Back pain caused by sneezing

If you have back pain caused by sneezing, have you any idea what happened? As an Edinburgh osteopath and an author of 2 books on low back pain, I can give you a few possibilities… But first, let’s deal with why sneezing can be so hazardous for your lower back.

Why is sneezing so dangerous?

Sneezing involves quite a powerful contraction of your abdominal muscles.   These muscles wrap right round you and connect into your lower back through the thoracolumbar fascia.   The fascia connects to your lumbar muscles and vertebrae.  When you perform a sudden powerful contraction of these muscles, there’s a strong pull on your lower back.  It also increases the compression of the lumbar vertebrae and discs.  If you bend forward suddenly at the same time, you are stretching your lower back AND contracting the muscles suddenly.  NOT a good combination.  And it can certainly lead to back pain caused by sneezing.

What does sneezing damage?

The most common outcome would be a pulled muscle.  This will be instantly painful, and will slowly settle (if you do the right things), over 2-3 weeks.

At the other end of the spectrum, you can prolapse a disc sneezing.  I’ve included a video below on sciatica and sneezing.  It gives a bit more detail on this topic and how that happens by way of a disc prolapse.

There are a number of other possibilities, but these tissues probably account for most back pain caused by sneezing.

How do I avoid back pain caused by sneezing?

Be careful.  When you feel a sneeze coming on, be careful NOT to lean forward as you sneeze.  Do NOT try to stifle a sneeze. This will lead to more strain on your lower back.  If you’re lying down, stay lying down. If you’re sitting up , then try to slide your bottom forward in the seat so that you are slumped.  But maintain some support in the small of your back.  And if you are standing up, do NOT lean forward.  Best to lean back very slightly to sneeze.  Oh, and remember to cover your nose and mouth with a hand, then wash your hands!

If you’d like self-help for low back pain / sciatica, just click the link to start right now!

If you’d like to see an online consultation with an Edinburgh osteopath about your pain, you can book an appointment here, or just email