Blow your nose, blow out your pitching arm...
March 21, 2007 3:10 PM   Subscribe

Sometimes when I sneeze, my whole upper body hurts. Specifically my shoulders and, to a lesser degree, my elbows. It almost feels like I'm being punched. What gives?

Granted, this doesn't happen ALL the time. But, man, when it does, it's a hard, dull pain that's like when your leg falls asleep times 10. The injurious sneezes don't seem harder than the non-painful ones.

Though that's guesswork on my part. I don't have a sneeze radar gun or anything.

This has been happening since I was in my late teens and doesn't seem like it's going away anytime soon. So should I worry or not?

Is this a syndrome? A sign of something worse? Or just the price you pay for having a nose and a flexible ligature?
posted by rileyray3000 to Health & Fitness (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't tell you why, but I can tell you that this happens to me too.
posted by bove at 3:21 PM on March 21, 2007

I get it, I think it's normal. It usually happens to me if I'm especially tired or have a full dose of the flu.
posted by fire&wings at 3:23 PM on March 21, 2007

Happens to me exactly under the conditions f&w describes -- almost like a shooting electrical feeling followed by dull pain for a few seconds.
posted by ontic at 3:36 PM on March 21, 2007

I will admit that when I sneeze it's long strings of wimpy little squeaks, so I've never gotten anything like what you describe.
But sneezing is pretty hard on your body. Everything tenses up. I've found they're easier if I remember to breathe out my mouth, not creating a bottleneck of air trying to squeeze out my nostrils all at once.
Are these completely ordinary run of the mill sneezes that occur spaced out, or were you sick? Because when you're really sick, your abs and stomach are sore from vomiting, and your chest and shoulders are sore from racking coughs, and pretty much every other part of your body that exists is feeling like hell as well. It even hurts to laugh when you have the flu.
If these happen once a week no matter what health, then please disregard everything I've said.
posted by Juliet Banana at 3:38 PM on March 21, 2007

I have no idea what it is, but I hope someone answers because I have the Death Sneezes (as I have taken to calling them) a few times a month.
posted by sharkweek at 3:38 PM on March 21, 2007

Could it be that you're pinching a nerve while sneezing? If it's like what ontic describes, it sounds like what happens when you hit your elbow and the nerve protests strongly.
posted by CKmtl at 3:40 PM on March 21, 2007

*raises hand* Me too. You're obviously not alone, rr3k.
posted by brundlefly at 3:54 PM on March 21, 2007

Yeah, I get that. The muscles in my chest feel like they've been hit with a blunt object after some sneezes, and my arm feels like I just deadlifted a Buick (despite my arm having a deadlift limit of like 30 pounds anyway, [seriously, I suck].) Dunno what causes it, or why it can last for up to twelve hours in the severest case I can remember, but I know it happens.
posted by Phyltre at 4:16 PM on March 21, 2007

Thank the various gods. This isn't the first time AskMe has relieved me of the fear of being a lone medical anomaly.

Once I knew that I wasn't a freak-sneezer, here's what I found:

For the record, it only happens when I sneeze or have major coughing fits, and I've never had back or neck injuries, as suggested. And I am male, which seems to be a contributing factor.
posted by krippledkonscious at 4:16 PM on March 21, 2007

Sorry, should have made that clickable.
posted by krippledkonscious at 4:17 PM on March 21, 2007

Also, this less dire (i.e. no Dr. appointment necessary) opinion was found via Googlage:
so the neurologist thought it could be a "mild cervical radiculopathy". there are 8 nerve roots that come out of each side of the spine at the neck. and he agrees that one of these lower ones is getting impinged/touched/molested by your episodes of high exertion (sneezing). nothing to worry about if it's just during sneezing fits. something to worry about if it produces pain at rest and other times.
posted by krippledkonscious at 4:22 PM on March 21, 2007

Another MeFite asked a similar question:

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?

and got a bunch of answers, as here, saying the same thing happend to them, including one, which I found persuasive, suggesting a cause:

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.

A Chiari Malformation is an abnormality related to Spina Bifida. If this is what it is, it does, as CKmtl suggests, amount to nerve pinching on a grand scale at the level of your spine.

