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Does Being a Smoker Affect Your Back?

Back Pain can be added to the list of health risks that smoking may influence. Studies in Finland have found that smoking is associated with back and spine pain, in a review of over 40 studies which was documented in the American Journal of Medicine. The study reported that that a significant amount of smokers experienced low-back pain compared to non-smokers.  So how exactly does exposure to nicotine damage the spinal structures?

Smoking affects blood vessels which may constrict and lead to the degeneration of arteries which provide blood to vertebraes. According to Dr. Jennifer Solomon, who is a Psychiatrist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City,

“When you decrease the blood supply you decrease the oxygen and nutrients to these living structures. This, in turn, leads to degeneration and pain.”

Does Smoking Cause Spine Problems?

This association does not mean smoking directly causes back pain but rather that it does suggest that smoking plays a part in the degeneration of discs and many other back ailments which contribute to back pain. Genetics are probably the largest contributor to spinal degeneration, but low back pain and arthritis of the neck are at least 3 times more common in smokers, according to Dr. Eeric Truumees, an orthopaedic surgeon from Seton Spine and Scoliosis Centre in Austin, Texas. Problems which arise from spinal degeneration include neck/back arthritis, herniated discs and bone spur formations. Smoking’s role in this is that it increases the rate at which discs degenerate.

Women and Teen Smokers are at an Increased Risk of Back Pain

Women who are even just light smokers are at an increased risk of back pain, says Dr. Truumees. Also the Finnish study mentions that the relationship between low back pain and teens who smoked was stronger than for that of adults who smoked.


The good news is that any effects of smoking on the spine are in some way reversible. What is meant by this is that if/when you stop smoking, you may find you experience less back pain.While the Finnish review noted more back pain in people who had successfully quit smoking than in those who had never smoked, former smokers had less back pain than current smokers.

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