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Dr. Hooman Melamed’s Ultra-Minimally Invasive Biportal Endoscopic Approach to Spine Surgery: Learn More

How Smoking Affects The Spine

The risks of smoking nicotine have been extensively researched and advertised. This includes conditions such as heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, and cancer. Unfortunately, the list of negative health effects of smoking is not limited to just those risks, and more research is coming out about how smoking cigarettes or e-cigarettes can cause spine and back problems. 

How Does Smoking Cause Back Pain?

  • Smoking is a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.

Smoking is linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, particularly for people who have smoked for over 20 years. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the lining surrounding joints, including those in the spine. Researchers say that smoking ignites faulty immune system functioning in people who are genetically predisposed to developing RA. 

In addition, smoking decreases the effectiveness of some drugs used to treat RA and can be a barrier to engaging in activities that may relieve symptoms, such as exercise. Even light smoking is linked to an elevated risk of RA so it is important to eliminate nicotine if you want to avoid the development or progression of this disease. 

  • Nicotine leads to the degeneration of intervertebral discs.

Nicotine restricts blood flow to the discs that cushion your vertebrae, reducing the exchange of nutrients from the blood vessels to the discs. This loss of cushioning can cause back pain and eventually leads to degenerative disc disease

  • Smoking kills healthy bone tissue.

Studies have shown a direct relationship between nicotine use and decreased bone density. Smoking reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, leaving smokers with an increased risk for osteoporosis (brittle, fragile bones) and slower healing after bone fractures, which can cause back pain.

  • Smoking changes pain perception.

Findings indicate that long-term smoking causes receptor desensitization, creating the perception in smokers that a relatively small amount of pain is severe. Nicotine has analgesic properties that, at first, can help relieve acute pain. However, over time, nicotine can alter pain processing and contribute to the development of chronic pain and greater pain intensity.

This paradox is an important aspect of both acute and chronic pain management for patients who use nicotine products. Furthermore, smoking deprivation – either caused by a longer-than-usual amount of time between periods of intake or attempts to quit – causes patients to have shorter pain latency. 

Do You Use Nicotine Products and Experience Back Pain?

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the U.S., estimated to affect 8 out of 10 Americans at some point in their lives. According to the American Chiropractic Association, back pain is the main reason for missed days at work and the second most common reason for doctor’s visits. Although you would not normally associate spine or back problems with smoking, there are multiple ways in which they are related. 

How can you reduce or eliminate your back pain? The first step is to reduce or stop cigarette use. Smoking is associated with a variety of health issues, and quitting can reduce your back pain and your risk of developing a more serious condition. For more immediate pain relief, visit an orthopedic doctor. Dr. Hooman Melamed can perform a variety of therapies, surgeries, and treatments for conditions such as arthritis of the spine or degenerative disc and joint disease. 

However, as he tells all of his patients, the first step is quitting this nasty habit. He understands that this is an incredibly difficult process, and his team is here to provide you with all the resources you need. Watch this informational video of Dr. Melamed explaining just how bad smoking is for the spine. 

Take control of your back pain! Call (310)-574-0405 or make an appointment online today.