Smoking and Back Pain

During your physical examination, your doctor will probably ask you if you smoke. If you do smoke, your doctor will want to know how often you smoke, and for how long. A new study, published by John Hopkins University, suggests a strong link between smoking and back pain. That same study also suggests a strong link between smoking and pulmonary and vascular diseases, including blockage of the arteries, coronary artery disease (blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the heart), high blood pressure, and cancer. The relationship between smoking and vascular diseases such as atherosclerosis may be directly related to back pain, because for the back to work properly, the tissues of the back must receive a healthy blood supply that includes oxygenated blood and healthy nutrients. Any lifestyle activities, such as smoking, that restrict healthy blood flow to the tissues of the back could cause back pain. Other risk factors, such as abnormally high blood cholesterol levels, were significantly associated with the development of lower back pain.

Smoking and high cholesterol levels, in the Hopkins study, were significantly associated with back pain and back conditions such as lumbar spondylosis. The conclusions, based on the Hopkins study results, were that smoking and unhealthy lifestyle choices (such as diets high in bad cholesterol and lack of exercise) that cause pathologically high cholesterol levels lead to atherosclerosis, which leads to degenerative spine conditions such as lumbar spondylosis and degenerative disc disease. Lumbar spondylosis and degenerative disc disease both involve a narrowing of the space between the vertebral bones of the spine. This narrowing of the vertebral space may cause structures to push against the nerve roots exiting the spine, causing back conditions such as referred pain and sciatica.

Lower Back Pain and smoking study results: The study results which were published at a major convention of the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons, said that the Johns Hopkins smoking and back pain study results supported the theory that long-term smoking damaged the vascular structures of the joints and intervertebral discs. The exact nature of the spinal pathology related to long term smoking has not been definitively proven, but the high correlation in the results between smoking, cardiovascular disease, and back pain has been shown in several research papers in major medical journals. Surprisingly, the Hopkins study found no significant correlation between degenerative disc disease, back pain, and diabetes.

For people who do wish to quit smoking, there are many resources available, from help groups, to products that can wean people off nicotine, one of the key substances found in cigarettes though to make smoking so addicting. Some of these resources include nicotine replacement therapy patches, websites such as, and smoking cessation products, including lozenges and gum that contain nicotine. While consuming nicotine containing products is a curious way to beat a nicotine addiction, research and patient experience has proven that patients who try to quit addictions by going cold turkey are rarely successful at long term abstinence from that addictive substance.

Any unhealthy lifestyles, from cigarette smoking, to a couch potato lifestyle, that raises blood pressure and restricts blood flow, is likely to lead to chronic health problems, including back pain. this case applied for smoking, which as been shown to harden blood vessels so that they don't work properly, or at optimum levels. On eye opening fact is that smokers are nearly 3 times as likely as non-smokers to develop back pain compared to non-smokers.