If you have been planning on quitting cigarette smoking but can’t seem to get around it, here’s a newsflash for smokers with back pain problems: studies show smoking increases the risks of lower back pain.
According to a team of Finnish researchers, smokers have 31% increased risk for back pain, showing strong association with disabling, chronic pain on the lower back, in particular. Additionally, reports have shown that smoking also delays healing of bone fractures, especially in the development of cartilage cells.
What’s the Medical Explanation of this Correlation?
Like the tissues and organs in the body, your bones are nourished by blood, which supplies the essential minerals, nutrients and oxygen needed by your bones and body to function properly. The increased levels of nicotine in the blood stream cause the blood vessels to contract by up to 25% in diameter. This impedes the delivery of nutrients to the bones and tissues. This also explains the adverse effects of smoking on bone healing.
Cigarettes also contain carbon monoxide, a known poisonous substance especially in large concentrations. This toxic matter sticks to the hemoglobin of the blood, thereby decreasing the amount of oxygen carried to the bones, muscles and tissues. Oxygen is not only required in normal body regulation, it is also an essential component in the healing process. It needs to be present in order for the body to attain full recovery.
Through smoking, you have unwittingly starved your body of essential nutrients it requires for good health. This is especially detrimental for people with existing lower back problems and degenerative spine conditions. With the decline in the body’s nutrition levels, the spine is forced to rely on surrounding tissues for nutrients. Insufficient nutrient supply will eventually result to or exacerbate the degeneration of the discs – causing or worsening bone and spine problems.
Multiple studies have clearly shown the significant difference in the recovery and healing time of bone injuries between smokers and non-smokers. In fact, a particular study conducted by Northwestern University Medical School on 54 patients with wrist injuries has shown that only 68% of smokers healed completely in comparison to 95% that of non-smokers.
It is important to note that the correlation of smoking and low back pain is significantly stronger among adolescents compared to adults. Gender is also a determining factor. Women are found to be more susceptible to back pain compared to men. Smoking is also closely linked to osteoporosis, which is a form of bone disease as well as decays for the spinal discs. For someone with existing bone-problem, smoking can only aggravate the condition, hampering the healing process of the body.
What does this all mean?
Quitting cigarette smoking can obviously provide you a considerable number of important health benefits. But for people with chronic back problems, quitting is not an option, but a must. While there are other lifestyle factors that are also associated with back pain such as obesity, physical activity and stress, studies conducted on the correlation of smoking and back pain cannot be ignored. Take time to talk to your doctor if you are more questions about the other health benefits of quitting smoking.