Smoking and Low Back Pain

Smoking and Low Back Pain

The fact that smoking is not good for your health is not exactly news, but most people do not associate smoking with pain.

Lifestyle issues such as smoking, as well as lack of exercise and obesity, hamper the patient’s ability to find sufficient pain relief over the long term. In fact, research has shown that smoking causes back pain.

In my own personal experience with treating back pain patients, I have seen that chronic smokers rarely ever recover from chronic pain conditions even with a variety of treatments.

While quitting smoking is a necessary component of any patients' personal rehabilitation from low back pain, it is rarely a sufficient means, and other pain treatments such as injections, surgery, medication, and exercising are essential.

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As far as spinal fusion surgery for patients with low back pain, quitting smoking prior to surgery is critical. There is a lot of research showing that smoking is detrimental to obtaining a solid fusion, but now there is also research showing that even if a smoker gets a solid fusion, their ultimate result is not nearly as good as a non-smoker. A recent study by Dr. Steven Glassman found that smokers who did not quit at least a month prior to their surgery were far more likely to return to smoking within a year. Given the expense, pain and lengthy recovery of any lumbar fusion surgery it is only reasonable to have the best biological situation for a successful outcome.

For many patients, there is a distinct choice between continuing to live in pain or going through the challenge and discomfort of quitting smoking. When the pain gets bad enough, the choice can be easy enough, especially if the patient realizes that smoking is very closely related to the pain.

By: Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD

Article written by: Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD