Did you know smoking can cause chronic back pain?

Did you know smoking can cause chronic back pain?

Smokers are aware of the risks of smoking, namely cancer of lung/mouth and blockage of the blood carrying vessels. However, no amount of ghastly graphics on the cigarette packet seems to prove as a deterrent to smokers. Also, there are various side effects of smoking that are never taken into consideration by the smoker or the people in general. One of those being the association of smoking with pain sensitivity; especially back pain. Dr Uday Pawar, Spine Specialist at Global Hospitals, Mumbai explains how smoking can affect your spine and lead to back pain. Also read about reasons smoking is bad for you.

More and more studies found an association between smoking and back pain. Although it is strange because nicotine is known to give pain relief, the adverse effects start creeping in only in the long run. It diminishes nutrition-rich, oxygen-loaded blood supply to the spinal bones and cushioning discs (The spinal discs already have a limited blood supply). This, in turn, causes early wear and tear of the discs and brittle bones (osteoporosis) causing back pain. Smoking also reduces the sensitivity of the pain interpreted by the brain according to recent studies on smoking and brain health. So, local damage and reducing the pain sensitivity is the main reason smokers have more pain (statistically 3 times more) than nonsmokers. The primary impact of smoking on the spine is that it adds to atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is caused when foreign materials gather inside the blood vessel which in the long run causes low blood supply leading to a reduction in the spine’s ability to heal itself. Here’s more on things that happen inside your body when you smoke.

Here are a few ways in which smoking aggravates back pain:

It deteriorates bone health: Chemicals in cigarettes break down bone tissues causing the body to become less likely to produce new bone tissue. This leads to a variety of back and spinal issues, including osteoporosis and degenerative disc disease.

It causes muscle and tendon inflammation: Studies also reveal that smoking is associated with weak muscles, tendon injuries and increased incidence of arthritis in smokers. Inflammation, particularly within the joints, can cause mild to severe ongoing pain and discomfort. All of these conditions can become harmful to the neck, back and joints, worsening over time and becoming serious issues that can hurt one’s quality of life.

It impairs blood flow and hardens arteries: Smoking cigarettes contributes to the hardening of the arteries, which decreases the blood supply to areas in the body that depend on the nutrients supplied through small arteries. These areas include vertebrae and discs within the spine, which can starve and degenerate much faster without a proper supply of blood, oxygen and other essential nutrients.

As a spine specialist, another vital perspective is the impairment in the healing response in smokers. Achieving a good result from a commonly performed spinal fusion is difficult in patients who continue to smoke even after surgery. While smoking can be hard and tough to quit especially if you’re addicted, here are some tips on how you can quit like identifying when you exactly crave cigarettes, changing your drink, considering your food intake, taking help from support groups and using replacement supplements for nicotine. Here are few real-life tips that helped a person stay away from smoking. For good.

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