Low Back Pain? What a Drag


As you eagerly grab your cigarette for a much needed break, you may want to consider the harm such a pleasure has on your spinal column. Not only does it affect your vertebral health, but according to the World Health Organization, tobacco causes over 5 million deaths per year worldwide. They estimate by 2030, there will be 8 million deaths annually from tobacco use. Despite these facts, 46.6 million American adults use tobacco.

How Does Smoking Affect the Spine?

Nicotine is an alkaloid (an organic compound) found in tobacco leaves that acts as a stimulant in mammals, thus being the main factor for cigarette addictions. If you’ve been smoking for more than twenty years you may have found it is harder to quit, especially as tobacco companies increased the nicotine percentage by 10% from 1998 to 2004.

Nicotine changes the way your body functions. The nutrient and oxygen-rich blood flow to the discs is restricted by nicotine, as it is by carbon monoxide, which is also found in cigarettes.

When carbon monoxide sticks to the hemoglobin (oxygen-rich part of your blood), it decreases the amount of oxygen throughout the body. This blockage increases smokers’ chances of suffering from back pain, as disc degeneration is present. Both chemicals can cause atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of the arteries) to develop, which is a common cause of heart attacks, strokes, and artery diseases.

Smoking Damages Spinal Bones

Smoking reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, which increases the risk of developing osteoporosis (porous bones). Osteoporosis is a disease characteristic of weak bones. Fractures commonly occur in the spine, wrist, and hips. The bones may become so brittle that falling or even coughing may cause a fracture. Bone loss of 5% - 10% can result in adults when one pack of cigarettes is smoked every day. Pre-menopausal women are more susceptible to osteoporosis especially if they smoke cigarettes decrease estrogen levels.

Facts about Smoking Induced Low Back Pain

Here are some facts about back pain and smoking according to the University of Michigan Health System.
  • The development of back pain is 2.7xs more likely in smokers than compared to non-smokers.

  • As smokers age, they are more likely to develop low back pain.

  • Men smokers do not develop low back nearly as much as women smokers.

  • The deterioration of spinal discs may be blamed on smoking

  • The National Institute of Health claims the risk of low bone mass and fractures are reduced when smokers stop smoking, though it may take many years to lower the ex-smoker’s risk.

Relieve your Low Back Pain

Smokers, it’s always a good time to stop smoking. Did you know that after just 2 days of not smoking, the nerve endings in your back will begin to re-grow? Yes, that’s right, and according to the University of Michigan Health System, they grow because your blood flow has wider, interference-free blood vessels. How much better would life be without the powerful influence of cigarettes?