Can sneezing make your chest hurt

Causes of Chest Pain

Chest pain can be a symptom of a variety of conditions, ranging from minor issues such as indigestion or muscle strain, to more serious conditions such as a heart attack. It is important to identify the cause of the chest pain in order to determine the best treatment.

One possible cause of chest pain is intense sneezing. In this article, we will discuss the potential causes and treatments for chest pain due to sneezing.


Allergies are a common cause of chest pain and can range from mild to severe. Allergic reactions triggered by exposure to allergens, such as dust, pollen, or animal dander, can cause the immune system to go into overdrive. This can lead to inflammation in the chest cavity, resulting in a feeling of pain or tightness.

In addition to chest pain, allergies may also cause:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Runny nose
  • Itchy eyes and throat

Over-the-counter allergy medications such as antihistamines may help relieve these symptoms. However chronic chest pain might require further evaluation by a doctor who can develop a customized treatment plan that best meets your needs.


Asthma is a common condition in which the airways and surrounding tissue become inflamed, which can cause chest pain. Sneezing or coughing can cause the airways to narrow even more, leading to further difficulty breathing and increased chest pain. However, it is important to note that sneezing exacerbating asthma symptoms is not the most common cause of chest pain due to sneezing. Generally, when someone feels sharp chest pains from sneezing or coughing, that means there is an underlying condition causing the issue.

If someone feels chest pain when they sneeze, it could be indicative of asthma if other associated symptoms are present such as wheezing or shortness of breath. It could also be linked to another respiratory illness, a muscle strain (often seen with vigorous sneezes), inflammation inside the ribcage due to conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or an infection like pneumonia.

If someone experiences worsening chest pain after sneezing or coughing, they should consult their doctor to rule out any serious issues. In some cases—especially in people over age 45 with pre-existing medical conditions—pain in the chest after coughing may indicate cardiac distress and require immediate medical attention.


Infections such as viral or bacterial pneumonia can cause chest pain. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that causes inflammation and a buildup of fluid, making breathing difficult and causing pain in the chest. Symptoms include a dry or productive cough, shortness of breath, fever, and chills in addition to chest pain.

Other infections that may cause chest pain include:

  • Pleurisy (inflammation of the lining around the lungs)
  • Endocarditis (infection affecting the inner lining of your heart).

How Sneezing Can Cause Chest Pain

Sneezing is one of the most common respiratory symptoms, and it can cause a variety of chest pain sensations. When we sneeze, our body produces a lot of pressure due to the sudden expulsion of air. This pressure can cause chest pain, as the force of the sneeze can push the chest muscles, ribs, and other structures in the chest. In some cases, this pressure can even cause chest pain that radiates to the back.

Pressure on the chest wall

When a person sneezes, their abdominal organs and muscles contract in a strong manner. This contraction directly affects the chest wall, creating pressure that can cause chest pain. Sneezing can also cause the diaphragm (the dome-shaped muscle between the lungs and abdomen) to move upwards into the chest cavity which, in turn, causes pressure on the chest wall.

The contraction of the abdominal muscles during sneezing can also cause small amounts of air to be forced from the stomach into the esophagus (the tube carrying food from your mouth to your stomach). This force can cause some discomfort or chest pain. Additionally, sneezing can over-inflate portions of the ribcage, entering areas where ribs have lost flexibility due to:

  • long-term coughing
  • injury

Over time this may lead to mild soreness or when there is already existing damage a more painful experience in those affected areas.

Muscle strain

Muscle strain is a common cause of chest pain when sneezing. All it takes is one powerful sneeze to cause the intercostal muscles to strain, which can be quite painful. Intercostal muscles lie between the ribs and help protect the chest organs as well as help in breathing. Because they are not used as often as other muscle groups, they can easily be strained from an unexpected action like sneezing.

The pain from a strained intercostal muscle will feel like an ache or sharp pain that increases with each breath or movement of your body. It will often lead to difficulty breathing, so if you experience chest pain after sneezing that does not seem to go away within a few minutes, you should seek medical attention immediately.

In severe cases, the muscle strain may tear completely, resulting in severe pain and interfering with everyday activities like coughing or taking deep breaths. Chest pains from a tear should not be ignored and might require immediate medical attention in order to prevent further damage.

In addition to rest and over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, physical therapy can help with both preventing future tears of these muscles and aiding in healing them quickly following an injury.

Inflammation of the airways

Sneezing can cause chest pain for several reasons, the most common of which is inflammation of the airways. When a person sneezes, tiny particles of air and bacteria are propelled through the airway walls. This rapid displacement can cause irritation and inflammation in the lining of the respiratory tract, resulting in a painful sensation in the chest.

In addition to sneezing, chest pain associated with inflammation of the airways can be caused by exposure to irritants or allergens from tobacco smoke, dust particles, perfumes or other airborne substances. Asthma and bronchitis can also cause chest pains when breathing is difficult or one experiences shortness of breath. People with allergies may experience a similar reaction when exposed to an allergen that causes an allergic reaction.

In all cases, it’s important to seek medical attention if chest pain persists or worsens after sneezing. Long-term inflammation of the respiratory tract might indicate more serious underlying issues such as infection or asthma that require treatment by a physician.

Prevention of Chest Pain from Sneezing

Sneezing can cause chest pain due to a sudden increase in pressure on the chest and abdominal muscles. This can happen in people with asthma, bronchitis, or other chest conditions. It is important to take precautionary measures in order to avoid chest pain when sneezing.

