We may sound like a broken record but quitting smoking today greatly reduces your risk of developing serious health problems like heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. At Resurgens Spine Center, we don’t mind repeating ourselves when it comes to such an important topic. In addition to the health problems we already mentioned, smoking can cause some other problems you may not have considered. On this World No Tobacco Day, we’d like to talk to you about how smoking can lead to back pain.
Smoking and Back Pain
Doctors had long suspected a link between smoking and back pain but a 2001 study by Johns Hopkins University made the mechanism for this link even clearer. Back pain – and many of the other issues related to smoking – seems to start with hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure. You see, the nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products has an immediate effect on your blood vessels, making them constrict. This causes your blood pressure to rise rapidly and can even cut off blood flow to vital organs and tissues. That includes the back muscles and spinal discs.
Every tissue in your body needs a healthy blood flow in order to heal itself, remove waste products, and stay oxygenated. When the blood supply to your spine and back muscles gets cut off, they’re not able to heal themselves as effectively, leading to back pain over time.
Smoking and the Spinal Discs
The discs that cushion your vertebra have a big job to do. They help absorb most of the shock you experience throughout the day. Every step you take; every move you make, the fluid in your discs is being depleted. In a healthy person, that fluid is replenished overnight, but a smoker may not be able to refill the discs as effectively. Over time, the discs can become so depleted that the vertebrae begin to rub against one another, causing severe back pain.
Smoking and the Back Muscles
As we mentioned earlier, muscles need a healthy blood supply to heal properly after injuries. During the course of a normal day, your back muscles are subjected to repeated impacts that wouldn’t be a problem for a healthy person. Everyday wear and tear on the back muscles can usually be healed over the course of a few days; however, for a smoker, that outlook is not so good. The decreased blood flow found in tobacco users makes it difficult for the body to heal itself, meaning minor back injuries tend to pile up until they become unbearable.
If you smoke or use other tobacco products (and yes, that includes e-cigarettes), back pain is just one of the many health problems you’ll likely have to face throughout your life. On this World No Tobacco Day, Resurgens Spine Center would like to encourage you to quit today. The sooner you quit, the more likely it is that your body will be able to recover from the damage that smoke and nicotine have done. Remember that you don’t have to face this battle alone; if you need help to quit, there are many fine tobacco cessation organizations in the Atlanta area, so don’t be afraid to seek them out.