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Smoking Increases Back Pain

A major Canadian study has identified a higher rate of chronic lower back pain among people who smoke every day, particularly the young.

Professor Michael Cousins said the research suggested their smoking habits were interfering with pain transmitters, causing osteoporosis or affecting their spine-related blood circulation.

“Chronic pain is now regarded as a disease in its own right,” said Professor Cousins. “Patients with it rapidly progress into a downward spiral of physical, psychological and environmental changes, resulting in major deterioration of all life activities, in their work, family and community roles.”

Researchers used health survey data from more than 73,000 people aged 20-59 to look for any link between smoking and back pain.

It was found that while 15.7% of non-smokers reported chronic pain, for daily smokers the figure was 23.3% and the association was stronger in younger adults.

The study was controlled to ensure fitness, weight, education and other factors which can differ between smokers and non-smokers did not skew the results.

The Spinal Centre’s Comment:

Smoking can cause back pain in a few different ways.

Nicotine from cigarettes can affect the way in which the brain processes sensory stimuli, thus affecting our perception of pain. Basically, smoking will affect the way the brain sends its pain signals.


(And highly likely) Smoking damages musculoskeletal tissues in the lower back and elsewhere in the body by reducing blood supply and the flow of nutrients to joints and muscles. This slowing down of circulation can cause muscle spasm, cramping, aches and even clotting in the tissues and blood vessels.

Recurrent coughing or stooping to find cigarettes all add to this risk, making smokers more likely to experience back pain.

If you are a smoker, there’s no doubt you’ve heard it before – you MUST quit smoking. And it’s never too late.

No good comes of sucking on a cigarette. Cigarettes contain more than 4000 chemical compounds and at least 400 toxic substances. It is responsible for around 17,000 deaths in Australia every year, placing massive pressure on hospitals and loved ones because of a useless addiction.

Give up now, before it’s too late. Kick the habit, and say good-bye to likely chronic back pain and an array of deadly, smoking-related diseases.

As well as quitting smoking, What Else Can I Do?

  • Get regular Chiropractic adjustments. Chiropractic care helps to achieve optimal spinal health, as well as treating and preventing a range of illnesses and disease. For more information on how Chiropractic care can help you, please click here.
  • Receive Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce cravings for cigarettes. Acupuncture focuses on your body’s energy (called “qi”), balancing the flow throughout the  body to prevent illness, pain and disease. To find out how Acupuncture can work for you, please click here.
  • Eat well. You should eat a well-balanced diet everyday, and this is particularly important when you are quitting smoking. Be careful not to go overboard with the treats and fatty foods. An occasional treat is fine, but your daily diet should consist of fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish, legumes, nuts and some low-fat dairy. Read our article ‘Health Promoting Nutrition’ for an easy-to-understand guide on how to eat to prevent disease and promote good health.
  • Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a major cause of many complaints. Keeping yourself well-hydrated will help you feel better everyday, and in turn will help manage withdrawal symptoms more easily.  To find out how much water you should be drinking everyday, click here.
  • Take a multivitamin. Smoking depletes our bodies of nutrients. Give yourself a boost with the help of a multi. This, combined with a good diet should help to minimise the fatigue that can often occur during nicotine withdrawal. For a list of our best multivitamins, click here.
  • Exercise daily. Exercise is simply incompatible with smoking. Regular exercise relieves stress and helps your body recover from years of damage from cigarettes. For more information on the many benefits of exercise, click here.

Further Reading:

If you like this article be sure to visit the Spinal Centre website at www.thespinalcentre.com.au and view more content by Dr. Hooper and the Spinal Rehabilitation Team.

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