Why Do My Ribs Hurt When I Sneeze?

Sneezing can cause chest pain for a variety of reasons. It is usually caused by an illness, disease, or injury to the chest wall.

When you sneeze, the pain may occur or worsen. This is due to the fact that sneezing causes the muscles and bones in your chest to shift.

When sneezing, muscle strain is a typical cause of chest pain. Other causes include chronic diseases such as heartburn and more serious issues such as tumors.

Sneezing can produce pain in a single region or throughout your chest. It can occur anywhere from the neck to the upper abdomen. Your chest pain could feel like this:

  • Stabbing or sharp
  • Dull 
  • Tender 
  • An aching, burning sensation
  • Tightness, or pressure

Table of Contents

What Can Cause Rib Pain After Sneezing?


Pleurisy occurs when the pleura, or the lining of the lungs, becomes inflamed or enlarged. Pleurisy can be caused by a variety of conditions.

In severe situations, fluid accumulates between the layers of the lining. This could result in an infection.

Depending on the reason for your pleurisy, you may require treatment. Pleurisy can be caused by a variety of serious conditions, including:

  • Pneumonia caused by bacteria
  • Infections caused by fungi
  • Chest wounds or injuries caused by blood clots
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Tumors or cancer
  • Lupus and other chronic diseases

Pleurisy is breath in acute chest pain. When you breathe, sneeze, or cough, the discomfort may worsen. Other signs and symptoms may include, a cough fever back or shoulder pain, loss of breath chest, and, stiffness or pressure. 

Muscle Strain

Intercostal muscular strain is another name for rib muscle tension. The intercostal muscles are located between your ribs and connect them. Muscle tension or strained muscles account for up to 49% of all chest pain. It is normally harmless and heals on its own.

Rib muscles can be strained as a result of a fall or an accident. Poor posture, exercise, lifting large objects, or twisting your upper body can all cause harm to these muscles. Coughing or sneezing too much might also strain your rib muscles. It can happen gradually over time or all at once.

Chest pain can be caused by a muscle strain. Your ribs could be damaged or sore. When you sneeze or breathe hard, the pain may worsen. This is because these muscles assist in moving the rib cage up and down while you breathe.

Asthma Caused by Allergies

Some people get asthma as a result of allergies. Allergic rhinitis, sometimes known as hay fever, causes nasal and sinus symptoms. Asthma mostly affects the lungs and creates symptoms in the chest.

Allergic asthma causes symptoms similar to hay fever and asthma, such as:

  • Sneezing and a runny nose
  • Itchy eyes due to sinus congestion
  • Stiffness or pain in the chest
  • Shortness of breath due to wheezing
  • Coughing, rapid breathing, and exhaustion

To assist in controlling symptoms, your doctor may prescribe allergy and asthma drugs. Avoiding allergens such as pollen, animal dander, and dust can also help reduce the severity of allergic asthma symptoms.

Infection of the Lungs

Sneezing and chest pain could indicate a lung or chest infection. Lower respiratory tract infection is another name for a lung infection. It affects the breathing tubes that go into and out of your lungs. Severe infections can go further into your lungs.

A regular cold or flu can occasionally result in a lung infection. Bronchitis is an infection or inflammation of the respiratory tube lining. More dangerous lung infections include pneumonia and TB.

Lung infections necessitate immediate medical attention.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may have a lung infection:

  • A dry or wet cough
  • Chest pain or aching
  • Yellow or green mucus or phlegm
  • Fever
  • Muscle pain
  • Exhaustion

What to Do When Sneezing Hurts Your Ribs?

The source of chest pain during sneezing determines the treatment. Some disorders may not necessitate any therapy at all. Viral infections, such as the flu, normally resolve on their own. Muscle strains heal on their own.

Chronic diseases such as asthma, heartburn, and arthritis may necessitate the use of regular drugs. For severe infections, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics, antivirals, or antifungal medications.

The majority of bruised, fractured, or broken ribs will heal on their own. Your doctor may recommend pain medication to aid in your recovery. Sternum and collarbone injuries may necessitate further treatment and take longer to heal.

When Should You Consult a Doctor?

Inform your doctor if you get chest pain with every sneeze. Your doctor can determine the source of your chest pain if you do not have a persistent ailment or an accident.

Consult your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Cough that will not go gone
  • Fever or chills with wheeze
  • No appetite due to severe chest pain
  • Leg swelling due to bloody mucous

How can DrHouse help you?

DrHouse is your go-to telemedicine service. You can expect: 

  • 24/7 Virtual Visits – See board-certified clinicians from the top U.S. medical schools in 15 minutes or less.
  • Prescriptions As Needed – See our clinicians whenever you need a new prescription or a refill. 
  • On-Demand Care Support – Chat with our care support whenever necessary. They are here for you 24/7.

Key Takeaways

The most common reason for chest pain after sneezing is an issue with the chest wall, such as muscle strain. Sneezing, coughing, and heavy breathing force your rib cage and chest muscles to shift up and down.

In rare circumstances, chest pain during sneezing may indicate a more serious condition.

Consult your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms in addition to chest pain during sneezing. If your chest pain is severe or lasts for an extended period of time, get immediate medical treatment.


Content on the DrHouse website is written by our medical content team and reviewed by qualified MDs, PhDs, NPs, and PharmDs. We follow strict content creation guidelines to ensure accurate medical information. However, this content is for informational purposes only and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For more information read our medical disclaimer.

Always consult with your physician or other qualified health providers about medical concerns. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it based on what you read on this website.

If you are experiencing high fever (>103F/39.4C), shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, chest pain, heart palpitations, abnormal bruising, abnormal bleeding, extreme fatigue, dizziness, new weakness or paralysis, difficulty with speech, confusion, extreme pain in any body part, or inability to remain hydrated or keep down fluids or feel you may have any other life-threatening condition, please go to the emergency department or call 911 immediately.



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