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Lower Back Pain & Smoking

This article was written by an excellent Spine Specialist just down the street from my office.  The information is excellent.  Please pass it on to any of your friends who smoke.  (See my comments below the article)


        Q: Does Smoking Really Affect My Back?


        A: Smoking and Spine Health


Everyone is aware of the negative impact that smoking has on our general health including our heart and lungs.  We all know how smoking decreases our sense of taste and smell, as well as, how smokers tend to look older than their age.  This is because substances within cigarette smoke affect connective tissue.  What one may not be aware of is that this connective tissue not only involves the skin, but also our muscle and skeletal structure.  The spine is particularly prone to damage.  These degenerative or age-related changes are noted on x-rays.  What we do know is that when someone smokes, the acceleration of these degenerative changes is 4 times that of a nonsmoker’s pace.  When things degenerate or “wear out” they are more apt to fail, ie., rupture or herniate.  Smokers tend to have a much higher rate of disc degeneration and as a result, double the risk for disc herniations.


When one looks at smokers, there is a higher incidence of back pain as compared to nonsmokers, and when a smoker requires surgical intervention, there is an increased risk for failure of their surgery due to a number of factors.  These factors include an increased risk of: infection, blood clots, and lung or pulmonary complications including pneumonia.  There is an increased risk for failure of any spine surgery, especially those involving bone healing or fusions.  Smoking is not benign.


If you are living constantly with back pain, one of the most substantial things you can do to help your back, is to stop smoking. If you are a smoker and surgery is ever indicated, if you stop smoking six weeks prior to the surgical date, your risk of complication drops down to the same as a nonsmoker.


For a healthy back, one has to treat their body accordingly in terms of good nutrition, good sleep patterns, and regular exercise routines.  Healthy habits are essential.  Smoking tends to negate any benefits that you may have created with any other lifestyle change. 
Taken from Long Island Spinal Columns 2011 Edition, Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.


Dr. Levin's comments:

I couldn't agree more with this information, especially as we get older.  One of the problems with smoking is that you're not oxygenating your tissues well.  With out adequate oxygen delivery, muscles, tendons, ligaments and joint cartilage won't heal as well and become more prone to injury. 

A second major issue our joints have to deal with is free radical damage.  When we're young, we have powerful antioxidant systems that rapidly neutralize free radicals created by our own metabolic activity as well as those caused by the environment.  As we age however; our antioxidant systems get weaker just as our bodies begin to create free radicals at a more rapid pace.  The resulting free radical damage creates inflammation (ouch).  Guess what else creates enormous amounts of free radicals???  That's right: Smoking!  So smokers have increased levels of inflammation in their bodies as a whole and in their joints as well.  This is one of the reasons that the joints of a smoker will tend to degenerate much more rapidly than those of a non-smokers.  


Let's face it, if you're a smoker you know that you should quit.  After reading this article, if your a smoker with neck or back pain, now you have another reason to do it.


There are several nutrients that offer excellent support for the health of your joints.  Click here to read "Back Pain: The Must Have Nutrients ," for great ways to support your neck and back while reducing inflammation and pain.


Eat well, exercise, maintain a positive mental attitude and supplement wisely, that's how we'll age gracefully together.

Here's to your good health,

Dr. Neil Levin, chiropractor, nutritionist, fitness trainer

Practicing in East Northport, NY (631)  651-2929