Anatomy and Description
When a pulled muscle injury is caused from coughing and sneezing, it is most often a combination of muscles that are affected. It is seldom a serious injury in terms of the pulled muscle itself, but in some severe cases, there can actually be fracturing of the ribs, and recovery can take longer.
There are many muscles in the back that can be irritated by persistent or extreme coughing and sneezing. These muscles include the several groups of muscles that surround the vertebrae. Intertransversarii muscles, responsible for the movements between vertebrae, and the mutifidus spinal muscles, responsible for the spinal column movement as a whole all work in unison during coughing and sneezing and thus are all at risk for being pulled.
The muscles in the back that are responsible for the movement of the neck and shoulders, and include the trapezius, and the latissimus dorsi, and can also be pulled during bouts of coughing and sneezing.
Another group of muscles that primarily only get used during the process of sneezing and coughing are the intercostal muscles, located under the ribs. These muscles help the chest to contract, and therefore are affected easily when the coughing or sneezing is done repetitively.
Causes of Injury
The mechanism of the injury itself is overstraining and overstretching of muscles that are seldom used in daily activity. This can be caused from long periods of coughing and sneezing, or can occur as a result of an unexpected hard cough or sneeze that catches the person off guard. This inability to guard the muscles during the coughing and sneezing motion can be accompanied by a sudden popping sensation.
This typically is not serious, but can be if the muscle has actually torn away from its point of origin. In most cases, repetition of the muscle strain can be caused from overuse, and small tears can occur but often heal themselves and no further treatment is needed.
Common Activities Causing Injury
While injuries to the back muscles and intercostal muscles can be caused from a variety of things, this particular method of injury comes from coughing and sneezing. It can be either an unexpected and hard cough or sneeze that catches the person off guard, or it can be from repetitive sneezing and coughing over a period of days or weeks.
Treatment and Recovery
There is little that can be done in terms of actually healing the muscles involved in this type of injury, because it is typically just a minor injury that will heal itself over a period of time. However, certain steps can be taken to relieve the discomfort associated with a coughing and sneezing pulled muscle injury. The R.I.C.E. method of rest, ice, compression and elevation has proven to be extremely helpful for this type of injury, especially if anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications are used. Chiropractic care can be invaluable when back and rib injuries are present, as it is gentle but very effective.
Chiropractors have a variety of modalities that can help with this type of pain, from electrical stimulation to massage and adjustments. Taking medications to suppress coughing and sneezing will also help with frequency of injury to the muscles affected. Cough drops, cough syrup, and medications for nasal congestion can help keep the initial problem at bay, giving the back and ribs a rest from continuously being exposed to the motion of sneezing and coughing.
Prevention of Future Injury
There is no way to assure prevention of coughing and sneezing in the future, but there are ways to reduce the risk of the muscles in the back and ribs being affected. Drinking water is extremely important in the healing process when a person is sick, as it can help restore flow and circulation to injured muscles, as well as help cure the sickness that causes the sneezing and coughing. Holding a pillow close to the chest before coughing or sneezing helps the ribs from contracting all the way, and hence it can prevent the excessive contraction that causes the pulled muscle injury.
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