Why do I have intense, momentary back pain when I sneeze?
March 4, 2008 7:48 AM   Subscribe

Is intense back pain when I sneeze an indicator of a serious spinal problem?

I'm 29, 100+lbs overweight, but have never had ANY kind of back problem/injury in my life. I've always been careful when doing any kind of heavy lifting and have never pinched a nerve or twisted my back when lifting or fell hard on my back, or anything. I've been sick twice this winter and I've been sneezing a lot this current illness. When I sneeze, I have this INTENSE back pain (middle and upper back) that spikes about one second after I sneeze which gradually dissipates after 5-10 seconds. After that I'm completely fine. It feels like a hundred needles jabbing into my back at once, mostly near the middle/upper spine , becoming less and less intense as it radiates out to the sides. Once again, I have no other back pain in my life apart from this. This sneeze pain has happened before in my life (I was a lot less overweight then, don't remember if I was sick or not at the time) but hasn't happened for a long time (maybe 10 years) until now. Also, I haven't gained a lot of weight recently, it's been more the result of a long-term neglect of proper diet/exercise.

I know that my belly makes my spine curve to compensate for the weight distribution, but I thought that was mostly the lower spine (which doesn't hurt at all when I sneeze). Something tells me losing weight/exercising would help (how many more reasons do i need before I get my sh*t together and keep a good diet/exercise regimen?). I could totally believe that when I sneeze, moving all my extra weight around is sending the energy right into my spine. Any constructive input/experiences/comments would be greatly appreciated.
posted by high0nfire to Health & Fitness (9 answers total)
Sounds like a pinched nerve, but using this as an excuse to lose your flab can't be a *bad* idea.
posted by notsnot at 7:52 AM on March 4, 2008

You should see a doctor about getting an MRI just to be safe. The first time my back really went out was after a sneeze. I was in the best shape of my life at the time, but it turned out that I had a ruptured disc from a car accident years before. If your body is giving you signals that something is wrong, listen to it.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:25 AM on March 4, 2008

This may be of some use to you. See if you recognize anything there.
posted by fire&wings at 8:37 AM on March 4, 2008

It feels like a hundred needles jabbing into my back at once, mostly near the middle/upper spine , becoming less and less intense as it radiates out to the sides

That sounds exactly like nerve pain to me. But definitely get it checked out, because if it's nothing serious, you'll come home with some ibuprofen and an eased mind, and if it is serious, you can start taking the steps to treat it.
posted by boomchicka at 8:38 AM on March 4, 2008

On second thought...if you do have a disk that slips, it's possible that that could be what's hitting the nerve. You'll definitely want to get that taken care of before it gets worse. My dad has a history of slipped discs, and in his experience, the sooner you act, the easier they are to treat (generally speaking, of course there are always exceptions).
posted by boomchicka at 8:43 AM on March 4, 2008

It sounds like nerve pain to me too, triggered by the increased pressure inside your body from the sneeze. See wikipedia on Valsalva maneuver. I'd be going to see a chiropractor.
posted by olecranon at 9:29 AM on March 4, 2008

It sounds very much like you have an issue with a disk, probably very slight. I seriously doubt that you should seek an MRI, and please avoid chiropractors. There is no surgical procedure appropriate for this minor of a condition, and run from any surgeon who suggests otherwise. At best you can treat it with some exercise and posture. A physical therapist could guide you, but with this minor of a condition you might as well do it yourself. Get yourself a book or two on back health and try to do some of the exercises in them. One good book is Treat Your Own Back.
posted by caddis at 11:06 AM on March 4, 2008

Get ye to a doctor, especially if you want to use this as a jumping off point for losing weight. You'll want to make sure that you've got a handle on WHY you're getting this pain before you start a serious exercise program. A doc visit and likely referral to physical therapy is an excellent first step. Good luck!
posted by Pantengliopoli at 11:41 AM on March 4, 2008

Nthing nerve pain from bulging disc. Avoid chiropractors. If you use the words "radiating pain" when you go to see the doctor, he/she will probably order an MRI and then send you to physical therapy. I completely disagree with caddis that you might as well do it yourself. No book can substitute for an experienced physical therapist and this is your one and only back you're talking about. I've got a herniated disc now and have previously had surgery for a ruptured disc. If I had had it properly treated sooner I think I could have avoided surgery. Please learn from my mistake.
posted by Enroute at 11:43 AM on March 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

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