Most cigarette smokers report that they smoke to relax and relieve anxiety. Unfortunately, as we all know, "stress relieving" smoke is wreaking havoc in the body. What you may not know is that cigarette smoke is also increasing back pain.
The Oxford Journal on Rheumatology hypothesizes that the reason for a higher of incidence of back pain amongst smokers is that smoking leads to malnutrition of discs, which in turn become more brittle and vulnerable to stress. Nicotine constricts blood vessels (known as nicotine-induced vasoconstriction), and can potentially cause changes to interior arterial walls and blood flow. More efficient blood flow may be the reason why the anti-smoking crowd has less back pain.
A study of 3,222 smokers and non-smokers conducted by the Division of Clinical Epidemiology in Montreal, Canada concluded that smokers have more frequent episodes of back pain than non-smokers, providing further evidence that quitting smoking is an important consideration for back pain sufferers.
We know it’s not easy to quit smoking. We’ve compiled some tips, tricks and resources to help you get through the adjustment period. These tips come from the American Cancer Society's suggestions about how to kick the smoking habit for good.
- Make a definitive decision to quit. Don't try to cut back, or "think about" quitting smoking. Decide to do it and stick with your plan. Choose a date that you will stop smoking and pick a smoking cessation plan that will work for you.
- Stay away from places where smokers convene or where you are used to smoking. Being around other smokers or in places that remind you of smoking may prove to be too tempting at first.
- Do something different. Substitute healthy habits for the unhealthy habits you associate with smoking. For example, go for a walk instead of taking a smoke break, drink water or juice instead of alcohol, or purchase an herbal tea in the morning instead of coffee.
- When you get a craving to smoke, keep your hands busy. You can try woodworking, knitting, creating pottery or even taking up an instrument. Snack on healthy, crunchy foods, like carrot sticks or seeds. You can chew sugar-free gum. If you are having an exceptionally hard time kicking the smoking habit, many people "take the edge off" by starting with nicotine gum and gradually transition to non-nicotine gums.
- Try deep breathing. Inhaling deeply can help simulate that feeling you had while smoking, but you'll feel better breathing clean air rather than smoke.
- If you do break down and feel like you absolutely need a cigarette, force yourself to wait 10 minutes. Often, by the time the 10 minutes are up, the craving has passed and you will be able to skip the cigarette. Distract yourself during that 10 minute span by calling a friend, walking into a store, paying a bill, watching TV, etc.
- Save up the money you would have spent each week on cigarettes. Use some of the money to treat yourself to dinner or a movie, book, CD, or other reward for quitting smoking!
There are also anti-smoking medications available such as Chantix and Zyban.
You can also keep a journal to keep track of when your cravings are the worst and make informed decisions about what to do during those times to improve your anti-smoking efforts.
Find more information in the Stop Smoking Wellness Center
Additional Stop Smoking Resources
SmokeFree.gov: Information and resources for quitting smoking from the U.S. government
The Stop Smoking Guide: Anti-smoking product reviews, forums and blog
QuitSmokingSupport.com: Support and information to help you stop smoking