In this article, we will discuss some of the ways to prevent chest pain from sneezing:

Avoid allergens

One of the primary ways to avoid chest pain due to sneezing is to avoid allergens that might trigger it. This means taking steps such as:

  • Cleaning carpets and furniture
  • Dusting
  • Washing bedding regularly
  • Avoiding outdoor activities when pollen counts are high

Many people find that using air filtration systems in the home can help reduce symptoms.

Additionally, if possible, try to avoid being around strong odors or airborne molecules from cleaning products and other sources. If needed, wear a mask to protect your respiratory system from irritants.

Many food allergens can also cause chest tightening and discomfort when you sneeze or cough. Keeping track of what foods you eat that trigger sneezing-related chest pain is important in locating offending components for avoidance or moderation. Seek help from a registered dietitian if you struggle with this type of allergy management or consider an allergy test by your doctor.

Use a humidifier

Increasing the humidity levels in your home or office environment can help reduce the likelihood of chest pain while sneezing. A study conducted on 400 individuals, whose average age was 62, found that those who used a humidifier overnight experienced significantly less chest pain. While this may not be a first-line approach for dealing with chest discomfort due to sneezing, it is an effective preventive measure that you can undertake at home.

Using a humidifier humidifies the air around you, which helps to reduce the turbulence caused by the release of air during sneezing. This can help to reduce the chances of experiencing any pain or discomfort in your chest from sneezing.

In addition to using a humidifier, make sure to:

  • Use a waste bin lined with paper towels for tissues and any other dirty materials that could harbor bacteria and viruses.
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces as recommended by your healthcare provider.

Take medications as prescribed

To prevent chest pain from sneezing, it is important to take medications as prescribed by your doctor and follow any advice they may give you. Be sure to discuss your symptoms with your doctor so that you can receive the most appropriate treatment for your condition. Before taking any medications, make sure to read the label and ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions or concerns. When possible, avoid triggers that can cause chest pain resulting from sneezing such as exposure to sudden changes in temperature, dust, allergies, and cigarette smoke.

In addition to taking medications prescribed by a medical professional and avoiding triggers when possible, there are also some lifestyle changes you can make that may help reduce the severity of chest pain associated with sneezing:

  • Eating a well-balanced diet containing foods rich in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Drinking plenty of water.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Getting adequate sleep.
  • Practicing relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation.
  • Avoiding stressful situations when possible.

Making these lifestyle changes may help reduce the severity of chest pain associated with sneezing.

When to Seek Medical Attention

If your chest hurts when you sneeze, it could be an indication of a more serious medical condition. In some cases, it could be caused by the increased pressure on your chest when you sneeze, or it could be a sign of an underlying disorder.

It is important to pay attention to any other symptoms you experience and to seek medical advice if your chest continues to hurt after you sneeze.

Persistent chest pain

When sneezing results in a sharp chest pain that persists, it is important to consult a medical professional. Such persistent chest pain can be a sign of underlying coronary artery disease, angina or even a heart attack.

Besides persistent chest pain, other symptoms of coronary artery disease and angina may include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Exhaustion
  • Dizziness

In the case of a heart attack, it is essential to seek medical attention right away as this condition can quickly become life-threatening. Additional symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Pain or numbness in one or both arms or the back

If you experience any of these symptoms while sneezing, then you must seek medical help immediately.

Difficulty breathing

If you experience any difficulty breathing, seek medical attention immediately. Difficulty breathing can be caused by many things, from an allergic reaction to a serious lung infection. Common signs include shortness of breath, rapid or shallow breathing, and trouble taking a full breath in and out. If your chest feels tight or congested when you breathe as well, this could indicate a potentially serious issue. If you have any chest pain along with difficulty breathing, call first responders (911) right away.

In some cases, chest pain could be caused by something like strained muscles following intense sneezing (which is also known medically as “sneezing syncope”). If you’ve recently experienced a sneezing episode so intense that it left you feeling weak or lightheaded afterwards and your chest hurts when you breathe in, it’s possible that it is related to the prolonged sneezing fit. In this case, considering giving your doctor a call for confirmation of the cause – just to make sure.

High fever

A high fever (102°F or higher) is a cause for concern and should be watched carefully. Be sure to contact your health care provider if you are unable to bring the fever down with over-the-counter medications or if the fever lasts longer than three days. It is also important to seek medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms while there is a high fever present:

  • Persistent coughing
  • Profuse sweating, particularly at night
  • Severe pain in the chest, especially when you breathe deeply
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Headache or body ache that does not go away after over-the-counter medications are taken
  • Difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, or wheezing
  • Unusual confusion or drowsiness
  • Sensitivity to light


After reviewing available research, it appears that it is not physically possible for your chest to hurt from sneezing; however, underlying medical conditions may intensify pre-existing chest pain or put you at greater risk of developing chest discomfort after a forceful sneeze.

Although rare, pleuritic chest pain can sometimes be a symptom of an underlying medical issue. Even if the cause of your chest pain is not directly related to sneezing or coughing, it is important to seek medical attention if you experience chest discomfort following any type of physical exertion.

In summary, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that sneezing directly causes chest pain. As always, speak to your healthcare provider if you have any concerns about symptoms associated with coughing and/or sneezing and visit the emergency department if your discomfort is severe or accompanied by other concerning symptoms.