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Lower Back Pain When Coughing: Causes & Treatment

Lower back pain is a problem for many individuals, but when your pain is intensified by coughing, it may be time to take a closer look.

Why Do I Have Back Pain When I Cough?

Understanding the 5 main causes of lower back pain while coughing is key to determining your next steps.

5. Muscle Strain

Your back has 40 muscles, and if one of those muscles gets strained from weakness or compensation, it’s normal to be tentative with certain movements to avoid any pain or discomfort. 

Instability in the pelvic floor muscles also can increase pressure on your lower back.  When coughing, you often brace your abdominals and pelvic floor muscles, provoking the muscle strain and experiencing pain. 

4. Herniated Disc

This is also a common cause of back pain when you sneeze. Since your back muscles are considered part of your core muscles, and coughing recruits your core muscles, any injury to your spine, including a herniated disc, can cause pain when coughing. 

A herniated disc occurs when the discs, which are shock absorbers for your spine, become damaged. With a herniated disc, your spinal discs are unable to absorb load and force, which can cause pain when coughing.

3. Muscle Sprain

Muscle sprains of the lower back can be caused by improper lifting technique, inability to use your hips and knees properly, or a sudden movement or fall. Each of these instances can put undue pressure on your lower back muscles, and force them to overwork. If these muscles are forced to overwork, a muscle sprain is more likely to occur. 

2. Spinal Stenosis

Lower back pain may also be caused by spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis occurs when there is degeneration of the joints and discs in the spine, which impinges on the nerve pathways, potentially leading to compressed nerves.  Compressed nerves can be very painful, with symptoms such as sharp, radiating pain down the hip and leg, and pain while coughing. 

1. Muscle Spasms

Lower back muscles may have muscle spasms as a result of minor sprains or strains, as well as more serious injuries like herniated disc and spinal stenosis. Muscle spasms occur when  your body is trying to protect the area that is injured.

The spasm is a signal to alert your brain to avoid that particular movement that causes pain. Since avoiding coughing may be difficult, it’s best to be gentle with coughing so as not to induce any muscle spasms. 

How to Treat Lower Back Pain When Coughing

There are 5 recommended techniques to treating lower back pain while coughing 

Improve Your Posture By Stretching

Poor posture can increase the back pain when coughing. Stretching exercises that allow you to open up the surrounding muscles in your spine and hips can be beneficial in improving posture and thereby reducing pain when coughing. 

Focus on stretches that pull those muscles into extension (instead of flexion), which will increase your mobility and your posture. We recommend trying out some of our favorite tailbone pain exercises to start out.

Start Doing Yoga

Yoga is an excellent option to build strength and flexibility in the core and back muscles. Many yoga poses, such as Crescent and Warrior 1, will emphasize the hip and spinal extension that you want in order to release the muscles responsible for lower back pain while coughing. 

Replace Your Mattress

Replacing your mattress is an underrated tool to help relieve back pain when coughing. If you have an old mattress, it may be too soft, which causes you to sink and the spine to curve downwards, losing support on the heaviest part of your body. 

Without the necessary support that a mattress provides for your spine, the 8 hours you spend in bed can be doing more harm than good.

Cold Therapy

Cold therapy, which often involves an ice pack, can help reduce inflammation, desensitize the injured area, and minimize pain. In the acute stage of your lower back pain, which is often when you are experiencing the most pain, it’s significant to use cold therapy to prevent any swelling or inflammation that could cause setbacks in your recovery. 

The desensitizing of the lower back muscles can allow you to cough comfortably without pain.

Lumbar Back Support

Lumbar back support can provide an extra layer of stability for your lower back muscles. The contoured shape of lumbar back cushions support your back's natural curve for proper spinal alignment and to promote healthy posture. With proper spinal alignment and healthier posture, you can engage in daily activities with better confidence, as well as coughing without worrying about pain.

When to See a Doctor

If you have back pain when coughing over a long period of time without any improvement, it may be helpful to see a doctor that can perform a manual exam and/or order diagnostic imaging to see if there is a severe injury, such as herniated disc or spinal stenosis.

Coughing from back pain can also affect your bodily functions. For instance, back pain can impact blood pressure since coughing can be a source of high stress. If you feel like your cough is leading to fatigue or restlessness, it's time to pick up the phone and call your doctor.

Get Rid of Lower Back Pain Today

Getting rid of lower back pain when coughing  starts with understanding the cause, then utilizing the necessary treatment options to eliminate your pain. Taking these steps will help you get rid of lower back pain when coughing and have you feeling confident and self-assured.