Why Does My Back Hurt When I Sneeze?

Dec 20, 2021

why-does-my-back-hurt-when-i-sneezeSneezing is a common, everyday event for most of us that lasts a few seconds. But sometimes, a simple sneeze can leave you stuck in place with excruciating pain in your back. It may seem weird that something in your nose can make your back hurt, but this is actually a common occurrence, as the sudden, awkward movement of a big sneeze can cause pain. It may also exacerbate an existing injury in the back. If you’re in pain after a sneeze, seeking treatment for back pain is an important way to prevent more serious issues.

Causes of Back Pain When You Sneeze

A variety of muscle, nerve, and bone problems can be triggered or made worse by a sneeze.

Herniated Disc

The spine is made up of a stack of bones, called vertebrae, which surround the spinal cord. Between these sit tough, spongy discs that absorb shock and allow for simple movement. These discs are rough on the outside, but inside they contain a gel-like substance.

When this substance pushes through the exterior of the disc and presses against the surrounding nerve or the spinal cord itself, this is known as a herniated disc or ruptured disc. This condition can be treated and may not always cause pain, but can be debilitating when symptoms do present themselves. A sneeze or similar action could cause nerves to be even more compressed, causing even worse pain.

Muscle Strain

A pulled muscle or muscle strain occurs when the muscle is stretched or torn, usually as a result of some kind of activity. Twisting, lifting, or otherwise exerting your muscles is a common cause, but sneezing can also put pressure on the muscles and cause a spasm. This can cause pain when you move, bend, or turn your abdomen.

Vertebral Compression Fracture

A vertebral compression fracture (VCF) occurs when part of your vertebra collapses, which is especially common in people with the bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis. For people with serious forms of this condition, a sneeze can lead to VCF, while more mild cases would require something like a fall.


Your sciatic nerve is the widest, longest nerve in the human body, running from the lower spine down through the pelvis and branching out along each leg. When this nerve is damaged, it is known as sciatica, causing leg pain and also back pain. Sudden movements like sneezes can put pressure on the nerve, causing pain.

Back Pain from Sneezing

Almost any movement in the upper body involves your back, including lifting, reaching, bending, turning, playing sports, or even just sitting and standing. When the spine and back muscles don’t work properly, these actions can be difficult.

A sudden, awkward movement like a sneeze can trigger back pain in the same way that something like manual labor or a fall can, even though the movement lasts a split second. In addition to the back muscles, sneezing can also impact the chest muscles.

Protecting Your Back When Sneezing

If you feel a sneeze coming on, you may worry about your back, especially if you already suffer from back pain. One way to protect your back before sneezing is to stand up straight rather than slouching or sitting, as this reduces force on your spinal discs.

Some people believe there is an additional benefit to standing, leaning forward, and placing your hands on a solid structure like a table or counter. This further reduces pressure on the spine and back muscles. You can also stand against a wall with a cushion on your lower back.

When To See a Doctor

While back pain may seem fleeting, it is critical to seek treatment at the first sign of a problem to prevent the worsening of any issues.

Any existing back problems should be treated independently of these concerns by a chiropractor who can identify and treat the root cause of the issue. If you find yourself in pain only after a sneeze, you should visit a Jonesboro chiropractor to rule out any serious issues that could be causing the pain.

At AICA Jonesboro, our chiropractors work with a team of multidisciplinary specialists to diagnose and treat any back pain or injury. When you visit our office, we will develop a personalized treatment plan based on your exact needs and goals and help you implement it. Contact us today to schedule your first consultation and begin feeling relief from pain.