There is no shortage of information on the health risks of smoking. But can smoking actually affect your back pain? For smokers, the lifetime risk of developing a spinal fracture is increased by 32% in men and 13% in women. Smoking can negatively affect back pain in quite a few ways. Some of them may surprise you.
Smoking Reduces Blood Flow
Think of blood as the vehicle that carries oxygen and other vital nutrients through the blood vessels to the areas your body needs them most. The additional carbon monoxide that enters the bloodstream while smoking damages the walls of these blood vessels. Over time the damaged vessel walls begin collecting fats and plaques that eventually make it difficult for blood through these clogged up highways.
Smoking Can Damage Bones
If the vehicle that transports healthy nutrients throughout the body is packed full of toxins, it can wreak havoc on every part of your body, including your spine. Osteoblasts are cells that allow your body to create new bone and osteoclasts are cells that break down and reabsorb bone. The toxins in smoke prevent both osteoblasts from doing their job fully and increases the amount of osteoclasts. This breaks down old bone and lowers the body’s ability to create new bone. Over time, this can drastically increase the risk of osteoporosis.
Smoking Upsets Repair Process
Weakened blood flow paired with damaged cells that are meant to repair bone can make a recovery from an injury or damaged disc longer and more painful than that of a non-smoker.
Smoking reduces the vital oxygen supply as other chemicals enter your body in the form of smoke. Now, not only are the arteries not able to carry as much blood to the back, but there is less oxygen and a higher level of harmful substances in your bloodstream.
Smoking introduces a slew of foreign chemicals that damage the body and can cause consistent inflammation. As we’ve discussed before, inflammation is your body’s natural way of healing itself. But if the body is trying to heal both the damage that smoking is causing and your injured back, it will likely take longer to get you back on your feet.
Coughing Causes Strain
The body’s natural reaction to inhaling smoke is coughing. Even non-smokers can tell you that when they cough, their back often hurts. Your body is making sudden jerking movements while your supporting muscles are tense, which is bound to cause some pain. Coughing often doesn’t cause spine injuries, but the jarring action could worsen the pain of an already injured spine or slow the healing of a prior injury.
If you have tried everything and you are still experiencing back pain, the answer might be as simple as putting down cigarettes. It’s no easy task to give up something that helps you relieve stress, but by quitting now you might save yourself from the higher stress levels of a spine injury down the road.