An unlikely connection: 4 Reasons why your lower back hurts when you cough
06/02/2020 // Darnel Fernandez // Views

It is not uncommon for people to experience lower back pain every now and then. In fact, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), lower back pain is one of the most common causes of job-related disability and one of the primary reasons why people miss work. The NINDS also reports that at least 80 percent of American adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives.

But some people experience back pain only when they cough. What exactly causes this phenomenon?

4 Possible reasons for back pain when coughing

When people cough, they lean forward slightly. This can put stress on the lower back and potentially displace the vertebrae, or the bones that make up the spinal column. Because of this, chronic coughing can be the main culprit of your back pain.

However, if your cough is not chronic, then it may be because of an underlying issue with your back. Below is a list of potential causes of back pain when coughing. (Related: 6 Causes of lower back pain and testicular pain.)

Spinal stenosis

The spaces within your spine can narrow abnormally, putting more pressure on your spinal nerves. This event is called spinal stenosis. The position you assume when coughing may exacerbate the pressure caused by spinal stenosis, and this can trigger lower back pain.

Spinal stenosis can also cause cramping pain and even numbness in the lower back and legs. To reduce its symptoms, exercise regularly and strengthen the muscles that support your spine and back.

Disk herniation

There are protective disks between the vertebrae that act as shock absorbers and cushion the spine. However, normal wear and tear of the vertebrae can cause these disks to slip out of position or protrude irregularly. This condition, known as disk herniation, is more common in people with severe sciatica.


Disk herniation can cause your lower back and legs to experience tingling, numbness or pain. In severe cases, this condition also leads to incontinence of the bladder or bowel. You can relieve pain caused by a herniated disk by simply resting on your back or applying an ice pack on the painful area for 10 minutes several times a day.

Lung cancer

While rare, it is possible for lung cancer to trigger lower back pain when you cough. However, back pain may also be an indicator that the cancer has spread to nearby organs. Other symptoms of lung cancer include sudden and unexpected weight loss, breathing difficulties, wheezing, coughing up blood and fatigue.

While there isn't a guaranteed way to treat lung cancer, you can reduce your risk of lung cancer by adopting healthy lifestyle changes that promote good respiratory health. These lifestyle changes include quitting smoking, avoiding secondhand smoke and simply eating a healthier diet full of fruits and vegetables.

Muscle strain

Increased pressure on the back from a bout of intense coughing can cause temporary injuries like muscle strain, or what medical practitioners refer to as pulled muscles. Pain caused by a pulled muscle can worsen when performing certain actions or staying in certain positions. Besides pain, people with a pulled muscle can also experience other symptoms, such as muscle spasms, back stiffness or muscle tenderness.

Similar to disk herniation, you can relieve these symptoms by resting on your back for a day or two while avoiding positions that could worsen the pain. You can also apply a cold pack to promote muscle recovery.

While back pain can be a normal occurrence, lower back pain when coughing could be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be looked at as soon as possible. Learn more about natural remedies for back pain at

Sources include:

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