Treating Back Pain That Occurs When Coughing: Solutions and Relief

back pain when coughing

A sudden cough that sends a sharp, shooting pain through your back – it’s more than just uncomfortable; it’s alarming. If you’ve experienced this back pain when coughing, you’re not alone, and you’re likely left with a barrage of questions. How can something as simple as a cough cause back pain? Is it a sign of something more serious? And most importantly, what can you do about it? In the following blog, we’ll explore the causes, symptoms, and solutions to this perplexing problem. From immediate relief measures to professional medical advice, we’ve got you covered. Read on to uncover the mystery behind back pain when coughing, and discover the tools to restore comfort and well-being in your daily life.

Understanding the Link Between Coughing and Back Pain

Understanding the Link Between Coughing and Back PainCoughing is a natural reflex that our bodies use to clear the throat and respiratory tract. Though it might seem unrelated to the back, a strong or persistent cough can indeed cause discomfort or even pain in the back area. But how does this connection work? Let’s dive in:

Muscles Involved
When you cough, the muscles in your chest, abdomen, and back contract forcefully. The muscles around the spine, particularly those in the upper and middle back, play a crucial role in this reflex action. A sudden or powerful cough can strain these muscles, leading to a sensation of pain or discomfort.

Impact on the Spine
The force exerted during coughing can also affect the spine itself. For individuals with underlying spinal conditions, a strong cough may exacerbate the problem, triggering pain or aggravating existing discomfort.

Connection to Underlying Health Conditions
In some instances, back pain when coughing might indicate underlying health issues. Lung conditions, infections, or even fractures could be at play. The pain can serve as a warning sign, prompting the need for further medical evaluation.

Chronic vs. Acute Coughing
While a single cough is unlikely to cause significant back pain, repeated or chronic coughing puts continuous strain on the back muscles and spine, potentially leading to lasting discomfort.

Understanding this link between coughing and back pain provides valuable insights into what might be happening in your body. It’s more than a curious coincidence; it’s a complex interplay of muscles, bones, and potentially underlying health conditions. By recognizing these connections, you can take the appropriate steps to alleviate the pain, whether through home remedies or professional medical care.

Common Causes of Back Pain During Coughing

Back pain during coughing is not an uncommon phenomenon. It may be temporary and harmless, or it could indicate something more serious. Understanding the common causes can guide you in managing the pain or seeking medical help if needed. Below are some prevalent reasons:

Muscle StrainCommon Causes of Back Pain During Coughing - Muscle Strains

A strong or persistent cough can strain the muscles in the back, leading to discomfort or pain. This is often temporary and eases with rest. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Dull or achy pain in the back
  • Pain worsens when coughing or moving
  • Muscle tenderness or stiffness

Rib Fracture

In rare cases, an intense cough can lead to a small fracture in the ribs, particularly in people with osteoporosis or weak bones. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Sharp, localized pain in the chest or back
  • Pain increases with deep breathing, coughing, or sneezing
  • Difficulty in taking deep breaths


Certain infections, such as pneumonia or bronchitis, can cause both persistent coughing and back pain. The pain typically occurs in the upper back near the lungs. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Fever or chills
  • Productive cough with mucus
  • Shortness of breath

Underlying Spinal Conditions

Underlying Spinal Conditions Causing back pain while coughingPeople with existing spinal issues, like herniated discs or spinal stenosis, may find that coughing exacerbates their back pain. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Radiating pain down the leg (for herniated disc)
  • Numbness or tingling in the extremities
  • Pain worsens with certain movements or positions


Though rare, tumors near the lungs or spine might cause back pain when coughing. This requires immediate medical attention. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Constant, unrelenting pain
  • Neurological symptoms like weakness or numbness


Inflammation of the lining around the lungs, known as pleurisy, can cause sharp chest and back pain during breathing and coughing. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Sharp or stabbing pain in the chest or back
  • Pain worsens with breathing or coughing
  • Shallow breathing

Poor Posture

Poor Posture causing back painCoughing while slouched or in a poor posture may put additional strain on the back muscles, leading to pain. Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Dull, achy pain in the upper or lower back
  • Pain worsens with prolonged sitting or poor posture
  • Pain eases with rest or proper positioning

Understanding the root cause of back pain when coughing is vital to addressing the issue properly. While some of these causes are temporary and can be managed with home remedies, others may require medical intervention.

Immediate Relief Measures for Back Pain When Coughing

Immediate Relief Measures for Back Pain When CoughingIf you’re experiencing back pain when coughing, there are several home remedies and simple measures you can try to find immediate relief. While these remedies may not address the underlying cause, they can help ease discomfort and manage the pain:

  • Rest: Give your body time to heal by getting plenty of rest. Avoid activities that aggravate the pain and try to lie down in a comfortable position.
  • Support Your Back: Use pillows or rolled-up towels to support your back while sitting or lying down. This can help alleviate pressure on the affected area.
  • Warm Compress: Applying a warm compress or heating pad to the back can help relax the muscles and ease tension.
  • Cold Compress: Alternatively, using a cold pack can reduce inflammation and numb the area, providing temporary pain relief.
  • Gentle Stretches: Perform gentle stretches for the back to improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness. Avoid any movements that worsen the pain.
  • Deep Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises to ease tension in the muscles and promote relaxation.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Medications: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Stay Hydrated: Adequate hydration can thin mucus and reduce coughing frequency, thus minimizing strain on the back.
  • Avoid Triggering Activities: Identify activities that worsen the pain and try to avoid them until the back heals.
  • Elevate Your Head: If the cough is causing significant back pain, elevating your head while lying down can reduce pressure on the back.

Remember that while these home remedies can offer temporary relief, they may not treat the underlying cause of the pain.

When to Seek a Medical Professional To Fix Back Pain When Coughing

If you’re experiencing back pain when coughing, it’s generally a good idea to seek medical advice if:

  • The pain is severe, persistent, or getting worse over time.
  • You have a history of back problems or spinal conditions.
  • The pain is accompanied by other concerning symptoms such as fever, weight loss, or difficulty breathing.
  • You’ve had recent injuries or trauma to the back.
  • The pain is interfering with your daily activities and quality of life.

Professional Medical Treatment Options

Professional Medical Treatment OptionsWhen home remedies and self-care measures are not providing adequate relief, a medical professional can help diagnose the underlying cause and recommend appropriate treatments. Some of the professional medical treatment options for cough-induced back pain include:

  • Physical Therapy: A physical therapist can create a tailored exercise program to improve back strength, flexibility, and posture, reducing pain and preventing future episodes.
  • Pain Medications: In some cases, a healthcare provider may prescribe stronger pain medications or muscle relaxants to manage pain and discomfort.
  • Corticosteroid Injections: For cases of inflammation or nerve compression, corticosteroid injections can provide localized relief.
  • Antibiotics: If the back pain is due to an infection, such as pneumonia, antibiotics may be necessary to treat the underlying cause.
  • Surgery: In rare cases where there’s a structural issue, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, surgery might be considered if conservative treatments have not been effective.

It’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment approach based on the specific cause of your cough-induced back pain. They can provide a comprehensive evaluation, diagnosis, and personalized treatment plan to address your unique needs and help you find relief from the discomfort.


In conclusion, if you’re dealing with back pain triggered by coughing, it’s essential to take it seriously and seek appropriate medical attention. Understanding the possible causes and seeking professional advice can lead to effective treatment and relief. Remember, don’t hesitate to consult a healthcare provider if the pain persists or worsens. If you’re experiencing Back pain, physical therapy for back pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.