Smoking and Spine Health: What You Need to Know
Many people begin to smoke cigarettes or e-cigarettes despite the very well known health risks, such as nicotine addiction, increased risk of lung cancer (and other cancers), heart disease, and decreased life expectancy. What many people often overlook is the other negative effects that are less widely discussed – including the impact nicotine and tobacco have on the spine.
Smoking Can Worsen Chronic Low Back Pain
According to numerous research studies, people who smoke are more prone to experience chronic pain – including chronic back pain – than people who don’t. This is due to the nicotine in tobacco products, which can “trick” the body into feeling good at first by triggering the release of chemicals in the body, such as dopamine.
At the same time, nicotine is decreasing blood and nutrient flow which can result in painful spine conditions such as osteoporosis. Additionally, decreased blood flow and nutrients to the spine result in slower healing, which eventually make painful conditions more prominent and worse.
Smoking Accelerates Degenerative Disc Disease
As mentioned above, nicotine and tobacco products limit blood flow, which includes limiting blood flow to spinal discs. When your spine is deprived of blood and nutrients, it speeds up disc degeneration. A degenerated disc is less pliable and is more likely to tear or crack, which can lead to herniation and other painful conditions.
On top of that, the insufficient nutrient supply can then prevent the spine from healing itself when discs are injured, which can cause painful conditions to worsen and result in nerve compression and chronic back or neck pain.
Smoking Can Affect Eligibility and Outcomes of Spinal Fusion Surgery
Research has shown that smoking can be detrimental to successful spinal fusion results. Furthermore, research also shows that even if a smoker obtains a solid spinal fusion, their long-term results will not be nearly as good as those of a non-smoker. These negative outcomes are due in part to the need for new bone growth in order to allow a fusion to heal and the adverse effect smoking has on the body’s ability to properly do that.
In addition to negative outcomes of surgery, smoking also puts patients at risk of postoperative infections due to how nicotine compromises the immune system and the body’s other defense mechanisms.
Because of the risks involved with taking on smokers as spinal surgery candidates, many doctors will no longer even consider their candidacy unless the patient is willing to quit smoking for at least one month prior to surgery and a commitment to avoiding started back up through the healing process – with stopping entirely being ideal.
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How Champey Pain & Spine Can Help
A Champey Pain & Spine Group, we make it our top priority to give our patients the best care possible and return their quality of life to them. People who are dealing with chronic back pain, degenerative disc disease, or are considering spine surgery should make every effort to stop smoking. If you have questions about how smoking affects spine surgery and pain management treatments and would like to speak to one of our spine specialists, please contact us today by clicking the button below.