Why Do I Suffer From Chest Pain When Sneezing?

Do you know? “You can’t keep your eyes open while sneezing.” Sounds strange? It is true. Try to sneeze with open eyes; you will never succeed in it. A sneeze could be sometimes funny if it’s only a big “achoo.” But the same sneeze could be annoying and painful at times. Have you ever wondered why do I suffer from chest pain when sneezing? Several factors could cause pain, specifically chest pain when sneezing.

Many people complain that they suffer from chest pain when sneezing. Why it’s painful to sneeze? Is this a sign of any underlying pathology? Is it normal to feel chest pain when sneezing? Many questions are there that pop up in the mind of a person who encounters a painful sneeze.

Are you among the ones who feel chest pain when sneezing? If you are looking for the answers to the above questions then definitely you have turned to the right page. Keep digging with us till the end because we will be discussing everything in detail regarding your issue. So let’s explore it together.

Chest Pain: What Are the Symptoms?

Do you feel pain in the chest? If the normal inhalation and exhalation are painful for you, you might also be having chest pain.


Either mild or severe, chest pain could greatly distress if you do not give it due attention and take action on time. Those who suffer from chest pain usually present the following symptoms:

  • Shallow breathing
  • Coughing
  • Unexpected weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Swelling in the joints

Pleuritic Chest Pain

Severe chest pain accompanied by burning sensation while inhalation and exhalation, also facing a sudden, intense, and sharp stabbing in the chest; all are the confirmed signs for pleuritic chest pain. Pleuritis is also known as pleurisy. The condition is the inflammation or irritation of the linings of the chest and lungs. The possible reason behind this could be viral or bacterial infections, pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism, etc. The condition results in sharp chest pain while sneezing, coughing, or deep breathing.

Sharp Chest Pain When Sneezing

A simple sneeze could become a torment sometimes. People who experience sharp chest pain when sneezing can relate to it. The reason could be different from person to person. Some complaints about mild discomfort, while some cases also report severe distress. If you start trying to hold in a sneeze, that could be even more disastrous, leading to a rib injury and some other severe complications. Rather than getting depressed or stressing out, go for a mature approach. Examine yourself and analyze the situation. Once you are sure that the chest pain you suffer when sneezing is not ordinary, immediately contact the specialist and get yourself checked. 

What Causes Chest Pain When Sneezing?

Chest pain could be an indication of any underlying pathology. Several factors could be the reason behind your chest pain. Your chest pain might be indicating any illness, injury, or damage. The common reasons for chest pain are:

  1. Muscle strain
  2. Asthma
  3. Lung infection 
  4. Pleurisy
  5. Heartburn
  6. Joint infection
  7. Arthritis
  8. Hernia
  9. Heart problem
  10. Tumor

1.  Muscle strain

In almost up to 49% of cases, muscle strain is the reason for chest pain. The intercostal muscles in between the ribs get strained due to any reason. Sometimes due to any injury or fall, you may strain your chest muscles. Prolonged coughing can also cause this issue. The forces are present between the ribs holding them in place. When we sneeze, the powers and the ribs move, and the movement causes pain. This condition is usually not serious. In most cases, the muscles get healed on their own.

2.  Allergic Asthma

In some people, allergies trigger asthma. Due to asthma, a person suffers from severe chest pain sometimes because asthma mainly affects the lungs. In the case of allergic asthma, a patient presents the symptoms of asthma and hay fever as well. Some of the common clinical presentation in such cases includes; breathlessness, sneezing, runny nose or sometimes nasal congestion, wheezing, fatigue, itchy eyes, etc. For such cases, a doctor prescribes medication to control both asthma and allergy to ensure proper patient recovery.

3.  Lung infection

Lung infection, or specifically, lower respiratory tract infection, can also cause chest pain. The disease initially only attacks the breathing tubes entering and exiting the lungs, but the condition may penetrate more profound in the lungs if it gets severe. Lung infections need proper and on-time treatment. The common symptoms of lung cancer include:

·         Dry cough or wet cough in some cases

·         Green or yellow mucus

·         Fever

·         Muscle ache

If you are suffering from the above symptoms, consult your doctor immediately and get proper treatment without further delay.

4.  Pleurisy

Pleuritis is also known as pleurisy. The pleuritic chest pain is due to a condition that causes inflammation or irritation in the linings of the chest and lungs. The possible reason behind this could be viral or bacterial infections, pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism, etc. The condition results in sharp chest pain while sneezing, coughing, or deep breathing.

