While it is not news that smoking is bad for your overall health, many people do not usually associate it with low back pain.
Certain lifestyle issues like smoking, obesity, and lack of exercise prevent many patients from finding satisfactory pain relief over a long period of time. Research has actually shown that smoking causes back pain. Quitting smoking is always recommended for any patient rehabilitating from back pain. It is not enough, however, to just quit smoking. Additional pain treatments like surgery, medication, exercising, and injections are important as well.
Spinal fusion surgery patients experiencing back pain, must quit smoking prior to surgery. Research has shown that smoking puts the patient at a disadvantage for achieving a solid fusion. Even if a solid fusion is achieved, the final result will not be nearly as good as the result a non-smoker will achieve.
It has been speculated that the reason that smokers have a higher incidence of low back pain than non-smokers is because smoking causes malnutrition of discs. The discs become brittle and susceptible to stress. Nicotine-induced vasoconstriction (constricted blood vessels) possibly alters the interior arterial walls and alters blood flow. Non-smokers typically have more efficient blood flow.
In order to quit smoking, the American Cancer Society suggests:
Making a definite decision to quit. Don’t just try to quit – make a decision and stick with it.
Staying away from the places where smokers gather. Do not go to your usual places.
Doing something different. Take a walk or go for a drive.
Keeping your hands busy. Try woodwork, knitting, or pottery.
Deep breathing. It may simulate the feeling smoking gives you.
Save your money. Treat yourself to a reward for not smoking with the money you are saving.
It is a difficult decision for many patients to choose between living with low back pain and trying to quit smoking. Once the pain becomes too much and the patient finally realizes that smoking is associated with their pain, the decision should be easy – Stop Smoking.