Sneezing can be beneficial when it comes to the sneezer. As part of the body’s first line of defense, sneezes protect your body from the external irritants since the respiratory tract is exposed to the outside environment. Physical barriers such as the skin an mucus membranes protect from this. However there are some drawbacks to sneezing. Chronic sneezing can lead to irritations in the respiratory tract and some discomfort.
In one case study, as reported in the Journal of Emergency Medicine, a 51 year-old man was developing an aortic dissection that was brought on by a sneeze. An aortic dissection is where there is a tear in the aorta and blood flowing through causes the tear to continue opening further. When you sneeze, the pressure in your thoracic cavity raises in preparation to expel air up to 100 mph. As a result, the 51 year-old complained of severe chest pain after sneezing. Other factors such as hypertension and age may have caused the development of this aortic dissection, but sneezes can still be pretty strenuous on your body.
Sneezing is a symptom of allergies, colds, the flu and other diseases. Some people sneeze when they are exposed to bright light and individuals with this possibly inherited condition are called “photic sneezers.” The medical name is, “Photic sneeze reflex.” The nick name for this condition is called ACHOO, which stands for Autosomal Dominant Compelling Helio-Ophthalmic Outburst syndrome. It is a genetically inherited condition present from birth causing sufferers to sneeze in the presence of bright light. Its cause has been debated since the time of Aristotle, but the scientific consensus seems to be that a defect in the interaction between the optic nerve fibers and trigeminal nerve causes bright light in the eyes to trick the brain into believing that the nose is blocked and a sneeze is necessary. About 17% to 35% of humans suffer from this condition.
Another odd and not fully understood sneeze-related phenomenon is snatiation, which is the condition of sneezing while on a full stomach, after an unusually large meal. This is also passed genetically as an autosomal dominant trait.
Arm pain after sneezing can be the result of a compressed or pinched nerve. Also, a sudden movement of the neck while sneezing may lead to pain in the arm. A dislocated vertebra or other spinal problems may also be the reasons behind arm pain after sneezing. Weakness of the spine, compression of a spinal nerve, or neck and back injuries are some of the other causes of arm pain after sneezing. Rather, the weakness in the bones of the neck and back, manifests itself during involuntary reflexes like sneezing. It won’t be wrong to say that symptoms of neck and back problems become more evident during actions like sneezing or coughing.
A strenuous coughing or sneezing attack can leave you with back spasms and upper or lower back pain and can cause an injury. Vigorous sneezing not only wracks your entire body, but the pressure can be so intense it may actually cause a weakened spinal disc to rupture. Sneezing aggravates already existing musculoskeletal strain and might increase back pain that resulted from a previous injury. Sneezing can cause someone to sprain a ligament in the lower back.
Ribs, Nerves and Pulled Muscles
A sneeze can pull the intercostals muscle, which is a small muscle between the ribs, and this can be extremely painful. Also, the power of a sneeze can even cause the position of the joint where the rib meets the spine to become misaligned. Sneezing can trigger muscle spasm and aggravate pinched nerves, both of which may result in pain and discomfort.
People suffering from osteoporosis – a disease that causes the loss of bone density, resulting in thinning of bone tissue and greater susceptibility to broken bones – can sustain injury from falls, from lifting heavy objects, and from the force of sneezing. Forceful sneezing is particularly dangerous for the elderly and has been known to result in painful vertebral compression fractures, which is when the bones of the spine become broken due to trauma.
In Chesapeake, Virginia, 12-year-old Lauren Johnson sneezes more than 12,000 times a day – about 16 times each minute. She hasn’t been able to attend school, because it is too disruptive to class, and she has visited six different doctors and a hypnotherapist since the attacks began two weeks ago. However, they all couldn’t find a clear diagnosis for it. A neurologist assumes a rare condition called irretractable psychogenic disorder, which could be triggered by stress. There are less than 40 cases that were documented worldwide. An allergist believes that the condition that Lauren has, also rare, is called machine-gun sneezing triggered by allergies, sinus problems, or growths in the nasal passage. Although her condition remains unknown, thankfully, Lauren does get some relief at night as the sneezing stops during deep sleep.