Depending upon the cause of pleurisy, your doctor will give you the best possible treatment for it. Some of the reasons for pleurisy include:

·         Chronic conditions

·         Sickle cell anemia

·         Blood clots

·         Fungal infections

·         Bacterial pneumonia

·         Chest injuries, etc.

5.  Heartburn

Acid reflux is commonly known as heartburn. It is also called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The condition causes the acid in the stomach to splash up to the throat. Usually, the disease attacks the one having a very sensitive esophagus. A slight muscular spasm or a sneeze sometimes triggers stomach acid to leak into the esophagus—the acid reflux results in a burning sensation and chest pain.

6.  Joint infection

In case if you have a rib joint infection, you will suffer from chest pain when sneezing. Typical causative agents for rib joint infections are bacteria, viruses, or fungi that result in; tuberculosis, syphilis, and aspergillosis.

Some of these infections are contagious. To treat them effectively, antiviral, antibacterial, or antifungal medications are prescribed by the doctor. If the infections turn out to be severe, they can cause a life-threatening condition.

7.  Arthritis

If you have arthritis in your ribs, you may suffer from chest pain. Arthritis in cartilage is also known as costochondritis, which sometimes attacks the cartilage present between the ribs to the sternum. The condition results in inflammation and swelling in the chest. The chest pain may get much severe that it might feel like a heart attack. If such patients sneeze, their chest pain worsens due to the chest muscles’ sudden rigid movement.

Some other symptoms that a person may present in these conditions include:

·         Pain in ribs

·         The pain is usually towards the left side of the chest

·         Severe pain due to deep breathing, sneezing, or coughing

·         Sharp pain in the chest

Other types of arthritis which affect the ribs include; osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis. All these conditions may not get serious only if you get the proper medication to prevent them from getting worse.

8.  Hernia

When an organ dislocates from its position, either pushed or pulled; the condition results in a hernia. For instance, in the case of your stomach, the term we use is hiatal hernia; the situation is accompanied by the bulging of the top part of the stomach into the chest. The condition causes chest pain and some other symptoms, including:

·         Acid reflux

·         Heartburn

·         Stomach pain

·         Breathlessness

·         Black bowel movements

In case of coughing or sneezing, the pain might get severe.

9.  Heart problem

The main warning sign of a heart attack is chest pain. The chest pain is also point out towards several cardiac issues. One of the conditions associated with cardiac problems is known as angina. Angina causes chest pain, indicating that the heart is not getting proper oxygen supply. The pain is temporary, and usually, the pain is caused due to stress or physical activity.

Sometimes, complex and continuous sneezing can result in angina chest pain. Angina is a severe condition that needs proper treatment. Angina also presents some other symptoms like:

·         Chest tightening

·         Numbness in the shoulder (usually left)

·         Numbness in the arm (usually left)

·         Severe pain while doing any activity

10. Tumor

The presence of a tumor in the chest region or the lungs also causes chest pain. Usually, about 8% of such tumors are found in the lining of hearts or lungs. The tumor can be present in any region in the chest and can cause one side pain or dull pain. The pain gets even worse due to sneezing. Some other indications include:

·         Difficult breathing

·         Fluid in lungs

·         Coughing

Cancer could be benign or malignant. Whatever the condition is, it can be treated through surgery. In some cases, chemotherapy or radiation may also be required.

Chest Pain When Sneezing While Pregnant

During pregnancy, it is normal to encounter frequent sneezing, probably more than normal. If a pregnant lady complains about chest pain while sneezing, this could be a sign of pregnancy rhinitis. There are a lot of indications for such cases. The prominent symptoms include; stuffiness and runny nose, along with sneezing.

The exact causes are still unknown for the condition. But, all this is more ops less due to the hormonal changes that may result in cold, flu, or sometimes allergies.

The woman should take some precautions to avoid severe discomfort. If the conditions do not get normal, you should consult with your doctor for further assistance.

Chest Pain When Sneezing Covid

In most cases of Covid, it is observed that chest pain is a rare symptom. Usually, chest pain is not associated with Covid. Other factors could be the reason behind the chest pain in covid. Increased anxiety among the people due to the threat of covid results in chest pain. In worse conditions, the mild pain can turn into severe distress that may even lead to cardiac issues.

Chest Pain When Sneezing Treatment

The treatment for chest pain will vary from person to person, depending upon the cause behind the pain. In some cases, the pain is temporary and does not require any medication. Only rest and proper care can help to ease the pain. In acute injuries like rib injury or muscle strain, your doctor may suggest a pain killer.

