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Are you aware that cigarettes are bad for your back?

Smoking can cause the individual discs in your spin to degenerate faster than they should. This is because these discs are cushion-like sponges which are placed between each vertebrae, requiring a healthy supply of water, blood and other nutrients to stay in top form. Smoking is known to restrict blood vessels for up to four hours after exposure (this is the same for non-smokers exposed to smoke) and this in turn can cut off the blood supply to the vertebrae. Basically smoking can dry out your vertebrae and thus cause back pain in the long-term (see results of study below).

When people age, their vertebral discs become smaller…….. this is a natural process which is why elderly people tend to be smaller in height. Also, when we sit a lot, the compaction of the discs through gravity accumulate throughtout the day making us shorter by the end of the day then in the beginning. As we age, we tend to sit more and more, usually because of limitations within our body exacerbated by smoking.

Some chiropractors claim that heavy smokers of say 40 year olds,can  have the spines of a 60 year old person due to their habit. Not only will smoking constrict your vertebrae but also greatly increases the chances of you suffering from a serious back problem like a ruptured or slipped disc. If you are a smoker and you suffer from a back injury it is very likely that the healing process will take much longer.

Everybody knows about the fact that smoking can cause heart disease, lung cancer and a list of other illness but, very few individuals are aware of the effects of smoking on the spine. If you have a history of back problems in your family you should be aware of this, and add back injury to the list of possible smoking related health problems.

Many smokers who suffer from back injuries are unaware that their cigarettes have anything to do with it, and will invariably blame other factors for their problem. It is never too late or to early to quit smoking and the health benefits when you do quit are enormous. Youing people continue to smoke because they feel that the health risks are insignificant, but in the future they are likely to regret the day they ever picked up that first cigarette.

As mentioned above, smoking is known to be bad for your back. Here is a little more detail for those who require it…….smoking decreases nutrition to the tissues of the back largely due to carbon ammoniate that cigarettes contain. Carbon monoxide, causes problems when it sticks to the haemoglobin (the oxygen carrying part of the blood), this decreases the amount of oxygen to the muscles, and oxygen is an essential nutrient for the healing process. The other side effect of cigarettes’ is: that nicotine is known to cause thickening of the wall of the blood vessels and this in turn will reduce the blood flow throught the large and small blood vessels of the lower back.

Smoking can have detrimental effects on the discs, as the blood suppy to the disc depends on the movement of the body to push oxygen and nutrients to them, however if the disc doesn’t get the oxygen they need, then eventually small cracks start to appear in them and finally ruptures appear. This is why smokers have more of a chance to develop hip, wrist and spine ruptures.

The study on smoking and low back pain, which examined 1,337 physicians who graduated from John Hopkins University between 1948 and 1964, followed some participants for more than 50 years. Researchers discovered that smoking history, hypertension and coronary artery disease – all of which are risk factors for atherosclerosis or occulusion of the arteries – were significantly associated with the development of low back pain.

The same risk factors, along with abnormally high blood cholesterol levels, were also significantly associated with the development of lumbar sponylosis. The findings provide support for the hypothesis that arterosclerosis causes lower back pain and degenerative disorders of the intervertebral discs. The study results, which were reported at the annual meeting of trhe American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Francisco, lend support to the theory that the mechanism of injury in low back pain is damage to the vascular structures of the discs and joints.

Numerous researchers have proposed a link between smoking and low back pain, but the exact nature of that link have remained largely untested in terms of long-term prospective studies. “Because we had the subjects’ medical records and answers from self-reported questionnaires over such a long period of time, a 53 year period of time for the oldest patients, we were able to determine if the risk factors, such as smoking or high cholesterol, preceded the developement of the disease years later,” said Nicholas U. Ahn, Chief Resident in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the John Hopkins Hospital in Balitmore and co-author of the study.

“To prove a causative association from a long-term prospective study is very powerful because one can show that the cause occured before the effect as opposed to the other way around,” Dr. Ahn explained.

Conclusion from Smoking and Low Back Pain Study

The study concluded that development of lower back pain was significantly associated with smoking history and hypertension, and development of lumbar spondylosis was significantly associated with smoking history, and hypertension and high cholesterol. No significant association was reported between diabetes and lower back pain or lumbar spondylosis.

Adapted from posts by Stuart Stevens and Donald J Frisco, MD

From the day you give up smoking it has been shown to be beneficial to your body, it takes a number of years to significantly improve a condition caused through smoking, but it can be done…….it just takes that first step.