Health & Fitness, Pain Relief

Back Pain When Coughing: Causes, Treatments And Prevention Strategies!

Coughing can cause back pain as it adds pressure, which leads to pain in the back. Intercostal neuralgia is a nerve pain that affects the ...

by Kendra Reed

Back Pain When Coughing: Causes, Treatments And Prevention Strategies!

Coughing can cause back pain as it adds pressure, which leads to pain in the back. Intercostal neuralgia is a nerve pain that affects the muscles between the ribs and this happens when the rib slips out of place and presses against a spinal nerve. Most experience back pain while coughing due to muscle strain or ligament sprain.

Those with these conditions may find that coughing will intensify or worsen the back pain. If you experience back pain often while coughing, it can be a symptom of an underlying health condition. Also, sudden coughing can put unexpected pressure on the back, which can even lead to temporary injury. There is a chance that back pain is caused by chronic coughing because your back moves when the upper body moves.

While coughing, our shoulders hunch up and the body leans forward. Movements like coughing affect the position of the body, which is why you may feel pain. Consult with a healthcare professional if you notice that the pain prevails for a long time every time you cough. 

Understanding The Mechanism Of Coughing

According to Mayo Clinic, coughing is the way your body responds when something irritates the airways or throat. The brain forces the muscles in the chest and abdomen to push out air to remove the irritant. An occasional cough is normal and healthy, while constant and chronic cough can be a sign of a health condition.

When a person coughs, the vocal cords open widely, which allows additional air to pass through the lungs. The epiglottis closes off the windpipe and at the same time the abdominal and rib muscles contract, which increases pressure on the epiglottis. Coughing is not always a serious condition but chronic coughing may be a serious issue that will need medical help.


it is not only about annoyance, but it interrupts sleep and leaves one feeling exhausted. Severe coughing also results in vomiting, rib fractures, and lightheadedness other than feeling back pain. Persistent coughing causes serious health issues, and consult a doctor if you feel that the condition is getting worse. 

Common Causes Of Back Pain When Coughing

Some common causes of back pain when coughing include;

  • Muscle spasm
  • Muscle strain
  • Muscle sprain
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Lung cancer
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Nerve damage
  • Pressure on the spine
  • Infection
  • Injury

Coughing may cause back pain as your back moves along with your upper body. Forward motion can cause pain in the lower back while coughing, and this pain can also spread into your hips and legs. Strain or sprain can affect muscle or a tendon. Often, spasms and cramps happen when a muscle cannot relax after contracting. Also, for some people, the existing lower back pain worsens while coughing. 

Types Of Back Pain

Types of back pain can be either acute or chronic. Acute or short-term back pain lasts only for a few days and goes away on its own with self-care. However, chronic back pain can last up to 12 weeks or longer, even after the initial injury or after the cause of back pain has been treated. Back pain is one of the common reasons why most people consult a doctor. Its intensity and range vary for each person and it can be a dull, constant ache or a sudden, sharp pain. 

The back pain can be of three types;

  • Lower back pain when coughing
  • Upper back pain when coughing
  • Middle back pain when coughing

The treatment for back pain varies depending on the actual cause. Coughing may worsen the existing lower pain for some people, whereas some people only notice pain in their back while coughing. 

Diagnostic Procedures For Back Pain When Coughing

Proper treatment should be given if you notice that the condition is getting worse. If you notice that the pain is persistent, seek medical help soon. The diagnostic tests for back pain include MRI tests, CT scans, and electrophysiological tests. Needle-like sensations in the back while coughing indicate underlying health problems. Seek the help of a medical professional to determine the real cause of the problem and to get the appropriate treatment.

If back pain is followed by symptoms like numbness or weakness in the lower body, severe pain, and trouble while urinating, or having bowel issues, it is a sign of a serious health condition. However, a bad cough or chronic coughing can cause a ligament in the back to stretch and tear, resulting in severe pain. 

Treatment Options For Coughing-related Back Pain

Unlike home remedies, there are other remedies like taking medications, massage therapy, physical therapy, physiotherapy, and surgery. 


Anti-inflammatory medications like NSAIDs help reduce pain caused by a strain or inflammation. Corticosteroid injections are also a common treatment for back pain and it helps reduce inflammation. These medications provide temporary relief from back pain and its discomfort. 

Massage therapy

Massage therapy helps relieve pain by addressing the muscle knots, which are the areas of muscle tissue that cause pain and discomfort. This therapy focuses on various techniques to break up these knots and promote blood circulation. This helps relieve pain. 

