Managing and treating muscle pain from excessive sneezing

18. May 2023

managing and treating muscle pain from excessive sneezing

For most of us, when we sneeze, it’s not something we tend to worry too much about.

It might send us scrambling for a tissue or handkerchief, but it doesn’t really affect our daily lives in any significant way.

But this unfortunately isn’t the case for everyone.

For some people, it can be a little more serious and they can actually experience muscle pain from sneezing.

If your body hurts from sneezing the situation can be even more frustrating if you also have allergic rhinitis. This is a condition that causes excessive sneezing - exactly what you don’t want if you’re in pain every time you sneeze.

In this article, we'll start by taking a quick look at the reasons behind why we sneeze, and explore why sneezing can cause pain for some people.

We'll also delve a little more into the condition of allergic rhinitis and discover how physiotherapy can help provide relief for both excessive sneezing and muscle pain from sneezing.

The process of sneezing

Our bodies have a range of different reflex actions that protect us.

When you touch something hot, your reflex is to pull your hand away to prevent further pain.

When you face a bright light, your reflex is to blink and squint to protect your eyes.

Sneezing is another one of these reflex actions, which protects us by trying to prevent any foreign objects or irritants from entering our body through our nose.

When your nasal lining detects something that it doesn’t think should be there, it sends a message to your brain to trigger a sneeze to get rid of it.

When you look into what happens when you sneeze, it’s actually a fascinating chain of events that typically takes no longer than 150 milliseconds.

Let’s break it down:

  1. A foreign object or irritant is detected by your nasal lining.
  2. A signal is sent to your brain, alerting it of a potential irritant.
  3. Your brain reacts by triggering a sneeze to try to get rid of the irritant.
  4. You first take a deep breath and your lungs fill up with air.
  5. Your eyes and the muscles in the back of your throat close.
  6. The pressure builds up in your chest and diaphragm.
  7. The muscles in your diaphragm and chest quickly contract, and you sneeze.
  8. A blast of air comes out of your nose and mouth at a speed of 100mph, clearing away any foreign objects or irritants.

Understanding sneezing-related pain

If you’re asking yourself “Why does it hurt when I sneeze?” you can hopefully take some reassurance in the fact that it’s unlikely that your sneeze is causing any damage to your body.

It’s actually far more likely that the force of your sneeze is aggravating an existing sprain, strain, fracture, or pinched nerve - that’s why your body hurts from sneezing,

When you sneeze, pressure is released with such force that it can cause a momentary strain of muscles and joints across your body. If you have any underlying muscle, joint, or nerve conditions, the momentary ‘jarring’ from the force of a sneeze can cause pain and discomfort.

The areas that are most at risk of sneezing-related pain are those that are closest to your diaphragm - specifically the muscles in your lower back, chest, arms, and your intercostal space.

Some examples of conditions that can be aggravated by sneezing include:

Pinched nerves

If you’re suffering from pinched nerves, the force of sneezing can further compress the nerve.

This can lead to immediate sharp pain and you might experience longer-term tingling and numbness in the affected area.

Muscle strains

Muscle strains are one of the common injuries we treat here at CK Physiotherapy, and also one of the most common causes of muscle pain from sneezing.

A muscle strain might be relatively painless when at rest, but the force of a sneeze can momentarily cause it to hurt.

Bone fractures

Excessive sneezing can also be painful for people that are currently suffering from bone fractures.

The amount of pain that you feel when you sneeze will often depend on the location of the fracture. If you’ve suffered an injury to the ribs, sternum, or vertebrae, you’re at higher risk of experiencing pain when you sneeze.


If you suffer from sciatica, sneezing can put additional pressure on an already irritated sciatic nerve, which can increase the amount of pain you’re feeling.

Allergic rhinitis and excessive sneezing

Allergic rhinitis is a common condition that affects approximately 25% of the UK population, where the defence mechanisms of your body are more sensitive than usual to certain allergens.

This means that when you’re around certain things that you’re allergic to, your nasal lining is more likely to become irritated and communicate with your brain to trigger a sneeze.

