Pain in arm from sneezing
July 26, 2006 8:20 PM   Subscribe

Part of the time when I sneeze it causes a sharp pain and then a sort of light numbness from my right elbow to my hand. Occasionally I get the sharp pain in my shoulder instead or along with the pain in the lower arm. Any explanation for this?

The pain feels similar to when you hit your elbow against something (hitting your "crazy bone") and is intense enough for a few seconds that it could potentially cause me to have a wreck if I were driving. This has happened for years and I asked my doctor about it once and he just shrugged it off as nothing to worry about, but I would like to know WTF causes it. Just a few minutes ago I sneezed and was unable to even hold the mouse for about ten seconds.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It could be a compressed or pinched nerve. If the problem is near the root, sudden movement of the neck/upper spine caused by your sneezing could cause the pain to flare like that. The sneezing and pain in the shoulder suggests the problem is not on the arm/hand but higher up. In any case you could check this diagram and maybe tell us which nerve is affected.

In one of Bukowski's books, he relates how his driving instructor allows that there is only one time when you might not be in control of your vehicle - that's when you sneeze.
posted by shoesfullofdust at 8:51 PM on July 26, 2006

Sounds neurological... I'd get a second opinion from a doctor in that field. It hasn't been getting worse, has it?
posted by freakystyley at 9:09 PM on July 26, 2006

Looking at the diagram it is hard to tell - maybe the radial though. Looks right.

No, it hasn't been getting worse. My brother says it has happened to him too, but only occasionally. It happens much more frequently to me.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 9:32 PM on July 26, 2006

That happens to me occasionally. I believe it is related to my Chiari Malformation. Do you ever get headaches from bending over, standing up or straining? Do you ever have numbness in your feet/hands?

See a neurologist if so.
posted by Diddly at 10:07 PM on July 26, 2006

Funny, I've been experiencing the same thing for years. But the weird thing is, it only happens when I sneeze due to bad allergy attacks, and never from being sick. I'm also curious to know the cause...
posted by DefendBrooklyn at 10:59 PM on July 26, 2006

Man, I thought I was some kind of freak. Well, that may still be the case, but this happens to me too. Not that often, maybe once every two months, but if I have a really violent sneeze, my right arm goes to sleep. I have no answer for why it happens, only consolation that there are other dead-arm-sneezers out there. D-A-S, unite!
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 6:23 AM on July 27, 2006

I'd go for nerve-pinching, too. Although I have no pain, when I sneeze, I often hear my vertebrae make the same kind of crunch that they did when a chiropractor worked on me. It's not hard to imagine that sudden explosive compression giving something a squeeze.
posted by adipocere at 6:30 AM on July 27, 2006

I get this from time to time as well - pain in my shoulder and upper arm after a particularly violent sneeze. I've always written it off as "one of those things". It's comforting to know that I'm not alone.

Still, it'd be nice to get a proper explanation of what's happening.
posted by aladfar at 7:11 AM on July 27, 2006

My sister has a medium case of Thoracic Outlet Syndrome; I wonder if it could be related to that...
posted by baylink at 8:42 AM on July 27, 2006

Do you ever get headaches from bending over, standing up or straining? Do you ever have numbness in your feet/hands?

No, none of these symptoms.

Interesting to see others with the same problem. I thought perhaps it was some weird genetic fluke in my family or something since my brother suffers from this as well. AFAIK nobody else on either side of the family has this particular quirk.

I received an email from a non-member that directed me to this. (worksafe, google answers link) I have not finished following the links there, no clue if there is anything of use but thought I would point it out for others.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 12:09 PM on July 27, 2006

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