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Quit Smoking:
Back Pain and Cigarette Smoking


Smoking doubles the risk of suffering from severe back pain, according to statistics presented at a conference on back pain in Haifa, Israel (2000). The study showed that smokers have twice the risk of suffering back pain than non-smokers.

A more recent study (2003) found a modest but consistent association between smoking and musculoskeletal pain, including back pain. “In comparing those who had smoked with lifetime non-smokers, increased risks were found at all of the sites considered (neck, upper limbs, back, and lower limbs),” according to Keith T. Palmer, MD, et al.

The researchers sent a questionnaire to 21,201 British adults selected randomly from general practices and to 993 soldiers selected randomly from pay records. Questions were asked about pain in the low back, neck, and upper and lower limbs during the past 12 months; smoking habits; physical activities at work; headaches; and tiredness or stress.

They found that, compared with those who had never smoked, current smokers had about a 50% higher incidence of reporting “pain in the past year preventing activity,” meaning pain so severe it precluded the individual from going to work or performing housework or hobby activities. The association was found even in ex-smokers. What's more, this association held even among respondents who had white-collar or other jobs that did not require heavy lifting or moving.

One possible reason why smoking raise pain levels is that “tobacco smoking might cause general damage to musculoskeletal tissues” by reducing blood supply to these tissues, raising clotting risks, or reducing the flow of nutrients to muscles and joints.

Quit smoking today!

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