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Smoking and Back Pain: The Hidden Connection

Back pain is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. In Wakefield, over 63,000 people are experiencing back pain (18%). One often overlooked factor in the development and exacerbation of back pain is smoking.

Despite the prevalence of smoking reducing over the past 10 years in Wakefield, according to Primary Care data, 18.1% of the local population still smokes.

Whilst the harmful effects of smoking on respiratory and cardiovascular health are well documented, its impact on spinal health is less widely known. It’s important to educate the public about the link between smoking and back pain, shedding light on how lighting up can contribute to aches and pains in the back.

How does smoking affect the spine?

The relationship between smoking and back pain may seem indirect, however, research has shown that smoking can have profound effects on spinal health. Nicotine, the addictive substance found in cigarettes, constricts blood vessels, reducing the flow of oxygen and essential nutrients to the spinal discs. This reduced flow can contribute to vertebral disc degeneration, a common factor contributing to back pain.

Smoking has also been found to impair the body’s ability to absorb calcium, a vital mineral for bone health. In addition, it is linked to decreased bone density, increasing the risk of conditions such as osteoporosis which can increase a person’s risk of sustaining a fracture.

Does smoking slow healing?

The simple answer is yes. For those already suffering with back pain or any musculoskeletal injury, smoking can impede the healing process. Studies have shown that smokers are slower to recover from injury and surgery compared to non-smokers. This delayed healing can prolong pain and discomfort, leading to reduced quality of life.

Smoking has also been shown to increase inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation can be a contributing factor to many types of pain, including back pain. By perpetuating this inflammatory response, smoking can intensify existing pain and make it more difficult for a person to manage their symptoms.

The benefits of kicking the habit

While the connection between smoking and back pain is clear, the good news is that quitting smoking can lead to improvements in overall wellbeing and spinal health. Research shows that former smokers experience less pain than current smokers, highlighting the benefits of kicking the habit.

Quitting smoking can improve blood flow to the spine, allowing for better nutrient delivery and facilitating the healing process. Stopping smoking can also help to preserve bone density and reduce inflammation, further reducing the risk of back pain.

The link between smoking and back pain highlights the importance of addressing lifestyle factors in the management and prevention of spinal conditions. By quitting smoking and adopting healthy habits, people can protect their spinal health and reduce their risk of experiencing back pain. If you’re a smoker struggling with back pain, quitting smoking may be the key to finding relief and improving your quality of life.

For support on how to stop smoking, visit our Health Coach, the NHS site or Yorkshire Smokefree.

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