Does your back hurt? You might think it is because you slept wrong, or because you lifted something incorrectly. But there's another possible culprit, one that can fire up soreness.
"Smoking cigarettes can lead to increased back pain based on multiple different levels," said Anand Navarasala, DO, FAAPMR, a rehabilitation specialist with Franciscan Physician Physician Network. Here are three ways your smoking habit is hurting your back.
Often, concern about smoking and blood flow focuses on its impact on the heart, but the rest of your body is impacted as well. "Because nicotine can alter the size of the blood vessels and the ability for the body to adapt, that can cause increased damage to the ligaments as well as muscles within the spine region," Dr. Navarasala said.
The disks of the spine, which provide cushion to the spine and offer ranges of motion, are impacted by smoking as well.
"Smoking can actually cause breakdown of the disk because there's lack of nutrient exchange, specifically where the bone meets the spine disk," Dr. Navarasala said. "In terms of the disk itself, the presence of nicotine in the blood stream actually can decrease not only the healing but also the regeneration of the cells within the disk.
"Additional mechanisms of action include lack of blood flow to the muscles that surround the spine. These can include muscles on the back of the spine here that can lead to increased pain and discomfort."
In addition to causing multiple diseases, cigarette smoking has many other adverse effects on the body, such as causing inflammation and impairing immune function. "In terms of back pain, a lot of the progress that you potentially might make during physical therapy and the treatment plan that we outline can quickly be negated if smoking continues," Dr. Navarasala said. "That's very important to understand early on in this process."
Learn more about smoking cessation programs in the new year.