Smoking is one of the causes of back pain or slipped disc.
Effects of Smoking on Back Pain
In one form or another, most people are familiar with lower back pain. We cringe at the mention of terms like “slipped disc” or “disc bulge,” which can lead to pain and disability. Indeed, people usually associate lower back pain with either strained muscles or problems with one of the shock-absorbing inter-vertebral discs. If this disc is irritated or bulges, it may cause pain and nervous system interference.
Medical researchers have identified a factor that contributes to the risk of back pain: smoking. Cigarettes smoking may have a harmful on the health of the inter-vertebral discs. Smokers not only have greater disc degeneration than non-smokers, but that effect occurs at all spinal levels. Studies have explored the relationship between demographics, health risk factors and incidence of low back pain and sciatica (nerve pain down the buttocks or leg) than non-smokers.
A number of theories offer possible explanations for this phenomenon. One is that cigarette smoking may cause a reduction or restriction of the blood supplies to the disc tissue. This would cause a slower rate of healing in the event that the discs became injured, predisposing one to more serious disc disease with nerve interference. Such a decrease in circulation may also be related to inadequate maintenance of healthy disc tissue.
Smoking increases the acidity of disc tissues. This change in disc tissue acidity levels may play a role in the gradual degeneration and weakening of the disc. Other theories suggest that the chronic coughing of smokers over time may increase pressure on the disc and contribute to the eventual weakening of disc tissues. Additional research suggests that smoking may interfere with the metabolism of bone, thus leading to microscopic fractures in the vertebral end plates directly above and below the inter-vertebral discs. Such fractures would impair the delivery of vital nutrients to the discs.
Other studies support this notion, suggesting that smokers in their late 20’s show greatly diminished bone volume and higher demineralization rates compared with non-smokers. These factors play an important role in healing from various forms of lower back surgery and other surgeries involving bone.
Readers may also remember that smoking dramatically increases the rate of breakdown of Vitamin C, which could create deficiencies of this water-soluble nutrient. Vitamin C is essential for the production, maintenance and healing of connective tissue such as inter-vertebral discs, hence chronic deficiencies may further contribute to the deterioration of discs.