Employee sitting at his desk with back pain.

When a Sneeze Causes Back Pain

In autumn, when the weather turns cooler and the leaves turn bright, allergens fill the air and sneezes abound. For those of us troubled by allergies to ragweed pollen, mold, and dust mites, or vulnerable to fall colds, the autumn months can be difficult to manage as well as beautiful. If you have ever experienced a hard sneeze followed by a spasm of back pain, you are well aware that some sneezes are nothing to sneeze at.

It’s one thing if a sudden sneeze causes you a momentary sharp pain, but if the nasal eruption is followed by pain that persists, it’s important to find out if you have done yourself any real damage and whether you require treatment to return to normal. Contacting Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine, where we specialize in diagnosing and treating back, joint, muscle, and nerve pain without surgery is a good idea. Chances are we can make you more comfortable and more flexible quickly and completely.

Do sneezes often result in pain?

Back pain that results from a bout of sneezing or one particularly virulent sneeze is not uncommon, though most of the time the spasm passes quickly. Nonetheless, if you suffer a pain you know needs medical attention, the sooner you consult us, the sooner you will be back to your pre-sneeze self. 

Why do some sneezes cause back pain?

Sneezing is a very forceful action during which your core muscles tense up suddenly. Though the spinal discs between your vertebrae act as shock absorbers, helping to cushion the impact, the discs themselves are subject to damage from the momentum of a sneeze. This is because each disc surrounds a gel-like center that can be compromised if squeezed too tightly (something like squeezing the jelly out of the doughnut).

A single forceful sneeze or a series of repetitive sneezes can cause a disc to herniate or even rupture, resulting in electrifying pain or numbness that, in some cases, radiates down your leg — a condition known as sciatica. In other cases, a sudden unexpected sneeze can make you move awkwardly, triggering a pulled muscle or a pinched nerve in your back or neck. It is also possible that a pre-existing problem in your spine (like stenosis) may be worsened by a violent sneeze.

To Recap 

Although back injuries due to sneezes are relatively rare, when they happen they require the prompt, accurate diagnosis and individualized treatment our skilled physiatrists provide. These injuries, which may occur in any portion of the back — cervical, thoracic, lumbar, etc. — include:

  • Herniated disc
  • Muscle strain due to powerful, involuntary muscle contractions
  • Compression fracture (especially in individuals with osteoporosis)
  • Sciatica
  • Whiplash
  • Strained tendons
  • Sprained ligaments

Treatments We Administer for Back Injuries Caused by Sneezing

Our accomplished physicians use both traditional and complementary therapies to help relieve pain and restore function, including: 

  • Spinal epidural injections under fluoroscopic guidance
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) technology to decrease pain 
  • Physical therapy, including electrical stimulation, to restore strength and range of motion
  • Medication to control inflammation (used judiciously)
  • Acupuncture

We find that combining two or more of these methods typically provides maximum benefits.

Contact Our Experienced Spine Specialists Today

Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine has five conveniently located offices and a staff of 

excellent doctors and therapists ready to help you heal. Whatever the cause of your pain and mobility issues, our goal is to make you feel better and move more easily without surgery. Whether you have had a catastrophic accident or have been undone by a single sneeze, you can trust us to take your pain seriously and treat you with care. Contact our team today.