In the cases in which the pain is severe, indicating any severe pathology, proper treatment is required. You should consult with a specialist and follow all the instructions carefully to get recovered from the illness. Daily, medication should be taken on time, and extra care is needed in such cases.


To sum up, I hope that all those worried about the chest pain they encounter while sneezing has cleared their queries. If you are suffering from mild but prolonged pain or severe pain, then in both cases, you should get serious. Examine yourself first. Evaluate your health profile and consult with the specialist accordingly. Keep in mind not to treat such issues casually. Be a little more conscious about your health. Sometimes our little carelessness may lead to a lifetime of regret.

Try to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Your daily routine and diet contents have a profound impact on your health. If you notice anything unusual, you should note it and get proper treatment if necessary. Despite just complaining about the chest pain when sneezing, start to take action because it is a fact that HEALTH IS WEALTH. If you are healthy, you live happily.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1.  Why does it hurt when I sneeze?

Sneezing affects the muscles and bones in your chest. When you sneeze, your muscles and bones in the chest move. The movement or the muscles strain is the cause of chest pain when sneezing. Sometimes, other reasons may result in chest pain while sneezing. The other causes may be any chronic condition, heartburn, tumor, etc.

2.  Does your chest hurt with Covid?

In most cases of covid, it is observed that chest pain is a rare symptom. Usually, chest pain is not associated with Covid. Other factors could be the reason behind the chest pain in covid. The increased anxiety among the people due to the threat of covid results in chest pain. In worse conditions, the mild pain can turn into severe distress that may even lead to cardiac issues.

3.  Why Does My breast hurt when I cough or sneeze?

When a person sneezes or coughs, the muscles around the ribs and in the chest region moves. Sometimes, the movement may result in muscle strain. The condition is the reason behind the chest pain while sneezing or coughing. Mild pain in the breast is a casual thing. If the pain is severe or mild but prolonged, this might be an alarming sign; consult with a specialist immediately.

4.  Can sneezing hurt your lungs?

Sneezing results in increased pressure in the lungs and tightens the muscles in the chest. The condition that could lead to the worse situation is holding in a sneeze. Never do that intentionally because this may break a rib. When a person tries to hold in a sneeze, high air pressure builds up in the lungs, resulting in severe pain and injury.

5.  What are six common non-cardiac causes of chest pain?

The six common causes of chest pain that are non-cardiac includes:

·         Gastroesophageal reflux disease

·         Lungs disease

·         Stomach problems

·         Depression

·         Stress

·         Anxiety

6.  Why does my back and chest hurt when I sneeze?

If your chest and back hurt when you sneeze, the most common cause for this could be muscles strain. When we sneeze, our ribcage and muscles move up. The movement could be the reason for muscle strain that results in pain while sneezing. If the pain is mild, then this is not a big problem. But, in cases where this pain gets severe, this could be an alarming sign indicating a serious issue.

7.  Why does my chest hurt when I take a deep breath?

If deep breathing causes chest pain, then you might be suffering from pleuritis. Pleuritis is also known as pleurisy. The condition is the inflammation or irritation of the linings of the chest and lungs. The possible reason behind this could be viral or bacterial infections, pneumothorax, pulmonary embolism, etc. The condition results in sharp chest pain while sneezing, coughing, or deep breathing.

8.  Why do my ribs hurt when I sneeze?

The pain you feel in the ribs while sneezing indicates that you might have strained your rib muscles. There could be several reasons that can cause muscle strain. Maybe from an injury or due to a fall, weight lifting, poor posture while sitting, heavy exercise, or due to any reason your rib muscles get strained. The conditions cause pain while sneezing.

Dr. Omair Ansar, MBBS, MSc

Dr. Omair Ansar, MBBS, MSc

Dr. Omair is a skilled medical doctor with a degree in Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from Baqai Medical University. In 2018, he completed a Master of Science degree in Healthcare Management with distinction from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, UK. With 9 years of clinical and non-clinical experience, Dr. Omair has gained hands-on experience and extensive knowledge in the medical field. He is currently working in a multinational healthcare organization in Saudi Arabia where his primary responsibility is to train doctors, pharmacists, and nurses about the most updated clinical guidelines as well as conduct case discussions with various specialties to ensure patient safety and satisfaction. Dr. Omair is also an exceptional medical reviewer with expertise in the field of healthcare, pharmaceutical, food and nutrition as well as medical insurance. He has years of experience in writing and reviewing medical articles.

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