Lower Back Pain When Coughing: Causes, Treatment, Prevention

06 Mar 2024, by

Dr. Lusine Badalian

Share via:

Have question on this topic? Ask Docus AI Doctor!

Experiencing lower back pain when coughing can be more than just a temporary nuisance; it's often a signal from your body indicating deeper health concerns. Interestingly, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlights that low back pain (LBP) is a universal experience, capable of affecting individuals at any age. Indeed, most people will encounter LBP at least once in their lives, underscoring its prevalence and the importance of addressing it promptly. 

This specific manifestation of pain, triggered by coughing, can stem from a variety of causes including muscle strain, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis. Ignoring such symptoms can lead to chronic discomfort or escalate into serious complications. A comprehensive approach involving over-the-counter medications, physical therapy, and targeted exercises can offer relief and strengthen the back. 

Moreover, proactive preventive measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight and building core muscle strength, play a crucial role in avoiding the onset of lower back pain when coughing, thus safeguarding spine health and enhancing overall quality of life.

lower back pain when coughing

Causes of Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Muscle Strain

A common cause of lower back pain when coughing is muscle strain. Coughing can put unexpected pressure on the muscles in your lower back, leading to strain. This is especially true for vigorous coughing spells that can suddenly engage the back muscles. If you've ever experienced a stabbing pain in your lower back when coughing, it might be due to the sudden contraction of these muscles. Activities that might weaken or overuse the back muscles, such as heavy lifting or poor posture, can increase the likelihood of experiencing this pain during a cough.

Herniated Disc

The spine is made up of vertebrae and discs that cushion and support movement. A herniated disc occurs when one of these discs is pushed out of place, which can press on the spinal nerves. When you cough, the pressure inside your abdomen increases, which can exacerbate the pain from a herniated disc. This condition can cause a sharp, stabbing pain in the lower back when coughing and might be more pronounced on one side, leading to lower left or lower right back pain when coughing.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spaces within your spine narrow, putting pressure on the nerves that travel through the spine. This can lead to pain in the lower back when coughing, as the increased pressure from a cough can intensify the compression on these nerves. People with spinal stenosis may notice their pain worsens with activities that involve bending or twisting the spine, in addition to coughing.

Diagnostics for Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Identifying the exact cause of lower back pain when coughing requires a thorough diagnostic process. Here are some steps that healthcare professionals might take to diagnose the issue:

  • Medical History Review: This involves discussing your symptoms, any pre-existing health conditions, and the specific circumstances under which the pain occurs.
  • Physical Examination: A doctor will likely conduct a physical exam to check for any visible signs of conditions that might be causing your pain, such as muscle weakness or nerve issues.
  • Imaging Tests:
    • X-rays to look for bone fractures or signs of arthritis.
    • MRI scans to get a detailed view of the back's muscles, ligaments, discs, and spinal cord.
    • CT scans to provide a cross-sectional view of the spine and identify any issues with the vertebrae or surrounding structures.
  • Nerve Studies: Tests like electromyography (EMG) can be used to measure the electrical impulses in the muscles and nerves to detect any abnormalities.

 

If you're experiencing lower back pain when coughing, it might be a symptom of an underlying condition that requires attention. Online tools like Docus AI Symptom Checker for Adults can help you identify potential causes and decide when to seek medical advice.

Risk Factors for Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Several factors can increase your risk of experiencing lower back pain when coughing. Understanding these can help in managing and possibly preventing the pain:

  • Age: The risk of developing conditions like herniated discs and spinal stenosis increases with age.
  • Obesity: Excess body weight puts additional stress on the back, particularly the lower back, which can make you more susceptible to pain when coughing.
  • Poor Physical Condition: Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine, increasing the risk of pain.
  • Smoking: Smoking can reduce blood flow to the spine, impeding healing and increasing the risk of degenerative spinal disorders.
  • Repetitive Activities: Jobs or activities that involve lifting, bending, and twisting may increase the risk of back injuries.
  • Previous Back Injuries: If you have had lower back pain or injuries in the past, you might be more likely to experience pain when coughing.

 

By understanding the causes, undergoing proper diagnostics, and acknowledging the risk factors, individuals can take the first steps towards managing and preventing lower back pain associated with coughing. It's important to consult healthcare professionals for a thorough assessment and tailored advice.

Complications of Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Ignoring symptoms, such as stabbing pain in the lower back when coughing, can lead to several complications if the underlying cause is not addressed. Chronic pain can become a reality, significantly affecting your quality of life and ability to perform daily activities. 

Additionally, untreated conditions like herniated discs or spinal stenosis can progress, leading to increased pain, mobility issues, and in severe cases, nerve damage. This underscores the importance of seeking medical advice and treatment to prevent worsening conditions, including lower left or lower right back pain when coughing, which may indicate specific underlying issues.