The most common allergens that trigger allergic rhinitis include:

  • pollen (hayfever)
  • dust and dust mites
  • mould
  • pets, such as cats and dogs.

Excessive sneezing is one of the most common allergic rhinitis symptoms, sometimes accompanied by others such as:

  • a runny nose
  • congestion in your sinuses
  • watery or itchy eyes
  • coughing
  • headaches
  • a sore throat

The frustrations of muscle pain and allergic rhinitis

Having allergic rhinitis symptoms can be incredibly frustrating, but it won’t often cause you any significant pain, other than an occasional mild headache and sore throat.

However, if you’ve got allergic rhinitis and your body hurts from sneezing, that’s a whole different story.

Excessive sneezing and pain every time you sneeze is a really unfortunate combination that can have a major impact on your enjoyment of everyday life.

So, if you’re suffering from both allergic rhinitis symptoms and muscle pain from sneezing, we’d recommend booking an appointment with your GP to help correctly diagnose and provide relief for your condition.

Solutions for excessive sneezing

The good news, if you have allergic rhinitis, is that it’s easily treated by antihistamines.

But before jumping straight in and purchasing over-the-counter antihistamine tablets, it’s worth booking an appointment with your GP to discuss the best type of antihistamine for your individual condition and the commitments you have in your work and personal life. Some antihistamines can make you feel drowsy, which isn’t ideal if you’re going to be driving or operating machinery.

Another potential solution to help with excessive sneezing is to consider respiratory physiotherapy. This is a specialised type of physiotherapy that focuses on improving your respiratory system.

Respiratory physiotherapy treatment plans will be individualised based on the nature and severity of your condition.

However, some common techniques that might be recommended include breathing exercises to help control your sneezes, postural drainage to help remove mucus from your airways, and strengthening exercises for your diaphragm and intercostal muscles.

Managing underlying conditions with physiotherapy

If you’re suffering with muscle pain from sneezing, it’s highly likely that the root cause is an underlying issue such as a sprain, fracture, or pinched nerve.

A physiotherapist can help assess, diagnose, and treat these underlying issues to help reduce the pain you experience when you sneeze.

For sprains and strains, you might be provided with temporary supports or braces to help provide stability while your injury heals. Massage techniques might also help ease pain and promote blood flow to the injured area to aid healing.

Physiotherapy can also be incredibly effective for pinched or trapped nerves. After assessing and diagnosing your condition, a series of regular stretches and exercises might be recommended to help reduce pressure on the area. Heat therapy is also often useful for helping to relax muscles that might be pressing against nerves.

Seeking specialist advice

Sneezing is a completely natural and effective way for the body to protect your respiratory system.

But if you find yourself sneezing too much, and suffering from persistent pain related to excessive sneezing, you shouldn’t ignore it. It’s important to get in touch with a qualified healthcare professional for a thorough check-up and treatment plan.

If you have allergic rhinitis symptoms, your GP is likely to prescribe antihistamines to help you manage your condition.

And if the cause of your muscle pain from sneezing is an underlying issue with your muscles, bones, or nerves - it’s likely that physiotherapy can help.

At CK Physiotherapy, we have a team of licensed, chartered physiotherapists operating in the Ealing area.

If your GP recommends physiotherapy for sneezing-related pain, our team is here to help you manage your symptoms and improve your underlying condition.

Schedule an initial consultation where we will gather your medical history, conduct an assessment, and develop an individualised treatment plan.

Give our friendly team a call on 020 8566 4113.

Further reading:

Respiratory Physiotherapy Techniques and Benefits. Retrieved from

Why Do My Arms Hurt When I Sneeze? Retrieved from

Why Do My Arms Hurt When I Sneeze? Retrieved from

Back Pain When Sneezing. Retrieved from

Treating Hayfever The Natural Way. Retrieved from

What Happens In My Body When I Sneeze. Retrieved from

Sneezing. Retrieved from

Why Do We Sneeze. Retrieved from

Why Does It Hurt When I Sneeze. Retrieved from

Physio Explains Can A Physio Treat A Trapped Nerve. Retrieved from

Antihistamines. Retrieved from https://www.nhs-uk

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