Oh by the way, a person with a Chiari Malformation ought not be jumping out of a plane, I bet.
posted by jamjam at 4:44 PM on March 21, 2007


I get the "death sneezes". Ouch.
posted by clh at 5:10 PM on March 21, 2007

I was thinking more like the tensing-up, shoulder-shrugging, sharp neck movement that some people do when sneezing (or a combination of the three) would be pinching the nerve. Along the lines of kripplekonscious' stuff.
posted by CKmtl at 5:28 PM on March 21, 2007

This happens to me, but only since I turned 40.
posted by mediaddict at 9:11 PM on March 21, 2007

As someone who is allergic to about 84295 things and spends an inordinate amount of time sneezing, I've always thought it was just due to your muscles in your upper body all tensing up suddenly as you sneeze.
posted by flod logic at 11:05 PM on March 21, 2007

You can put me down for the just-got-slugged pain, minus any shooting sensation. I have pinched cervical nerves before (slipped disc), so I know what impinged-nerve pain feels like, and this is like the sore, everything-just-contracted-hard kind of feeling that follows it, but I've never felt the actual oy-that's-my-nerve shock during a sneeze.

I think it's a combination of pre-existing muscle tension plus the stress of the sneeze and any of the motions that CKmtl describes, yanking a little too hard on a whole system of muscles all at once. I know sometimes I can tell I'm relaxed enough, I'm going to sneeze 'loose', and I'm at no risk for a Death Sneeze. Other times I'm too tight, and it might happen or it might not. Conscious relaxation helps, as I found when I successfully avoided a looming Death Sneeze while recovering from the aforementioned slipped disc. (Yay me!)

I take comfort in the thought that we power sneezers get more satisfaction per sneeze than the wimpy squeakers do (sorry, Juliet Banana), notwithstanding the risk of a Death Sneeze. Just as long as they don't happen too often.
posted by eritain at 11:17 PM on March 21, 2007

I get this too, occasionally. It tends to start in my chest and make my jaw ache. It's only when I have a particularly violent sneezing fit, though.
posted by tomble at 6:03 AM on March 22, 2007

Funny, I asked someone yesterday after such a sneeze, "You ever sneeze so hard your arms hurt?"

The only correlation I notice is it's more likely when I'm sick and tired, both.
posted by sacre_bleu at 7:33 AM on March 22, 2007

I'm glad that now I have something to call them. "Death sneeze" is right on the money. Thanks sharkweek!
posted by malocchio at 8:41 AM on March 22, 2007

A bit more about Chiari Malformation and sneezing:

Headaches, often severe, are the classic symptom of Chiari malformation. They are typically precipitated with sudden coughing, sneezing or straining. People with Chiari malformation type I also can experience:

* Neck pain (running down the shoulders at times)
* Unsteady gait (problems with balance)
* Poor hand coordination (fine-motor skills)
* Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
* Dizziness
* Difficulty swallowing (sometimes accompanied by gagging, choking and vomiting)
* Vision problems (blurred or double vision)
* Slurred speech

Less often, people with Chiari malformation may experience:

* Ringing or buzzing in the ears (tinnitus)
* Poor bladder control
* Chest pain, in a band-like pattern around the chest
* Curvature of the spine (scoliosis) related to spinal cord impairment
* Abnormal breathing — specifically, sleep apnea characterized by periods of breathing cessation during sleep

From the Mayo Clinic (via CNN).
posted by jamjam at 2:40 PM on March 22, 2007

Okay. Brain problem. That is a scary possibility I had not considered. Especially since one of the the other symptoms is a falling sensation with faintness.

Which I've had since I was 10

Makes me pine for the days when I spent hours trying to figure out if I had photo-electric sneeze response.

Anyway, thanks for all the help people.
posted by rileyray3000 at 9:54 PM on March 22, 2007

I have chiari and syringomeylia ( a very dangerous condition caused by more server forms of chiari )

and yes.. sneezing is very bad for people with the condition.. however this one symptom alone is not anywhere near enough for anyone to make a diagnosis from..

Even if you went to a doctor with it, they probably wouldn't even put you forward for a MRI which is the only way to detect chiari, because your not showing any of the other symptoms.

maybe you have alot of other symptoms you haven't thought were related that you havent told us about?

if not then i think its unlikely you have chiari.. sneezing is a very violent act upon the body so it could be a million and one other things.
posted by complience at 5:26 PM on April 5, 2007

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