another top-tip from Philip Waldman D.O. FSCCO, Registered Osteopath at Chelsea Natural Health Clinic, SW10.
I saw a patient today who had strained his ribcage sneezing and it reminded me to pass on the following advice, and that is..
Don’t hold your sneezes in, let them out!
There may be social reasons for stifling a sneeze, but from a physical standpoint it isn’t a great thing to do. The reason for this is the tremendous burst of pressure it puts through your body, especially your blood vessels, your abdomen and chest. If you’ve ever held a sneeze in you will be familiar with that sensation of your ears popping, your eyes bulging and your head feeling like it wants to pop. A sneeze is created by a very sudden and powerful contraction of your ribcage and diaphragm and it forces a high volume of air out of your lungs in a very short time. If you block the flow of this air then you create a massive pressure “spike” in your chest. This can, amongst other things :-
- lead to overstrains of the ribcage and chest muscles, and even in some extreme cases, fractured ribs
- aggravate or predispose to hernias
- cause a sudden spike in your blood pressure
It is the sudden spike in blood pressure that is, I think, the most significant. If you have any weakness in your blood vessels, then you can further traumatise them. I have seen people that have detached their retinas holding in sneezes, and you have to be mindful of the blood vessels in the brain. I am having to be careful in my use of words here, because I don’t want to suggest that holding in sneezes can directly cause things like strokes, but it stand to reason that if you stress the vessels in the brain, and you have any pre-existing weakness then if you repeatedly hold in your sneezes, then maybe over time you may well aggravate it. It is a reality that as we get older, arterio-sclerosis can take hold and this stiffens the blood vessels, rendering them less able to stretch and absorb and damped out the pulsing pressures of the heart. The most obvious sign of this is increases in blood pressure. Sudden spikes in pressure from a held in sneeze are going to be even less well absorbed, leading to potential damage of the blood vessels.
So, I’d say that if you are in the habit of holding in your sneezes, why not try getting into the habit of letting them out?