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Do Sneezes Cause Back Pain?

By Sara Butler

Remember Sammy Sosa from the Chicago Cubs? He once missed a game due to back pain reportedly caused by a sneeze. Yes, that’s right – a professional athlete sneezed and injured his back. Is that real, or is it an urban legend? Well, we may never know about Sammy Sosa, but sneezes can and do result in back or neck pain for some people. Your chiropractor has probably seen this a time or two (or ten) during his career. How does this happen? Keep reading to find out!

Why Sneezes Can Be Dangerous

A sneeze is a powerful thing. Sneezes travel at about 100 miles per hour, so all that force is being put out very quickly and if you’re in the wrong position, then bam! You may not be playing a professional baseball game, but you're not getting out of bed, either. A sneeze is no walk in the park.

When most people sneeze they tend to turn their heads to aim it away from other people. While that’s mighty kind of you, it presents a danger to the health of your spine. When your diaphragm contracts to push all that air out of your body fast, then the muscles that support your spine and neck often contract too. If your neck is twisted during such a violent reaction, then you can see how the joints in your spine can become stressed or strained and cause you pain.

Another factor that can make sneezing dangerous is the amount of pressure that builds up in your abdomen. Sneezing causes an intense and sudden rise in intra-abdominal pressure – what you think of as the “ah” part of the “ah-choo!” When the pressure in your abdomen rises so suddenly, it can also increase the pressure inside your spinal canal. If you have a disc injury such as a herniated disc, sneezing can make the pain a lot worse, especially if you have a pinched nerve.

What Can You Do?

Sneezing is a part of life – you’re not going to get out of that. But you can prevent a sneeze from sidelining you by changing the way you do it. You can reduce the amount of stress placed on your spine during a sneeze by extending your neck and lower back slightly when you do it, instead of bending forward. Bending forward will just place more pressure on your back and neck, increasing your risk of injury.

So, the next time you feel that familiar tickle in your nose, think about what your chiropractor would tell you to do and take evasive action! If you happen to hurt your back during a sneeze, then make sure you see your chiropractor pronto. And don’t feel too ashamed – Sammy Sosa fell victim to it, after all!

To learn more about your health and wellness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic.


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