning forward, and placing your hands on the table or any other solid surface.

What to do if you have back pain while sneezing?

Sneezing is an involuntary action hence can’t be stopped by yourself voluntarily. The simple way to deal with the back pain associated with a sneeze is to gently move to a neutral sitting or standing position.

If the pain remains there after the sneeze, note the place or site of the pain. Stay away from vigorous physical activities and see a physiotherapist or doctor if pain still persists days afterward.

Home remedies for back pain induced from sneezing

Living with back pain can be a lot of hustle, it is important if you know how to get relief from it. Some common home remedies with dealing with back pain associated with sneezing include the following:

Using Ice to ease back pain from sneezing

For muscle strain as experienced in back pain following a sneeze, you can place an ice pack (wrapped in a cloth to avoid harming the skin) on the site to reduce inflammation. You can do this a few times a day.

Applying heat as a remedy for back pain from sneezing

After placing the ice for a few days, try placing a heat pack on your back to improve circulation to your tighten-muscles.

Using over-the-counter pain relievers for your back that hurts

Medications like ibuprofen can reduce inflammation and reduce muscle-related pain.

Stretching to relieve back pain from sneezing  

Engaging in simple overhead reaches and side bends, may help ease pain and muscle tension in your back. Always stop if you feel sharp pains during the stretch.

Engaging in gentle exercise to help relieve back pain after sneezing

Maybe you might think that engaging in exercise would rather strain your muscles. A 2010 review of research showed that gentle movement, like walking or swimming or just doing your daily activities, can increase blood flow to your muscles and speed up healing.

Proper posture to help relieve back after sneezing

Practicing good posture when standing or even sitting can help ensure you don’t put pressure on your back. When sitting in front of a computer, make sure your neck and back are in alignment and the screen at eye level.

Stress management to help relieve back after sneezing

Stress can have many effects on your body, including exacerbating back pain. Activities such as deep breathing, meditation, and yoga may help reduce tension in your back muscles.

Massaging to help relieve back after sneezing

Massaging tense muscles is one of the effective ways to loosen them up. One study found out that massage therapy along with traditional treatment reduces back pain.

Sleeping posture to help relieve back after sneezing  

Spending nights on the floor with a pillow underneath your feet can really help your back, if you sleep on your sides, putting the pillow between your knees can help you relax your muscles.

On other hand sleeping on your stomach can be bad for your back, the Mayo Clinic recommends placing a pillow under your lower abdomen and pelvis to prevent back strain.

When should you see a doctor when your back hurts from sneezing?

 Per Healthline, while back pain often responds to at-home remedies, there are some symptoms that call for making an appointment with your doctor. These include:

  •   Pain lasting longer than six weeks
  • Pain gets worse, even after home remedies
  • Pain that wakes you up at night
  • Additional stomach pain
  • Pain accompanied by weakness, tingly, or numbness in the arms or legs.

It is important to talk to your doctor when your back pain starts to interfere with your daily life.

You may also be interested in: Natural ways to relieve common cold or catarrh

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Key Takeaway from this article

You may have your back hurt when you sneeze because it results in the stretching of some of the back muscles. 

The back pain that is induced is likely to go away by itself but you can apply the few home remedies discussed in this article if it persists. 

However, if the back pain persists beyond a few days, then it is advisable to seek medical attention by going to see your Medical Doctor, Physiotherapist, or Pharmacist.


Asare Anthony Mensah

Mr. Anthony Mensah Asare is a student Pharmacist, currently enrolled in the Doctor of Pharmacy programme offered by the University For Development Studies, Dungu Campus. He is a health promotion enthusiast and devoted to sharing knowledge that will contribute to the health and well-being of his readers.

Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.

His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.

He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.

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