Giving up is usually a bad thing, but if you’re talking about smoking, giving it up is the best thing you can do! People experiencing chronic back pain and related health problems need to know that their treatment may be compromised by a smoking habit. In fact, here at the Spine Institute Northwest we will not perform minimally invasive spine surgery on a patient who is a smoker until he or she has successfully quit. Smoking is associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes, including cancer, heart disease, and early death. But in case that’s not enough reason to quit, here’s how smoking can specifically impact your back.
It’s Harder to Heal
Nicotine is a vasoconstrictor, which means that when you smoke, your blood pressure increases and your arteries shrink. This puts added pressure on your heart and limits the blood flow to your extremities. This negative effect on the circulatory system means that if you smoke it becomes harder for your body to deliver blood to the parts of your body that need it most. If you are trying to recover from an injury or damage to your spine, your body will have a harder time delivering blood (and everything that goes along with it) to that injured part of your body, delaying the healing process.
It Weakens Your Bones
Just as smoking can cause visible damage to your hair, nails, skin, and teeth, it also hurts your bones. Nicotine, as well as the free radicals released through smoking, kills osteoblasts. These are the cells responsible for building and repairing bone structures. Cigarettes can also disrupt the production of hormones that support bone health and increase the number of enzymes in the liver that target estrogen, leading to further hormone loss. The net impact is that people who smoke are more likely to develop osteoporosis and to experience bone fractures, including vertebral compression fractures.
It Inhibits Disc Growth
The US-based National Center for Biotechnology Information has noted that smoking has been shown to interfere with the growth of the cells in the spinal discs. This means that cells are not replenished as quickly as they need to be, which can make your discs more susceptible to damage. Worse still, it makes any damage or injury (like from degenerated discs) more difficult for your body to repair.
It Makes It Hard to Breathe
You know that smoking damages your lungs and circulatory system, but what does that have to do with your back? Simple: When your breathing and circulation are impaired, it makes it more difficult to stay healthy. Poor circulation and breathing difficulties make exercise difficult, which usually means that the smoker’s level of activity goes down. In addition to losing the health benefits of exercise, this can also lead to weight gain. Both added weight and lack of physical activity compound many back problems.
Make 2016 the year you take charge of your health! Work with your general practitioner, and enlist the support of your friends and family, to come up with a quitting plan that you can stick with. When you’re fully smoke-free, you’ll be ready to take the next step by tackling your chronic pain. As soon as you’re ready, the Spine Institute Northwest will be there to help—just call us at 888-712-0318.