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Back Pain When Coughing: What’s the Connection?

Has your back ever hurt when you coughed? This article explains the direct correlation between coughing and experiencing back pain, the potential reasons it occurs, and some practical relief methods. We’ll also highlight when seeking professional advice may be necessary.

Key Takeaways

  • The Connection: Coughing can cause back pain because of the involuntary but necessary use of your core muscles to expel the irritants.
  • Common Causes: You can get back pain after a cough due to muscle strains, involuntary spasms, ligament tears, or serious underlying conditions such as lung diseases.
  • Simple Solutions: Non-medical relief strategies for cough-related back pain include ergonomic supports, bracing techniques, and physical therapy, as well as medication for more severe cases.

The Connection Between Coughing and Back Pain

First of all, we need to understand what exactly occurs when you cough. Coughing is a reflex action that helps clear your airways. It is the body’s way of removing any irritants or mucus from the throat and lungs. But have you ever thought about how this seemingly simple reflex could lead to back pain? Surprisingly, there’s a correlation.

a woman coughing in the street.

When you cough, your core muscles engage intensively. This engagement, while vital for expelling irritants from your respiratory system, can strain your back muscles, resulting in discomfort and pain. Now, add this to any existing back pain, and the discomfort can intensify, making you feel worse pain.

The pressure created during a coughing fit doesn’t just affect your back muscles. It can also exacerbate existing conditions in your spinal column, such as a herniated disc. The increased spinal pressure can also lead to severe pain in your lower back due to nerve compression. Hence, a cough, though it seems like a basic, involuntary reaction, evidently has impacts that extend beyond your respiratory system.

Common Causes of Back Pain When Coughing

Having established the link between coughing and back pain, let’s talk about the typical reasons for this discomfort. One major culprit is muscle strains from excessive or repetitive coughing. When you cough persistently—say, during a bout of seasonal allergies—your back muscles can become strained, leading to pain.

Another common cause is involuntary muscle spasms in the back triggered by coughing, which can result in pretty intense pain. Similarly, if you have a torn ligament in your back, the additional strain from coughing can make the pain worse.

Spinal issues also come into play. Spinal stenosis, a condition where the spinal canal narrows, can be aggravated by coughing and lead to increased back pain. Similarly, pre-existing spinal issues and nerve pain can be worsened by the act of coughing.

We shouldn’t overlook the possibility of more serious underlying conditions. Back pain associated with coughing might indicate lung diseases such as pneumonia, bronchitis, or even lung cancer. Now, while this may sound alarming, remember that knowledge is power. Understanding these causes empowers you to seek the right treatment options.

Relief Strategies

There’s a positive aspect to consider. While this pain can be disconcerting, there are several kinds of strategies you can use to get some much-needed relief.

Non-medical Strategies

If you want to avoid medications, consider some non-medical relief strategies. One such strategy is ensuring adequate lumbar support. A specially designed pillow or chair support can significantly relieve lower back pain after a coughing fit. The key lies in maintaining good posture and providing adequate support.

Ergonomic adjustments to your workspace and seating arrangements can also work wonders. By reducing strain on your back and promoting better blood flow and posture, you can manage and even avoid chronic back pain.

How about changing the way you cough? It might sound odd, but adopting an arched back posture when coughing or sneezing can help alleviate strain on your spinal discs and prevent worsening pain. The advantages of cold and heat therapy also help significantly. Applying heat can dilate blood vessels, improve blood flow, and speed recovery. Cold therapy, on the other hand, helps reduce swelling and pain.

Finally, using bracing techniques during a coughing episode can be quite beneficial. Hold onto a stable object or embrace a pillow to distribute the force to your spine more evenly, offering temporary relief from back pain.

Medication Options for Back Pain Relief

Medication can also significantly provide relief. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), are often recommended for this kind of problem. These drugs help reduce inflammation and provide pain relief.

You can use muscle relaxants to reduce muscle spasms and relieve pain and muscle tension, while topical treatments like lidocaine creams and patches can provide localized relief. In some cases, doctors may prescribe antidepressants to help manage chronic pain conditions.

For extreme cases like severe nerve compression or spinal stenosis, you might want to consider using corticosteroid injections. Known as epidural steroid injections, these reduce back pain by delivering anti-inflammatory medication directly into the epidural space, thus decreasing inflammation at the site of injection. Additionally, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can be another option for managing pain in such cases.

However, it’s worth noting that you should always consult a healthcare provider before initiating any new medication. They can help you understand the benefits and potential side effects, ensuring you get the most effective treatment for your situation.

Physical Therapy Techniques

Physical therapy also serves as a productive method for managing and easing back pain. One of the techniques used in physical therapy is massage therapy, which addresses muscle knots, promotes circulation, and provides relief from discomfort.

a woman strengthening her back with physical therapy.

Physical therapists design programs to strengthen your back muscles, boost flexibility, and incorporate pain relief techniques tailored to your needs. They may encourage you to perform gentle stretches to supplement these programs, which will help ease your back pain during recovery and help you avoid any movements that worsen the condition.

When to Seek Professional Help

While these strategies and techniques can aid in managing back pain when you cough, there are times when you should seek professional help. If your back pain persists, that may indicate more serious issues. Consider whether the pain is accompanied by other serious symptoms, such as the following:

  • numbness
  • tingling in the legs
  • loss of bowel or bladder control
  • difficulty breathing

If this applies to you, you should consult with a healthcare provider promptly. Ignoring severe or prolonged back pain that accompanies coughing is not advised, as it could signal a more serious condition that necessitates professional medical attention. Listen to your body, and don’t hesitate to seek help when you need it.

Next Steps

Back pain is a common result of a coughing episode. It can be caused by a range of factors, from strained back muscles to more serious conditions like spinal stenosis or lung disease. Fortunately, numerous strategies can help manage the pain. If you experience persistent or severe back pain when coughing, you need to seek professional medical attention.

Lonestar Spine and Pain Institute specializes in assisting people who experience these kinds of issues. Contact us today to discuss your needs and discover what can be done to relieve your pain as soon as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the connection between coughing and back pain?

Coughing can strain the back muscles and cause discomfort and pain, especially for those with existing back conditions. Be mindful of the potential link between coughing and back pain.

What are some non-medical relief strategies for back pain when coughing?

You can try non-medical relief strategies such as using lumbar support, making ergonomic adjustments, maintaining an arched back posture, and using heat or cold therapy to alleviate the pain. These techniques can help reduce discomfort and support your back effectively.

When should I seek professional help for back pain when coughing?

You should seek professional help for persistent back pain after a coughing fit, especially if accompanied by serious symptoms like numbness, tingling, or difficulty breathing. Don’t delay seeking medical assistance if you experience these symptoms.

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