One More Reason To Give Up The Smokes

It’s not like anyone should need one but here is one more reason to give up cigarettes if you suffer from back pain. A study by Caleb Behrend and colleagues from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York has found that “Patients with spinal disorders who quit smoking may experience substantial improvements in back pain”

Interestingly the authors of the study state that they have identified smoking as a “modifiable risk factor” for chronic pain disorders and “Furthermore, with regard to chronic pain disorders, smokers have reported an increased magnitude of pain when compared with nonsmokers.”

I can speak from experience here as I am coming up on 12 months cigarette-free after being a smoker for twenty-odd years and although I certainly feel healthier for doing it, I can’t say that giving up has noticeably increased or decreased my pain level. I wish I could say that it greatly diminished it but life wasn’t meant to be that easy was it!

I guess in a lot of ways smoking for me was a ‘comfort habit’, if the pain was getting to me, which it tends to do when you have been battling it for a while, I used to go outside with a cup of coffee and sit down and have a break, and a smoke of course. For a long time I told myself I couldn’t give them up because I need this ‘relief’.

If you feel the same way then let me tell you that as much as your mind says it helps, having a smoke to de-stress or relieve your pain does not work!! You’d be better off giving the smokes up and using the money you save to get a light massage or some acupuncture or something like that!

Below is the article regarding the study but let me give you one more tip, if you do really want to give the smokes up and ‘Champix’ is available in your country go see your doctor for a prescription. Both myself and my wife gave up using Champix and it heaped immensely.

Patients with spinal disorders who quit smoking may experience substantial improvements in back pain, according to the findings of an analysis of a prospectively maintained database.

Caleb Behrend, MD, from the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and colleagues present their findings in an article published in the December issue of the Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery.

The authors mention that smoking has been identified as a modifiable risk factor for chronic pain disorders. “Furthermore, with regard to chronic pain disorders, smokers have reported an increased magnitude of pain when compared with nonsmokers,” the authors write. “Glassman et al. found that smoking cessation in patients undergoing spinal arthrodesis was associated with increased patient satisfaction, fusion rates, and return to work.”

In the study, the authors reviewed questionnaires for 5333 patients completed at the time of entry into care and at the time of the latest follow-up. Patient-reported pain scores were assessed using a visual analog scale (VAS).

Compared with never-smokers, current smokers reported significantly greater pain scores at the latest follow-up (mean VAS score, 4.49 [95% confidence interval (CI), 4.15 - 4.84] vs 3.59 [95% CI, 3.49 - 3.70]; P < .001).

Patients who quit smoking reported significantly greater improvements compared with current smokers in worst (mean VAS score, ?1.56 [95% CI, ?1.94 to ?1.17] vs ?0.70 [95% CI, ?0.90 to ?0.51]; P = .013), current (mean VAS score, ?1.07 [95% CI, ?1.44 to ?0.70] vs ?0.46 [95% CI, ?0.66 to ?0.28; P < .05), and average (mean VAS score, ?1.23 [95% CI, ?1.56 to ?0.86] vs ?0.46 [95% CI, ?0.66 to ?0.27]; P = .024) weekly pain.

In addition, nearly 2-fold more patients who quit smoking reported a more than 30% decrease in worst pain than current smokers (32.0% vs 16.6%), and never-smokers reported a greater mean improvement in disability as determined by the Oswestry Disability index than current smokers (?7.3 points [95% CI, ?8.1 to ?6.5 points] vs ?4.6 [95% CI, ?5.6 to ?3.6]).

According to the authors, limitations of the study include their inability to capture the effects of all possible factors that may influence pain and determine when patients stopped smoking or experienced improvements in pain.

They conclude that smoking cessation programs are needed to improve chronic pain among patients with spinal conditions. “The present study supports the need for smoking cessation programs for patients with axial or radicular pain of spinal etiology, given a strong association between improved patient-reported pain and smoking cessation,” the authors write.

Asked for independent comment, David O. Werner, MD, from the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, agreed with the authors’ conclusion. “This suggests that tobacco use interventions should be an integral part of pain treatment,” Dr. Werner told Medscape Medical News. “Given the tremendous health benefits of quitting, clinicians should take every opportunity to help every smoker quit, but if pain is improved, this makes the issue even more urgent for the pain physician.”

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