It’s well documented that smoking has a negative effect on your whole body. It raises your risk of developing multiple health problems, from heart disease and stroke, to lung disease and cancer. Smoking is also associated with increased chronic back pain and is a risk factor for spine problems such as degenerative disc disease. If you know that chronic pain is linked to smoking, that should give you the impetus to include quitting smoking in any list of the top spine health tips.
Take responsibility for your own back health by making healthy lifestyle choices, including giving up smoking. The doctors at the Southeastern Spine Institute (SSI) offer many spine health tips for reduced back pain, but they also encourage all their patients to do everything they can, including quitting smoking, for improved spine health.
How Smoking Worsens Back Pain
If you have chronic pain, you may think that turning to cigarettes relieves your pain, even if only briefly. Unfortunately, this is an illusion. Short-term pain relief from nicotine can ultimately lead to long-term problems. Tobacco, and the nicotine in it, can cause health concerns that include:
- Less efficient delivery of oxygen-rich blood to your tissues and bones
- Frequent fatigue
- Slower ability to heal from injuries
- An impaired immune system
- Increased risk of infections
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means it narrows the blood vessels. This works against your body’s efforts to heal from back trauma or pain. Reduced efficiency of your blood flow can be damaging, particularly in spinal discs, which already have limited blood flow. Nicotine also deprives the cells in spinal discs of vital nutrients, leading to discs that are dehydrated, less pliable and more prone to injury.
Smoking and the Perception of Pain
Besides having the potential to cause multiple health problems, smoking also increases pain sensitivity in general. The habit of lighting up is associated with fatigue, which can make existing pain seem more noticeable. Smoking also causes you to tolerate any pain less well.
Smoking cigarettes also affects your brain activity, which can affect how you experience pain. For smokers, symptoms of pain may seem more intense and unrelenting. The good news is that if you quit smoking, many smoking-related health problems improve rather quickly, including this tendency to experience more intense pain.
Spine Health Tips to Help Reduce Back Pain
Chronic back pain makes doing the simplest activities difficult or uncomfortable. It can lead to missed days of work or avoidance of activities that you used to enjoy. Pain relief starts with avoiding activities that damage your health —such as smoking. Follow logical spine health tips from your back specialists, such as exercising, choosing healthy foods and practicing good ergonomics and posture.
Talk to the experts at SSI if you need help quitting smoking and to find out more about things you can do to experience less back pain and better back health. If you follow your doctor’s spine health tips, starting with giving up smoking, you give your body an opportunity to heal and keep your spine as healthy as possible. It’s an important step toward reducing your back pain, all while improving your overall health.