Treatment for Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Over-The-Counter Pain Relief

For immediate relief from pain in the lower back when coughing, over-the-counter pain relievers can be effective. These medications can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain, making it easier to move and complete daily tasks. It's important to use these medications as directed and consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice, especially if the pain is localized, like lower left back pain when coughing or lower right back pain when coughing, as these may require targeted treatment strategies.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a cornerstone treatment for managing and recovering from lower back pain, including the sharp, stabbing pain that can occur when coughing. A physical therapist can design a program tailored to your specific condition, focusing on strengthening the back and abdominal muscles to support the spine better. Techniques may include stretches, exercises, and other modalities to improve mobility and reduce pain.

Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Incorporating specific exercises into your routine can significantly improve lower back pain associated with coughing. Here are a few recommended exercises:

  • Pelvic Tilts: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and push your lower back into the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then relax.
  • Knee-to-Chest Stretches: While lying on your back, bring one knee up to your chest and hold it with your hands. Keep the other leg flat on the ground. Hold the stretch for a few seconds, then switch legs.
  • Bridges: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for a few seconds, then slowly lower back down.

 

These exercises can help strengthen the muscles around your lower back, potentially reducing the incidence of pain when coughing.

Consultation with a Specialist

For persistent lower back pain when coughing, consulting with a specialist may be necessary. They can offer advanced treatment options, including corticosteroid injections or surgery, for severe cases where conservative treatments have not provided relief, particularly if the pain is localized to one side, like lower left or lower right back pain when coughing.

Prevention of Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Preventing lower back pain when coughing involves maintaining a healthy lifestyle and taking care of your back. Here are some strategies:

  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight can strain your back muscles and spine, increasing the risk of pain, including the stabbing pain in the lower back when coughing.
  • Strengthen Your Core: Regularly exercising to strengthen your abdominal and back muscles can provide better support for your spine, potentially reducing the risk of lower back pain when coughing.
  • Practice Good Posture: Whether sitting, standing, or moving, maintaining good posture can reduce the strain on your back, preventing pain in the lower back when coughing.
  • Quit Smoking: Smoking can impede blood flow, affecting spinal health and healing capacity, and may contribute to conditions that cause lower back pain when coughing.
  • Use Proper Techniques for Lifting: Always lift from your legs and not your back to avoid strain, which can exacerbate lower back pain when coughing.

 

Adopting these treatment and prevention strategies can help manage and reduce the risk of lower back pain when coughing, ensuring that you maintain a high quality of life and prevent potential complications. Remember, it's important to consult with healthcare professionals for a tailored approach to your specific situation.

Key Takeaways

  • Lower back pain when coughing can be a symptom of underlying conditions such as muscle strain, herniated discs, or spinal stenosis.
  • Proper diagnostics, including medical history review, physical examinations, and imaging tests, are crucial for identifying the exact cause of lower back pain when coughing.
  • Risk factors for lower back pain when coughing include age, obesity, poor physical condition, smoking, repetitive activities, and previous back injuries.
  • Treatment options range from over-the-counter pain relief and physical therapy to specific exercises designed to strengthen the lower back and core muscles.
  • Preventive measures like maintaining a healthy weight, strengthening core muscles, practicing good posture, quitting smoking, and using proper lifting techniques can reduce the risk of lower back pain when coughing.
  • Ignoring lower back pain when coughing can lead to complications, including chronic pain and mobility issues.
  • Utilizing the Docus AI Symptom Checker for Adults can help you identify potential underlying conditions related to lower back pain when coughing. This tool guides you through a set of questions to help narrow down possible causes and advises when to seek medical attention.

 

If you want to read more about lower back pain, we have an article about Causes, Symptoms of Lower Back Pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes stabbing pain in the lower back when coughing?

Stabbing pain in the lower back when coughing is often caused by sudden pressure on the back muscles or spine during the coughing action. Conditions like herniated discs or muscle strains are common culprits. This type of pain can indicate that the spine or surrounding muscles are being affected in a way that requires medical attention.

Why do I experience pain in my lower back when coughing?

Pain in the lower back when coughing can result from various factors, including muscle strain, spinal issues, or even infections. Coughing increases pressure in the abdominal and pelvic region, which can exacerbate existing conditions or highlight weaknesses in the lower back's muscular or skeletal structure.

What could lower left back pain when coughing indicate?

Lower left back pain when coughing might suggest a condition affecting specific structures on the left side of the lower back, such as a herniated disc in that region or muscle strain. It could also point to issues with internal organs located on the left side, such as the kidney, though this is less common. A thorough diagnostic process is essential to determine the exact cause.

AI Assistant

Ask your question on this topic!

Have a question about this topic? Submit it here and get an instant answer from our AI Doctor.

0 / 2000

Answers provided are generated by AI and intended for informational purposes only. They should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Get online second opinion from Top Doctors

Consult Top Doctors from the US & Europe before making crucial health decisions to verify your diagnosis and treatment strategy.

350+

Top doctors

100+

Subspecialties

15+

Countries

AI-Powered Health Platform

Talk to AI Health Assistant, generate your health report, validate it with a Top Doctor from the US & Europe.

AI-Powered Health Platform

You’re only one click away from a life-changing journey

Virtual health assistant powered by AI
350+ world-renowned Doctors

© 2024 Docus, Inc.

2810 N Church Street, Wilmington, DE 19802 United States