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What Causes Chest Pain While Sneezing?

Pain in the chest is related to illness, damage and injury to the chest wall and there are various reasons which can lead to this pain. Sneezing causes the bones and the muscles in the chest to move which is why the pain worsens on sneezing. Muscle strain is responsible for the chest pain while sneezing, other reason being heartburn and other serious conditions like a tumor. The pain in the chest occurs in a small spot and is sharp, stabbing, dull, tender, aching, or burning type of pain.

What Causes Chest Pain While Sneezing?

  1. Pleurisy

    Inflammation and swelling of the lining around the lungs is known as pleurisy. There are various causes related to it such as:

    Pleurisy leads to sharp pain in the chest which worsens on breathing, sneezing, and coughing.

    Along with the chest pain, the other symptoms experienced are:

  2. Muscle Strain

    49% of chest pain is due to a pulled muscle or muscle strain. (1) In this case, it is not serious and mostly heals on its own. Muscle strain in the chest is caused due to strain to the intercostal muscle present between the ribs. The strain can occur from a fall or from an injury. Poor posture or lifting something heavy or twisting the upper body are a few other reasons. Sneezing and coughing for a long time can also strain the rib muscle. Muscle strain can lead to chest pain which worsens of sneezing or deep breathing, as the muscle helps the up and down movement of the rib cage while breathing.

  3. Allergic Asthma

    Allergies can lead to asthma which affects the lungs and cause chest symptoms. The symptoms of allergic asthma are:

    Avoiding allergens, animal dander, and dust can help prevent allergic asthma.

  4. Heartburn

    Heartburn, also known as acid reflux disease, happens when the acid from the stomach moves or splashes into the throat. The chest pain felt during heartburn feels more like a heart problem. In those with a sensitive esophagus, sneezing can trigger stomach acid to leak into the esophagus. This can cause chest pain or a burning sensation.

    Individuals at a high risk of heartburn are:

    • Overweight
    • Smokers
    • Pregnant females
    • Those who eat spicy, fried or fatty food
    • Those eating large meals before sleeping

    Treatment and lifestyle changes can help control the symptoms and also the disease.

  5. Lung Infection

    Chest pain while sneezing can be a sign of lung or chest infection, also known as lower respiratory tract infection. Lung infection affects the breathing tubes in and out of the lungs. The causes of lung infection are common flu and cold, bronchitis, pneumonia, and tuberculosis.

    Along with chest pain, other symptoms of lung infection are:

    • Sneezing
    • Fatigue
    • Yellow or green phlegm
    • Muscle ache
    • Fever
    • A dry and wet cough

    Lung infection is a serious condition and needs urgent medical treatment.

  6. Arthritis

    Costochondritis is a type of arthritis of the cartilage which connects the rib to the breastbone. It leads to inflammation and swelling in the chest. The person experiences chest pain which worsens on sneezing, as the rib cage moves up and down while sneezing.

    Other than chest pain other symptoms are:

    • Pain in the left side of the chest worsening on moving the upper body
    • Sharp pain
    • Pain in more than one rib
    • Pain worsening on deep breathing, coughing and sneezing

    The condition is not serious. Treatment is needed to control the symptoms and prevent them from worsening.

  7. Bone Damage

    Injury or damage to the ribs can lead to chest pain, which increases on sneezing. Other bones including sternum and collarbone are also subjected to breaks and damage. This can trigger sharp pain, tenderness, and aches in the chest. Pain increases while sneezing as there is a sudden rush of air into and out of the chest moving the bones of the rib cage.

  8. Joint Infection

    Bacteria, virus, and fungi can infect the ribs. The infection include:

    The symptoms include chest pain triggered by sneezing. Treatment of these conditions is very important as they can worsen and prove to be life-threatening.

  9. Heart Problems

    Chest pain is the main sign of a heart attack. Sneezing would not cause chest pain in this condition but would trigger or worsen the heart condition like angina. Angina is a pain in the chest which occurs when the heart is not getting enough oxygen. Hard or continuous sneezing might trigger angina in some cases. Angina is a serious condition and needs medical treatment.

    Symptoms of angina are:

    • Pain worsening on activity and getting better by rest
    • Pressure or tightness in the chest
    • Numbness in the shoulder and arm.
  10. Tumor

    Tumor in the chest can lead to dull or sharp pain in one side of the chest which worsens on sneezing and yawning. Other symptoms of a tumor in the chest include,

    • Coughing
    • Difficulty in breathing
    • Fluid in the lungs

    Teratomas are the rare tumors which might happen in pregnant women and about 8 percent of these tumors happen in the walls or lining of the heart and lungs. (2)

    Treatment of chest pain depends on the underlying cause. If you get a chest pain every time you sneeze or cough it is recommended to discuss it with the doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:March 20, 2022

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