Why Do My Ribs Hurt When Sneezing?

Feb 15, 2024

Why Do My Ribs Hurt When Sneezing?Have you ever found yourself wincing in pain when a simple sneeze unexpectedly triggers discomfort in your ribs? Rib pain from sneezing can be frustrating and uncomfortable, and the last thing you want to deal with when you have allergies or a cold is strange pain around your chest. Whether it’s a sharp twinge, a dull ache, or a stabbing sensation, the experience of rib pain during sneezing can range from mildly annoying to downright distressing. Understanding the various factors that can contribute to this phenomenon can help identify the root cause and find relief from this unexpected and often perplexing experience.

Why Your Ribs Hurt When Sneezing

Are you wondering, “Why do my ribs hurt when I sneeze?” Check out these possible reasons for why your ribs hurt when sneezing and what you can do about it.

  • Muscle strain: When you sneeze, your body undergoes a sudden, involuntary contraction of various muscles, including those around your ribs and chest. If these muscles are already strained or weakened from overuse, poor posture, or previous injuries, the force of sneezing can increase the strain and lead to pain.
  • Costochondritis: Costochondritis is a condition that can cause sharp, stabbing pain around the chest area, including where the ribs attach to the breastbone. Sneezing can aggravate this pain due to the sudden expansion of the chest cavity, which puts additional stress on the inflamed area.
  • Rib injury: Fractured or bruised ribs can cause significant discomfort, especially during movements that expand the chest cavity, such as sneezing. A recent car accident injury or even a seemingly minor injury could lead to rib pain when sneezing.
  • Infections: Respiratory infections like pneumonia can cause inflammation in the lungs and surrounding tissues, leading to chest pain. From a lingering cold to pneumonia, excessive coughing and sneezing can cause sharp rib pain.
  • Intercostal muscle strain: The intercostal muscles refer to the soft tissue between the ribs, which help with breathing and chest movement. Straining these muscles through activities like heavy lifting, sudden movements, or repetitive motions can result in pain that worsens with sneezing due to the additional stress on the affected area.
  • Herniated disc: A herniated disc in the thoracic spine, or mid-back, can compress nearby nerves, leading to radiating pain in the chest or rib area. Sneezing can make this pain worse by further compressing the affected nerves or aggravating the underlying condition.

When to See a Doctor for Rib Pain While Sneezing

When to See a Doctor for Rib Pain While SneezingKnowing when to seek medical attention for rib pain when sneezing depends on the severity, duration, and underlying cause of the pain. Here’s a guideline for when to see a doctor if your ribs hurt when sneezing.

When to See a Doctor

  • Severe or persistent pain: If the pain is intense, worsening, or doesn’t improve with rest or over-the-counter pain relievers, you may want to consult with your doctor. This could indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as a rib fracture.
  • Difficulty breathing: If sneezing leads to difficulty breathing or you experience shortness of breath, seek immediate medical attention. This could be a sign of a serious respiratory or cardiac issue.
  • Visible deformity or swelling: If you notice any deformity, bruising, or swelling around the ribs, it could indicate a rib fracture or other serious injury that requires medical attention.
  • Associated symptoms: Symptoms such as fever, coughing up blood, persistent cough, arm pain when sneezing, or sudden weight loss along with rib pain could suggest an underlying infection or illness that needs prompt medical attention.
  • Recent trauma: If the rib pain follows a recent injury or trauma to the chest area, it’s essential to get evaluated by a healthcare professional to rule out fractures or other serious injuries.

At-Home Remedies

  • Rest and gentle movement: Avoid activities that worsen the pain, but also try to maintain gentle movements to help prevent stiffness. Resting in a comfortable position and avoiding strenuous activities can help reduce your pain and discomfort.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers: Non-prescription pain medications like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce inflammation and alleviate mild to moderate rib pain.
  • Heat or cold therapy: Applying a heating pad or ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
  • Posture correction: Maintaining good posture can reduce strain on the ribcage and alleviate pain. Avoid slouching and practice proper body mechanics, especially during activities that involve bending or lifting.

If you’re unsure whether your rib pain warrants medical attention, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and consult your Marietta doctor for personalized treatment and care.

Assessment and Diagnosis of Rib Pain When Sneezing

When you visit a doctor for rib pain when sneezing, they will conduct a thorough assessment and examination to diagnose the underlying cause. Your doctor will start by asking you questions about your symptoms, including when the pain started, how severe it is, and if you’ve experienced any recent injuries or illnesses. Next, your doctor will perform a physical examination, focusing on the chest and rib area. They may gently press on your ribs to check for tenderness, swelling, or other concerns. They’ll also assess your breathing patterns and listen to your lungs with a stethoscope to check for any abnormal sounds. Depending on the suspected cause of your rib pain, your doctor may order diagnostic imaging, such as X-rays or CT scans to get a closer look at the area. These types of diagnostic tools can help identify fractures, muscle injuries, or underlying conditions like pneumonia or herniated discs.

AICA Marietta for Rib Pain Treatment

Visit your Marietta chiropractor at AICA Orthopedics to get lasting relief from rib pain while sneezing. Our Marietta chiropractors work alongside physical therapists, orthopedic doctors, and additional specialists to provide you with comprehensive treatment and care. Whether you are dealing with a car accident injury or looking to improve your posture with quality chiropractic care, our team at AICA Orthopedics in Marietta is here to help.


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