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Lower Back Pain When Coughing & How I Fixed It

Have you ever coughed and felt your lower back clamp down on you like it's trying to break your spine in half? Me too. It is not fun. Coughing and sneezing can aggravate an already tender lower back and ruin a few minutes of your life. I struggled with the problem of lower back pain when coughing and here is what I did to overcome it.

Lower Back Pain When Coughing

Coughing With (Possibly) Lower Back Pain


Triggers Of Lower Back Pain When Coughing

There are a lot of ways to end up with lower back pain. Regardless of the source, if you are in the pain cave made worse by coughing you probably just want to find the fastest way out.

Coughing (and sneezing for what it is worth) can be a violent movement for the lower back. Coughing causes a hard contraction of core muscles, which can aggravate the lower back - especially when it is already in muscle spasm.

With your whole body tensing up with the combined reaction you have to throw your body forward is a recipe for disaster on your lower back. 

Having a stiff and injured back when this reaction happens, leads to your muscles and joints firing out of nowhere.  Think of it as a shock that stirs up your muscles and joints completely unannounced.  

Lower Back Pain When Coughing And Sitting


Lower Back Pain When Coughing - Finding Relief

Getting out of my lower back pain when coughing was synonymous with getting out of back muscle spasms. Once I got my lower back muscles to relax, coughing no longer made me want to jump off a cliff.

Relaxing Your Muscles: The techniques I used to relax my lower back muscles out of spasm were 1) deep tissue massage, and 2) topical muscle relaxant foam. The goal of this step that you want to envision is releasing constant tension. A tense back is an angry back, and an angry back causes pain. We want to relax our muscles out of tightness/tension/knotting/pain so that they no longer attack us when we do a movement like coughing.

How I did it: The first step of massage I did with the lower back muscle release tool QL Claw - which I used to massage the big lower-back-pain-causing muscles Quadratus Lumborum, Gluteus Medius, Iliacus, and Piriformis. I used a variety of topical foams as well to simmer down the lower back during the worst of the pains.

What else I did: I am fairly conscious of spine hygiene (check out Stuart McGill's work if you are not), so I made sure to avoid triggers and stay mobile during my recovery. I highly recommend daily walks and avoiding what hurts in the short term just as a base floor.

QL Claw

QL Claw Muscle Release

Quadratus Lumborum Release Using QL Claw


Back Hurts When I Cough - Importance of the Quadratus Lumborum 

The Quadratus Lumborum is a large muscle that runs from the bottom of the rib cage to the top of the pelvis.  A lot of lower back problems can be rooted back to this muscle because of its function as well as the muscle's willingness to become tight.  

Back hurts when I cough - Quadratus Lumborum

When the Quadratus Lumborum muscle becomes tight or is injured, -  side bending, twisting, and leaning forward can be very painful.  Besides controlling movement at the waist, both sides of the Quadratus Lumborum participate together in forced exhalation, such as in coughing or sneezing [1.]. 



Lower Back Pain When Coughing Results

After around 5 days the majority of my pain was gone. It took another 5-10 days to be able to cough completely pain-free, but it got better as my muscle release work built. If you are dealing with lower back pain when coughing, give muscle release a try. It may not be the cure-all or work for everyone, but I guarantee you will at least feel better if you buy in and give it time.


Sever Lower Back Pain When Coughing

If you have reason to believe the problem is more severe than a muscle issue, we recommend seeking professional help. More serious issues such as a nerve compression, spinal issues (stenosis) or even problems with your lungs are all on the more uncommon side but still real possibilities of lower back pain when coughing.


Lower Back Pain When Coughing - FAQ

Can coughing cause lower back pain?

Yes, coughing can result in back pain. Coughing, especially if it is powerful or ongoing, can place major strain on your surrounding spinal muscles and ligaments.

When should I see a doctor or chiropractor for lower back pain?

The general rule of thumb is if you are in great pain and at home treatments are not working. Also, if you have reason to believe the issue originates from the spine or joints. Lower back pain is different for everyone which means this can be difficult to judge. A small amount of manageable pain is normal and can sometimes be dealt with at home, but listen to your body and make sure to meet with a professional if you are in great pain.

What muscles are responsible for my lower back pain when coughing?

The Quadratus LumborumGluteus MediusIliacus, and Piriformis are all common lower back pain inducing muscles. 

Out of the four muscles listed above, the Quadratus Lumborum is commonly held responsible for back pain when coughing.

A lot of lower back problems can be rooted back to this muscle because of its function as well as the muscle's willingness to become tight.


Thank you for reading

Feel free to shoot me an email at if you are dealing with the lower back pain when coughing and we will see what we can do, thank you for reading!


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[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

[2] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

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