When you live with chronic pain, you know how hard it can be to find any relief. However, smoking can worsen chronic pain, and cause other health problems. The addictive substance in cigarettes is called nicotine. Nicotine is sneaky, and tricks your body into thinking it feels better for a short period of time. However, smoking can interfere with your pain management plan. Here is the information you need to know about the link between smoking and chronic pain.
How does smoking worsen chronic pain?
As we mentioned earlier, nicotine can only make your body think that it feels better. However, this nicotine-induced relief doesn’t last long, and it comes at a high cost. Smoking and nicotine don’t offer any real relief from chronic pain. The fact is that smoking worsens chronic pain.
Oxygen is essential to your entire body. Your lungs help deliver oxygen to your blood. Then, your blood carries nutrients and oxygen throughout your body. When you smoke, you inhale many different chemicals. Over time, your lungs won’t be able to work properly.
In addition to damaging your lungs, smoking can cause other organs, tissues and bones to weaken and develop other conditions because of the lack of oxygen and nutrients. Smoking can also make it harder for your body to heal, worsen fatigue and increase inflammation. These symptoms can make existing chronic pain even worse, but adding smoking to the mix can have a serious impact.
- Lung cancer
- Heart disease
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Chronic bronchitis
- Other chronic lung diseases
Smoking Linked To Lower Back Pain
This section originally written by Lorie Parch
Back pain is a condition that plagues at least 80% of Americans at some point in their lives, with causes ranging from strenuous work to a bad mattress. With fingers being pointed toward numerous causes over the years, a new study suggests that smoking could be a leading cause of back pain.
Smokers, especially younger smokers, have been shown to report lower back pain more often than non-smokers, particularly among adolescents and women. Fortunately, lower back pain caused by smoking can be partially reversible.
Researchers from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health reviewed over 80 studies from around the world from 1966 to 2009, involving more than 300,000 people. The people studied were smokers, previous smokers, non smokers, and lower back pain patients. The studies suggested that smoking can inhibit bone regeneration, accelerate spinal breakdown, impair blood flow to the spine and surrounding muscles, and lead to more pain.
While none of the studies were aimed at showing the cause and effect of smoking in relation to lower back pain, it did show a significant outcome of accelerated pain without other cause. It also showed that younger adults and adolescents who smoked were more likely to experience pain, as well as other ailments that could progress the back pain even more, such as hypertension or high cholesterol.
While many other factors that contribute to lower back pain can be easily explained, such as a high BMI (Body Mass Index) or heavy occupational lifting leading to spinal injury, the body usually will repair itself. This study suggests that smoking can lead to slower healing of bone and muscles and can impair proper blood flow, which can lead to injuries not recovering properly.
For instance, if someone suffered a small fracture in their shoulder, and didn’t give it the time to heal properly, calcium deposits would likely build up in the fracture, preventing it from fully healing. The break would essentially be unable to re-fuse, leading to years of chronic pain, the risk of further break, and the possibility of other bone disorders developing later in life, such as osteoporosis.
Injuries need a proper environment in which to heal, which might include time, relaxation, and taking care of the body.
To be clear, these studies do not necessarily say that smoking causes back pain, but that smoking can play a role in spinal degeneration and impaired healing. To help relieve the effects of lower back pain in association with smoking, quitting the habit can not only lower the pain but can help jumpstart the healing process, leading to better wellness in the spine and greater overall health.
What can you do to feel better?
The first step to feeling better is to quit smoking. Stopping smoking can be challenging, but you can do it. Here are some quit smoking tips.
- Choose your quit day. Pick a day that is a couple of weeks away, so you have time to prepare. Mark your quit day on a calendar. Write the date down and tape it to your mirror. Tell your family and friends. Do anything you need to do to help you stick to your quit day.
- Ask for help. Tell your family and friends about your plan to quit smoking. They will be part of your support system, and they will be able to offer you encouragement. Let them know of ways they can help you ahead of time.
- Be prepared. Before your quit day, get rid of anything that reminds you of smoking. This could include ashtrays, cigarettes and empty cigarette cartons. Clean your house, car and clothes thoroughly. The smell of old smoke can trigger cravings, so getting rid of things that remind you of smoking can help you stay on track.
- Talk with your doctor. Your doctor will want to know about your plan to quit smoking and will be able to help you stay smoke-free. At first, you may need to use nicotine replacement patches or gum. Your doctor can recommend the best products for you and give you advice on how to use them properly. Your doctor will likely want to keep track of your progress as well.
- Join a support group. Quitting smoking is hard, and you might feel frustrated sometimes. Joining a support group is a great way to meet people going through the same situation you are. You can hear their stories and gain valuable advice about what has worked for them.
Remember: it takes time to quit smoking.
But, you can do it. While there is a strong link between smoking and chronic pain, there are steps you can take to feel better. Living a smoke-free life adds up to better long-term pain management and overall good health.
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