Why It Hurts When You Cough: Causes and Tips

Feb 14, 2024 | 5 min read

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Experiencing pain when you cough can be alarming and uncomfortable. This pain can stem from various factors, such as muscle strain, respiratory infections, or conditions like hernias. Additionally, issues with internal organs, such as the stomach, liver, or kidneys, can cause pain that becomes more pronounced during coughing. 

Understanding the underlying causes of this discomfort is crucial for effective management and treatment.

Abdomen Hurts When I Cough

Experiencing pain in the abdomen when you cough can be caused by a variety of factors. The act of coughing exerts pressure on the abdominal muscles, which can lead to muscle strain. This strain is especially noticeable during prolonged periods of coughing, such as those associated with respiratory infections or chronic lung conditions.

Moreover, conditions like hernias are also a common culprit. Inguinal hernias, for example, occur when part of the intestine protrudes through a weak spot in the abdominal wall, and the pressure from coughing can exacerbate the pain associated with this protrusion.

Another potential cause of abdominal pain when coughing is related to the internal organs. Issues with the stomach, liver, or intestines can become more pronounced when the body is under the stress of a cough.

Infections that cause inflammation in these areas, such as gastroenteritis, can make the abdomen particularly sensitive.

Furthermore, abdominal pain when coughing might signal more serious conditions such as appendicitis or an abdominal aortic aneurysm, though these are accompanied by other symptoms and require immediate medical attention.

It's also worth considering the role of chronic conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or acid reflux, which can cause the abdominal area to be more sensitive to movements, including coughing.

Management of these conditions often involves a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and, in some cases, surgery for issues like hernias.

If you're experiencing recurrent or severe abdominal pain when coughing, it's important to seek medical evaluation to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

Anus Hurts When I Cough

Pain in the anus when coughing, although less common, can be particularly distressing. Such pain is often indicative of conditions directly affecting the anal region.

Anal fissures are one primary cause, characterized by small tears in the lining of the anus resulting from straining during bowel movements, hard stools, or even chronic diarrhea. The act of coughing can increase abdominal pressure, which in turn exacerbates the pain from these fissures.

Hemorrhoids, another significant cause of anal pain when coughing, are swollen blood vessels in the rectal area. The increased pressure from coughing can cause existing hemorrhoids to become more painful or even to prolapse, leading to significant discomfort.

Both conditions can create a cycle of pain, where the discomfort may lead to avoidance of bowel movements, resulting in further complications like constipation and increased strain.

Addressing these issues typically involves dietary changes to ensure softer stools, the use of topical treatments to ease pain and inflammation, and, in some cases, surgical options for more severe hemorrhoids or fissures.

Maintaining good hydration, eating a diet rich in fiber, and not straining during bowel movements are key preventive measures. For persistent or severe pain, especially if accompanied by bleeding, a healthcare provider should be consulted to rule out more serious conditions.

Arm Hurts When I Cough

Experiencing pain in the arm when coughing might seem unrelated at first, but there are several explanations for why this occurs.

Referred pain is a common reason, where the pain originates in a different location but is felt in the arm.

This can happen with certain types of thoracic or cervical spine issues, such as a herniated disc or nerve compression, where the coughing motion exacerbates the nerve irritation, leading to pain that radiates down the arm.

Muscle strain from chronic coughing can also lead to arm pain. The muscles around the shoulder and upper arm are engaged when coughing, and excessive coughing can lead to overuse injuries or muscle fatigue.

This is particularly true for individuals with underlying respiratory conditions that result in persistent coughing.

Managing arm pain related to coughing involves treating the root cause of the cough, alongside measures to reduce inflammation and pain in the arm. This may include rest, physical therapy, and, in cases where nerve compression is a factor, possibly medical or surgical interventions.

If arm pain persists or is accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness or weakness, it's crucial to seek medical advice to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment.

Back Hurts When I Cough

Back pain when coughing is a frequent complaint, often due to the strain coughing places on the back muscles. The sudden, forceful nature of a cough can strain these muscles, particularly if the cough is chronic or involves deep, vigorous coughing spells.

This strain can lead to muscle soreness or sharp pain, similar to what one might experience after an intense workout.

Conditions that affect the spine itself, like herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis, can also cause or exacerbate back pain when coughing. In these cases, the structural issues within the spine may lead to increased pressure on the spinal nerves or spinal cord during coughing, resulting in pain. Proper posture and techniques to manage the cough itself can help mitigate some of this discomfort.

Treatment strategies focus on alleviating the cough, strengthening the back muscles through physical therapy, and addressing any underlying spinal conditions.

Pain management may also include the use of over-the-counter pain relievers, hot or cold therapy, and, in some cases, more targeted treatments like epidural injections for spine-related pain.

If back pain when coughing is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms like leg pain or weakness, medical evaluation is necessary to identify and treat the underlying cause.

Kidney Hurts When I Cough

Experiencing pain in the kidney area when coughing can be alarming and may indicate an issue with the kidneys themselves, such as an infection or the presence of kidney stones. 

Kidney infections, or pyelonephritis, usually result from bacteria spreading from the bladder to the kidneys, leading to symptoms like pain, fever, and nausea, which can worsen with the physical jolt of coughing.

Similarly, kidney stones can cause sharp, severe pain in the side and back, below the ribs, which may intensify when coughing moves the stones within the urinary tract. In fact, according to the NIDDK, about 11 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the United States experience kidney stones at least once during their lifetime.

Treatment for these conditions varies, ranging from antibiotics for infections to pain management and procedures to remove or break down kidney stones

Drinking plenty of water can help prevent kidney stones and infections by flushing bacteria from the urinary system and aiding the passage of stones.

Given the potential seriousness of kidney-related pain, especially if it persists or is accompanied by other symptoms like fever, blood in the urine, or vomiting, it's important to seek medical attention. 

Proper diagnosis often involves urine tests, blood tests, and imaging studies to determine the exact cause of the pain and to guide treatment.

Left Side Hurts When I Cough

Pain on the left side of the body when coughing can be attributed to a variety of conditions affecting organs located on that side, such as the heart, spleen, stomach, and pancreas. While some causes may be benign, like muscle strain from the act of coughing, others may require more immediate attention.

For instance, an enlarged spleen, which can result from infections, liver diseases, or blood diseases, may cause pain on the left side that worsens with coughing due to the increased pressure on the spleen.

Gastric issues, including gastritis or peptic ulcers, can also cause left-sided pain, as the stomach is located on the left side of the abdomen. Coughing can exacerbate the pain by causing sudden movements or increases in intra-abdominal pressure.

Pancreatitis, inflammation of the pancreas, is another condition that can cause left-sided abdominal pain, which may become more noticeable with coughing.

For any persistent or severe left-sided pain, especially if it's accompanied by other symptoms like fever, weight loss, or changes in bowel habits, it's crucial to consult a healthcare provider.

The diagnosis may involve a physical examination, imaging tests, and laboratory tests to determine the undverlying cause and appropriate treatment, which can range from medication to manage symptoms to more specific treatments for conditions like an enlarged spleen or pancreatitis.

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