The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 18 percent of the population are smokers. However; More than 50 percent of patients who seek treatments for pain are smokers. Everyone knows smoking increases you risk of lung disease, cardiovascular disease and cancer but most people don't know it increases all painful conditions. Studies have found that smoking actually increases your sensitivity to pain. Smoking a cigarette provides a short term pain relief due to nicotine but over time smoking actually makes your pain worse. Smokers are 2.7 times more likely to have low back pain than non-smokers. Smoking decreases the effects of pain medications making some pain sufferers increase their medication dosage.
Nicotine makes you feel good by triggering the release of chemicals such as dopamine that gives you a sensation of satisfaction. This "reward" is what makes smoking so addictive. Some of the chemicals in tobacco smoke impair the delivery of oxygen to your tissues. Smoking decreases blood flow and as a result decreases the nutrient flow to you cells. This reduction in nutrients and oxygen accelerates degenerative changes throughout your body. Our intervertebral discs normally have a very limited supply of oxygen and nutrients and any reduction due to smoking increased degenerative disc disease resulting in an increase in back pain and neck pain. Smoking also increases osteoporosis which can lead to weaker bones. The osteoporosis increases the risk of hip fractures and fracture of the spine. Smoking has been linked to slower healing, decreased immune function, fatigue, joint pain, abdominal pain, arthritis and fibromyalgia. Many orthopedic surgeons and neurosurgeons require spinal surgery patients to quit smoking long before they will perform any back surgeries. They know the success rate of these operations is much lower in smokers than in non-smokers.
If you are a smoker, please quit now. Quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. If you have neck pain, back pain or any other joint pain consult with your doctor of chiropractic.