Smoking and Back Pain – Is There a Connection?

SmokeUsually, smokers know all about the possible side effects of their bad health habit. Health conditions such as heart disease and cancer have been linked directly with long term smoking. Recent studies have even begun to link lower back pain with smoking, due to the inflammatory nature of the tobacco. While the link has not been proven inconclusively, there is more than enough evidence to conclude that smoking does not help preexisting back problems. A study in The American Journal of Medicine found that smokers were 10 percent more likely than non-smokers to have debilitating back problems.

While this type of association does not directly link smoking as a cause of back problems, it is conclusive enough for a sufferer of chronic back pain to stop smoking. The most common type of lower back problem that most smokers suffer from is degenerative disc disease.

It is true that genetics play a major role in these types of degenerative diseases, but modern scientific studies have shown that smokers are three times more likely to have these types of afflictions. The most common problems caused by spinal degeneration are herniated discs and bone spurs, which can be excruciatingly painful. If you are genetically predisposed to types of degenerative diseases, smoking will only increase the rate at which your spinal disc will degenerate. Many sufferers of arthritis in their neck fail to realize that this is a type of degenerative disease that can be worsened by smoking.

Studies also have something to say about women and teen smokers. Even if a woman is a very light smoker, they are far more likely to have increase back pain over even the heaviest smoking man. A woman’s body is far more susceptible to the inflammatory effects caused by the chemicals in cigarettes. The same study also concluded that teens were far more likely than adult men and women to develop back pains for the continued use of cigarettes. The teens in the study were almost two times more likely to develop these back problems than the adults in the study were.

Thankfully there is some good news for smokers. A lot of the negative health effects are reversible when you quit. If you quit smoking, the amount of inflammation in your body will decrease greatly, which will in turn lead to less frequent bouts of back problems. With all of the adverse effects of smoking, the increased risk of back problems should be the final straw that helps you quit.


Remember to always consult your chiropractor or physician before taking any health advice.

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