Smoking Linked to Back Pain & How Chiropractic Care May Help

smokingMy mother was a smoker until she became pregnant with my older brother. Thirty-two years later, she still craves the occasional cigarette, and encouraged all three of her children to never take up smoking. “You don’t want to like it, so why try it?” she would say. That made sense to me, so I’ve never smoked – not even once.

I’m thankful to my mother for a lot of things, but her advice about smoking is one of the bigger ones. At almost 30, I have no wrinkles or fine lines, I’m frequently mistaken for a teenager, and I enjoy excellent health. I also don’t suffer from chronic back pain.

Huh? Back pain? It turns out there’s another danger from smoking that we don’t hear about as often as premature aging and lung cancer, and that’s back pain. New research has shown that smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop chronic back pain. Fortunately, kicking the habit may prevent the condition from developing.

Bogdan Petre, lead author of the study and a technical scientist at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, concluded, “Smoking affects the brain. We found that it affects the way the brain responds to back pain and seems to make individuals less resilient to an episode of pain.” In the study, 160 adults with newly reported back pain underwent MRI scans and were asked to describe the intensity of their back pain. They were then asked about their health habits, including whether they smoked. 

The MRIs enabled the researchers to study activity in two areas of the brain linked to addictive behavior and motivated learning. The more these areas communicated, the greater the chance of developing chronic pain. “That circuit was very strong and active in the brains of smokers,” Petre said. “But we saw a dramatic drop in this circuit’s activity in smokers who — of their own will — quit smoking during the study, so when they stopped smoking, their vulnerably to chronic pain also decreased.” 

Now that I have my own son, I’ll be teaching him that he doesn’t want to try cigarettes, because he doesn’t want to like them. It worked for me and my brothers, and I hope it also works for my son. If not, I’ll tell him he’s not just at risk of lung cancer, looking older, or smelling like an old ashtray; his back could be affected as well. 

If you’re a smoker and you’re experiencing back pain, consider quitting. In the meantime, you might want to make an appointment with your chiropractor. Here at The Joint, our licensed doctors of hiropractic, specialize in healing ailments related to the bakc, vetabrae, ligaments and muscles. With regular adjustments, back pain may become a thing of the past, and you’ll find yourself happier and healthier in the process.


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