The potential health hazards of smoking are well known today. However, you may not be aware of the ways secondhand smoke can affect spine health. Though spinal issues caused by secondhand smoke are not likely to require minimally invasive back surgery, Beverly Hills spine surgeons still recommend avoiding secondhand smoke as much as possible.
Secondhand smoke refers to situations where someone near you is smoking and you are directly exposed to the smoke. In addition to contributing to respiratory issues and cancer, secondhand smoke may also be a source of back pain. There is compelling research from a comprehensive study suggesting secondhand smoke exposure may have an even bigger impact on spine health for smokers.
Secondhand Smoke and Smokers
The extensive study was based on data from thousands of women, all of whom were tracked for more than 20 years. Researchers observed that children who were exposed to secondhand smoke were more likely to become smokers themselves. In addition, subjects who were currently smokers and had previous exposure to secondhand smoke were 73 percent more likely than nonsmokers to develop ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These two forms of arthritis can affect the spine and its supporting joints and soft tissues and contribute to chronic pain.
Secondhand Smoke Exposure Differences
Participants who did not report any secondhand smoke exposure during childhood were only about 37 percent more likely to develop arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis. Researchers also noted the correlation between the two conditions appears to be linked to how long people are exposed to secondhand smoke, noting that subjects who reported exposure as a child were more likely to develop one of the two forms of arthritis. They also noted a difference in the severity of diseases that affect the spine.
Decreased Blood Flow and Lack of Sufficient Nutrients
This latest research is backed by previous studies suggesting that certain chemicals in cigarette smoke, particularly nicotine, can affect blood flow to the spine and circulation. This means sufficient amounts of essential nutrients like calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B, C, D, and K aren’t reaching the spine, the discs that cushion it, and the muscles that support it.
How RA and AS Affect the Spine
Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the cervical spine more than the lower back. It can contribute to joint damage and deterioration due to chronic inflammation, which may lead to nerve compression and disc-related conditions. With ankylosing spondylitis, vertebrae in the spine may fuse over time, resulting in persistent pain and stiffness often felt in the lower back, hips, buttocks, and thighs.
If you are currently a smoker and you’re also periodically exposed to secondhand smoke, this recent research may serve as an added incentive to make a serious effort to kick the habit. Fortunately, many of the effects smoking has on tissues, including those in and around the spine, can be reversed simply by quitting smoking. If you’re a nonsmoker, your risks are lower, but it’s still a good idea to avoid being around others who smoke as much as possible, especially if you already have issues with spine-related pain.
To learn more about the effects of secondhand smoke on spine health, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. We specialize in a wide array of fusion and non-fusion procedures, including XLIF surgery, decompression, and spinal cord stimulation. Beverly Hills patients can trust in Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of expert surgeons to diagnose the source of their pain and help them find relief. Call The Spine Institute today at 310-828-7757 to schedule an in-person evaluation.