It may be time to add spine problems to the growing list of not-so-positive things associated with smoking. While smoking doesn’t automatically mean that a person will have spine problems, research suggests it does increase susceptibility to back pain, which already affects anywhere from 60-80% of all adults in the United States at some point.
Finding a Link in the Brain
A recent study suggests that cigarette smoking may affect a part of the brain that controls pain, possible aggravating some spine-related problems and lower back pain. Two regions of the brain in particular, affecting addictive behavior and motivated learning, were also linked to the development of chronic pain.
Nicotine and Fusion Surgery
Whether or not a patient smokes may also affect the success of their fusion surgery. A possible reason for this is the connection between nicotine and bone growth. According to one theory, nicotine prevents essential nutrients from getting to the area where the bone graft is located, causing the fusion not to take. Anti-inflammatory properties of nicotine may also affect the healing process.
Smoking and Degenerative Spine Conditions
Smoking has also been linked to some degenerative spine conditions, especially in long-term smokers. Once again, the culprit is nicotine, which can restrict blood flow in areas that cushion individual vertebra, increasing the risk of developing degenerative spine conditions like spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) and osteoarthritis (affecting cartilage that supports joints). Smokers may also be more susceptible to experiencing pain from slipped or herniated discs.
Smokers may be up to three-times more susceptible to developing spine problems than their non-smoking counterparts. On a positive note, studies also suggest that after smokers kick the habit, they will no longer be at an increased risk of developing spine problems or have increased difficulty recovering from fusion surgery.
Are You a Smoker with Chronic Back Pain?
If you are experiencing some level of pain in your lower back and are looking at options for how to effectively treat it, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. We are proud to have some of the most experienced and talented spinal surgeons in Beverly Hills and can help you determine the cause and viable treatment options for your pain. Call us today at 310-828-7757 and schedule a complimentary, in-person consultation today.