Can Smoking Cause Lower Back Pain?

Even though there are certain health and lifestyle risk factors for lower back pain, it affects people from all walks of life. Whether you eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly, lead a sedentary life or spend 10 hours a day behind a computer screen, you are susceptible to back pain. The truth is that in addition to risk factors, back pain is usually part of an underlying problem.

Then there are overt lifestyle choices that, at first glance, wouldn’t seem to cause back pain but do such as smoking. It’s no secret that there are a variety of health risks associated with smoking including heart disease, several forms of cancer and even infertility. But what doctors are now discovering is that habitual smoking has been linked to lower back pain. 

Smoking & Back Pain

If you are a regular smoker and you have other indicators and risk factors for lower back pain, your chances are increased for sciatica. This could be due to the fact that smokers—in general—are not as physically active as non-smokers. In fact research has shown that smokers are at a higher risk for lower back pain than those who do not smoke regularly.

What isn’t quite clear is why smoking is linked to pain in the lower back.

One of precursors to lower back pain is damaged spinal discs. The discs in the spine work to cushion the vertebrae, but age and deterioration can cause these discs to slip or herniate. This can happen to anyone, but it appears that smoking clogs up the arteries that supply fresh blood and oxygen to the lumbar region. Smoking also inhibits the body’s ability to transport nutrients your body needs to repair the spinal discs. Without these nutrients, the discs can deteriorate and cause back pain.

It isn’t just the effects of cigarettes that can cause lower back pain, but also what is in cigarettes such as nicotine. Nicotine can dull the body’s response to pain, which means you may not feel mild back pain when it first occurs and therefore don’t take the proper steps to repair the pain. After a while, that mild pain will become more severe.

Smoking has one very common nasty side effect: coughing. Cigarette smokers have a notorious cough, sometimes referred to as a dry hack, which can cause back muscles to pull, strain and sprain. The chronic cough can lead to chronic back pain.

Finally, smoking slows down the body’s ability to heal itself. A reduced ability to heal can cause the pain to worsen, especially if it is due to injury or trauma to the spine or back muscles.

Treat Smoking-Related Back Pain

The most obvious treatment to relieve back pain associated with smoking is to quit smoking. It will be a long and tempting process, but ultimately provides the best course of back pain treatment.

Until you officially join the ranks of the non-smokers of the world however, there are other steps you can take to relieve lower back pain. The first step is to begin a regimen of vitamins that include calcium and vitamin D to strengthen the bones, particularly the spine to make them stronger and less susceptible to injury.

Another great way to strengthen the muscles in the back and improve flexibility is through exercise and stretching. The stronger and more flexible your spine and muscles are, the less likely you are to succumb to back pain. In addition to these blatant treatment techniques, secondary techniques such as a back cushion or leg pillow can relieve pain when sitting or lying still.

Maintaining proper posture helps keep your spine from becoming abnormally curved, which can cause acute back pain. Whether you are sitting at a desk, on a sofa or behind the wheel of a car, good posture will prevent pressure from building up on the lumbar region.

If the pain persists for more than a few weeks, seek the help of a physician or spine specialist for diagnosis and treatment. 

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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