That cigarette with your cup of morning coffee is relaxing, isn't it? You can just feel the tension release from your body as you light one up and deeply inhale. Smoking is a powerful habit, the anxiety release fully understood only by people who either currently smoke or have smoked in the past.
However, according to Dr. Edit Balan, your brain and your serotonin levels aren't fooling your back and you can reduce your back pain if you stop smoking. Dr. Balan, director of the pain clinic of the GHS in Haifa, Israel, presented a study at a conference on back pain which shows that smokers have twice the risk of experiencing back pain than non-smokers.
The Oxford Journal on Rheumatology hypothesizes 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), can potentially cause changes to interior arterial walls and changes in blood flow. Perhaps the reason for less back pain in the anti-smoking crowd can be attributed to more efficient blood flow.
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, further evidence that quitting smoking is an important consideration for back pain sufferers.
If you're considering a "stop smoking" New Year's resolution, we know it's not easy (but it's healthy!) - so here are 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.
- Do something different. Go for a walk instead of a smoking, take a drive to somewhere new, drink water or juice instead of alcohol, or purchase an herbal tea in the morning instead of coffee.
- When you get that craving to smoke, keep your hands busy. You can try woodwork, knitting, 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.
- Do your 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 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 - call a friend, walk into a store, pay a bill, watch 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!
You can also keep a Stop Smoking Craving 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.
Additional Stop Smoking Resources