More than 4,000 chemicals are found in cigarette smoke, with the most potent being nicotine. If you’re one of 40 million or so adults in the United States who smoke cigarettes on a regular basis, a reduction in back pain could provide an added incentive to give up the habit according to board-certified Los Angeles spine surgeons.
The chemicals in cigarettes affect intervertebral discs, the soft, spongy discs that cushion your spine as it moves. Degenerative disc disease, in particular, may be hastened from a reduction in essential nutrients caused by changes in blood vessels from smoking.
There’s evidence smoking may accelerate damage to your spine due to a toxic effect on the nucleus, or center, of cells within spinal discs. As a result of this cell damage, discs become progressively weakened, which increases the risk of experiencing a collapsed disc. Even if a disc doesn’t collapse entirely, it may become increasingly susceptible to herniation, where inner disc material pushes outward.
A study of 25,000 patients with spinal issues found that smokers reported more occurrences of back pain than non-smokers in the same study. It’s been suggested that smoking may change your perception of pain by affecting the part of the brain that interprets pain signals.
Weakened bones can increase your risk of sustaining a spinal fracture. The National Osteoporosis Foundation reports a strong link between smoking and osteoporosis. One study noted a 5 to 10 percent increase in bone loss among women who smoked. There’s also evidence suggesting secondhand smoke may have a similar effect on bone mineral density.
If you’re recovering from a spinal injury, smoking can increase your overall healing time or cause other issues with the natural healing process. This is why patients are advised to stop smoking prior to having any type of spine surgery.
Most of the adverse effects of smoking can be reversed by simply quitting. Nicotine patches can reduce withdrawal symptoms as you wean yourself off cigarettes. The anti-depressant medication Zyban (bupropion) works on chemicals in the brain to ease smoking cravings. Your doctor can provide added assistance.
If you’re experiencing back pain and are looking at effective treatment options, reach out to The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration. We are home to talented spine surgeons who specialize in fusion and non-fusion spinal surgeries. Call (310) 828-7757 to schedule a consultation today.