Physical therapy

Physical therapy can help relieve back pain caused by strain or other issues, as it focuses on strengthening the muscles in the back and improving flexibility. They use various techniques to alleviate pain and promote healing.


Physiotherapy focuses on optimizing function, movement, and overall wellness. It uses various techniques and exercises to treat and prevent physical injuries and conditions. It helps release muscle tension and addresses muscle weakness.


In most cases, the above-mentioned treatments are effective. Surgeries are recommended only in rare cases where these treatments fail to work. Surgeries are for severe cases, and consult a spine specialist to determine if surgery is the right option for you. 

Home Remedies And Self-care Techniques

There are certain techniques to relieve back pain when coughing, such as reducing the strain on the back by holding onto a stable object, like a chair or countertop while coughing. Other natural remedies include applying ice on the affected area, avoiding positions and postures that worsen the pain, engaging in low exercise like walking and swimming, doing core stabilization exercises, and making modifications in the workspace to support better posture.

Among these remedies, the hot and cold treatment and bracing technique happens to be the most effective one. Applying ice to the affected area helps relieve pain, numbs the area, and reduces inflammation. It provides instant relief. Heart therapy, on the other hand, helps improve blood flow, widens blood vessels, and relaxes the muscles to ease pain. The bracing technique is one of the easiest and most effective ways to reduce the impact of coughing on the body. Following the bracing technique helps prevent any further damage and ease pain. 

Prevention Strategies

Preventive strategies to relieve back pain while coughing include avoiding postures and positions that worsen the pain,  trying to keep a natural arc in the back while coughing, holding onto a stable object while coughing to reduce the impact, or using a cushion or pillow to support the back. Also, try relaxing your back while coughing to help the back not to compress.

Holding on to hard objects or getting support while coughing helps not to worsen the pain and reduces the impact of coughing. Take plenty of rest and try not to lift heavy objects, as it increases the pain. 


Concluding everything, it can be said that coughing can cause back pain as it adds pressure, which leads to pain in the back. Most experience back pain while coughing due to muscle strain or ligament sprain. The intensity and range of back pain can vary for each person, and it can be a dull, constant ache or a sudden, sharp pain.

An occasional cough is normal and healthy, while constant and chronic cough can be a sign of a health condition, so ensure you consult with a doctor. Some common causes of back pain while coughing can be due to muscle spasms, muscle sprains, injury, infection, nerve damage, herniated disc, pressure on the spine, or muscle strain. There are plenty of treatment options for back pain, such as medications, physiotherapy, massage therapy, physical therapy, and surgeries.

Also, there are home remedies like reducing strain on the back, bracing onto a hard surface while coughing, exercising, swimming, correcting your posture, and more. If you notice that the back pain is persistent while coughing, consult a healthcare professional immediately. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should I be worried if my back hurts when I cough?

Slight back pain while coughing is not something to be worried about. However, if you notice that the pain persists even after a long time, it may be a sign of an underlying medical condition. So, consult a doctor to understand the problem. 

2. How do I know if my back pain is lung-related?

Back pain is usually a dull ache in the lower back, which may even come down to the buttocks and legs. However, lung pain is deep, stabbing pain that occurs in the upper back. If back pain feels like lung pain in the back, it can be a sign of lung cancer. So, consult the doctor immediately if you notice these symptoms. 

3. Can you feel lung inflammation in your back? 

Lung infection can cause pain and discomfort in the back. An inflammation in the lining of the lungs can cause sharp pain in the back and chest. 

4. Should I go to the hospital if my back hurts when I cough?

Sometimes, back pain is caused by chronic coughing, and it is necessary to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the cause of the problem to get the appropriate treatment.  

5. Why does my upper back crack when I cough?

You likely experience pain when coughing due to muscle strain. Chronic coughing can strain the muscles in the back, which leads to pain and discomfort. 


  • Kendra Reed

    Dr. Kendra Reed is a dedicated general medicine physician with 7 years of clinical experience. After graduating from medical school, she completed her residency in internal medicine, developing a well-rounded skillset in diagnosing and treating a diverse range of conditions. Patients appreciate Dr. Reed's warm bedside manner and commitment to providing comprehensive, personalized care. In addition to her clinical work, she is actively involved in community outreach programs, educating the public on important health topics. Dr. Reed is known for her ability to establish trusting relationships with her patients and help them achieve their wellness goals.

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