Jessica is a medical writer with an unquenched thirst to discover something new. She believes that medical content should be accessible to everyone and strives to write content that every single person can understand. When Jessica isn’t writing, she can usually be found reading a book with a dog cuddled in her lap. Jessica has a Masters of Engineering degree in Biomedical Engineering.
Medically reviewed by
Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
Chest pains are always a source of worry, and you will want to seek quick answers. However, the symptoms can occur in a variety of situations. If you’ve been asking “why does my chest hurt when I sneeze?”.
The truth is that there are many possible answers. Whether it’s a short stabbing pain or a dull ache, an accurate diagnosis is the key to managing or treating the condition in style.
Table of Contents
- What Can Cause Chest Pain When Sneezing?
- Lung Infections
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
What Can Cause Chest Pain When Sneezing?
Chest pain is a very common symptom that may be experienced in connection with a wide range of health issues. Research states that 1.5% of the population will consult a doctor about chest pains each year while many more experience it without seeking medical support. But what are the reasons for your symptoms becoming worse when you sneeze? Some of the most common causes are listed below:
Asthma caused by allergies has been heavily researched by Kim Ki-Hyun et al. in their study entitled: A review on human health perspective of air pollution with respect to allergies and asthma. Some of the key findings include the fact that both allergies and asthma are globally on the rise, as well as airway mucosal damage and impaired mucociliary. The study also details the increased risk of chronic inflammation.
Allergies and asthma may cause inflammation and irritation to all aspects of the respiratory system, which is largely located in the chest area. The added pressure can put a significant strain on the chest wall. When sneezing, the movement of your rib cage and chest muscles can subsequently lead to sharp pain.
The most effective treatment revolves around managing allergy-triggered asthma. Using an inhaler is the most common solution while anti-leukotriene drugs or immunotherapy may be used too.
GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is characterized by acid reflux. Studies show that 20% of Americans experience episodes of stomach acid coming up to their throat. The acid causes heartburn or a burning sensation. The sudden movement of a sneeze is one of many issues that can cause the situation to feel worse because it allows the stomach acid to quickly shoot up to the esophagus.
There are many potential triggers that cause GERD, including obesity, dietary habits, and moving to a horizontal position shortly after eating. As such, the best treatment is often linked to lifestyle changes. Losing weight and new diets are very common solutions while smokers may be advised to quit too.
A range of medications, starting with antacids to baclofen, which is designed to strengthen the esophagus, may also be prescribed. Investigating other potential causes of chest pains when sneezing can be completed at the same time.
Hernias are caused when organs are moved out of place, and they can naturally place a lot of pressure on the muscles of whichever area the organ has moved to. If the stomach moves up, for example, it’s likely that the added pressure will overwork the chest muscles. You might not notice the symptoms in normal activities, but coughing or sneezing may make it a far more noticeable pain.
Research by Niyazi Guler et al. into Acute ECG Changes and Chest Pain Induced by Neck Motion in Patients with Cervical Hernia found that chest pains resembling cardiac arrest problems are more likely to be present when women have a cervical hernia. However, it is also shown that both genders can be affected by stomach hernias and muscle hernias.
Millions of people suffer from hernias but do not act until severe problems occur. Open surgery or keyhole surgery will be needed in some cases, especially if there is a risk of bowel obstructions or disruption to your daily life.
Like asthma, lung infections often lead to inflammation and irritation. Lung infections may be caused by flu, pneumonia, bronchitis, or a host of other issues and may be accompanied by phlegm, a fever, coughing, and general fatigue. Treatments could include antifungal medications or antibiotics depending on the type of infection, which is why an accurate diagnosis is required.
While a lung infection may also cause your stomach to hurt when sneezing, it is far more likely that your chest will be the main source of discomfort. Infections impact the breathing tubes and can enter the lungs too. The inflammation will lead to chest pains when the sharp rib cage movements of a sneeze occur.
A lung infection needs treating, especially as untreated damage can escalate or linger for several weeks. A doctor will diagnose the type of infection and subsequently choose the right medication for it, as well as make suggestions like getting rest.
When to See a Doctor?
A single instance of chest pain when sneezing probably isn’t anything to worry about, although you can still seek medical care if you’re worried, but symptoms that last longer than 72 hours should be checked. Likewise, repeated pains when sneezing should be checked, even if they are weeks apart.
Alternatively, you should contact a doctor if the chest pains when sneezing are accompanied by bloody mucus, wheezing, or a chronic cough.
Immediate care should be sought if you are coughing blood, struggling to breathe, or experiencing severe chest pains.
How Can DrHouse Help You?
If connecting to your local doctor is proving to be difficult or inconvenient, speaking to an online doctor via DrHouse can get you seen by an experienced medical professional in as little as 15 minutes. Better still, you can enjoy a full consultation about your chest pain when sneezing symptoms from the comfort of your home. This includes gaining a clear diagnosis and receiving a fully tailored treatment plan.
Chest pains when sneezing are often caused by simple issues like irritation and inflammation, but may also be symptomatic of a more serious issue.
If you’re concerned about the situation, gaining a correct diagnosis is the only way you’ll get your health back on track and restore your peace of mind. Take the first steps by arranging a video consultation through the DrHouse app today.
- Ana Ruigómez, Luis Alberto García Rodríguez, Mari-Ann Wallander, Saga Johansson, Roger Jones, Chest pain in general practice: incidence, comorbidity and mortality, Family Practice, Volume 23, Issue 2, April 2006, Pages 167–174, https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmi124
- Ki-Hyun Kim, Shamin Ara Jahan, Ehsanul Kabir, A review on human health perspective of air pollution with respect to allergies and asthma, Environment International, Volume 59, 2013, Pages 41-52, ISSN 0160-4120, Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envint.2013.05.007.
- Definition & Facts for GER & GERD. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Available from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/acid-reflux-ger-gerd-adults/definition-facts
- Güler N, Bilge M, Eryonucu B, Cirak B. Acute ECG changes and chest pain induced by neck motion in patients with cervical hernia–a case report. Angiology. 2000 Oct;51(10):861-5. Available from: 10.1177/000331970005101009
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.
DrHouse provides 24/7 virtual urgent care, men’s health, women’s health and online prescriptions.
On-demand virtual visits
24/7 care support
Prescriptions as needed