Smoking and Back Pain; Does Smoking Cause Back Pain?

June 28, 2012

Smoking and back pain

Studies have shown us again and again that smoking cigarettes is bad for our health. It can cause lung cancer, lead to heart disease and stroke, and are associated with many other serious medical conditions. But does smoking cause back pain, which affects approximately 8 out of 10 people? According to multiple studies involving tens of thousands of people worldwide, yes, smoking is bad for our back. The studies have found that compared with nonsmokers, smokers are about 3 times more likely to develop back pain, especially chronic back pain. 

Does smoking cause back pain?

But how could smoking harm our back? You may ask. Well, apparently smoking negatively affects our back in many different ways. And one of them is it reduces nutrition supply to the spine.

Cigarette smoke contains carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. Carbon monoxide is toxic to humans and animals, and it can lead to death if its concentration in the air is too high. Why? Because carbon monoxide sticks to the hemoglobin, a protein in the blood that carries oxygen to the bones, muscles, ligaments, and tendons throughout the body. Once carbon monoxide occupies the binding site of the hemoglobin, the protein loses its ability to transport oxygen to different parts of the body, including the back. The oxygen-deprived back therefore has difficulty staying healthy.

In addition, nicotine contained in cigarettes can cause thickening of the walls of blood vessels, leading to narrowed blood vessels. And narrowed blood vessels can only allow limited blood to flow to the back, as well as other parts of the body.

Without adequate oxygen and blood supply, the spinal discs will slowly deteriorate and degenerate and may eventually crack. And in the case of back injury, lack of oxygen and blood supply can markedly slow the healing process.

A reason to quit smoking?

Would quitting smoking help back pain? The answer is yes. Studies have shown that the harm caused by smoking can be partly reversed once a smoker quits smoking. Even among veteran smokers, quitting smoking can significantly reduce back pain and avoid further damage to the spine.

Considering the high incidence of back pain, reducing or avoiding back pain seems to be another good reason for all smokers to quit smoking.