If spinal fusion surgery is in your immediate future and you’re among the nearly 40 million Americans who smoke, use your upcoming procedure as an excuse to kick the habit. The reason for this advice is the fact that the rate of non-fusion (pseudarthrosis) is twice as high for people who smoke. Tobacco products also affect small blood vessels and hinder circulation, which is another thing that isn’t so good for a healing spine. If you need some help quitting smoking prior to spinal fusion surgery, here are some tips to get you started.
No matter how strong you think your willpower is, simply stopping “cold turkey” isn’t likely to be an effective method—although nine out of ten smokers do try this approach before considering other techniques. While it’s certainly something you can try, just realize that cold turkey only works for about 5 to 7 percent of smokers trying to quit.
The purpose of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is to develop coping techniques based on what tends to trigger your urge to light up. A counselor or CBT specialist assists with this process. You’ll also be taught how to redirect your thoughts and control your impulse to smoke even when faced with stressful situations you can’t avoid.
Smoking cessation programs are similar to cognitive behavioral therapy programs in that you’ll be identifying your smoking triggers. The main difference is that you’ll be doing this in a group setting instead of one-on-one. Some people prefer this approach to quitting smoking because of the added support from other individuals going through the same thing.
If cold turkey proves to be ineffective, another avenue to explore is nicotine replacement therapy (NRT). While nicotine isn’t something you want to have in your system, NRT may make it easier to transition to a period when you no longer have a strong craving for this highly addictive substance. For some smokers, CBT and smoking cessation programs may be more effective when NRT is used as a temporary crutch to reduce withdrawal symptoms. Nicotine replacement comes in many forms, including:
• Nicotine patches worn for up to 24 hours at a time
• Nicotine gum—the general recommendation is one piece every 1–2 hours
• Nicotine lozenges, inhalers, or sprays
Another way to manage the cravings and withdrawal symptoms that sometimes make it difficult to quit smoking is with medication prescribed by a primary care physician or Los Angeles spine surgeon. However, prescription drugs such as varenicline or bupropion hydrochloride aren’t meant for NRT purposes, since they don’t contain nicotine. Other possible smoking cessation methods include:
• Various forms of exercise
• Yoga-related moves and relaxation techniques
• Using healthy foods to combat cravings
Some doctors minimize risks for patients who are smokers with the use of growth factors known as bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs). With this technique, BMPs are injected prior to surgery to help with bone and cartilage formation. One study based on two-year post-surgery assessments found that 95 percent of smokers who received BMPs had successful fusions. While these results are impressive, it should be noted that a nonsmoker is still more likely to have a positive experience with fusion surgery.
Smokers have a variety of reasons to quit, but it’s especially important for those who want to maximize the effectiveness of spinal fusion surgery. Los Angeles spine surgery patients who need help with any aspect of spinal health can trust the industry-leading experts at The Spine Institute to provide the most innovative, high-quality methods of comprehensive care, both before and after surgery. Call one of our friendly staff members today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.