We already know smoking is bad for our health – from yellowing teeth to different types of cancer – but did you know that smoking may also be the reason behind your back pain? Chronic pain in general has been linked to smoking. Cigarettes are known to contain many compounds that cause physiologic effects. Overtime, the nicotine in cigarettes can alter pain processing, which contributes to chronic pain and more pain intensity.
How smoking causes back pain
Years of research has found that smoking is linked to higher rates of osteoporosis, lumbar disc diseases, and increased problems with bone healing. Those who smoke have a higher chance of developing chronic pain as a result of previous spine injuries or other back problems.
So what exactly does smoking do? It impairs the delivery of oxygen-rich blood to the bones and tissues. This lack of blood and oxygen flow can cause degeneration in the discs between each vertebrae in the spine. This happens most often in the lower back and can lead to osteoporosis. It is also found to be more common in women than men. Whether you’re a smoker or not, our discs naturally degenerate as we age. As a result, smoking will speed up that process. These painful conditions can become more prominent in smokers.
Learn more about it in this video where New Jersey back pain specialist Kam Momi discusses the link between smoking and back pain:
What you can do about it
When a patient reports that they are experiencing back pain and they smoke, the first piece of advice is to quit smoking. While this is easier said than done, there are ways your doctor can help and a couple tricks for helping to quit:
- Ask your doctor about medication or nicotine replacement options
- Schedule your quit day and be prepared for when it comes
- Take a walk or exercise whenever you feel the need to smoke
- Build your support team of family and friends to hold yourself accountable
If you’re experiencing back pain for longer than two weeks, it’s time to see a specialist. What you might think is just a pulled muscle could be an issue with disc degeneration. Learn more about disc degeneration and schedule an appointment with a New Jersey back pain specialist at Coastal Spine.