Smoking may not necessarily lead to lower back pain, but this risk still exists for current smokers, especially adolescents, according to new analysis in The American Journal of Medicine.
Based on the recent findings of Finnish researchers who analyzed 40 previous studies on lower back pain in current, former and never smokers, there is a “fairly modest” association with smoking and lower back pain.
However, the association between smoking and experiencing lower back pain is much stronger in adolescents, suggesting to the study's researchers that younger people may be more vulnerable to the negative effects of smoking than adults.
Also in this analysis, current smoking was associated with an increased prevalence of lower back pain in the past month and previous 12 months. Current smokers additionally sought more care for lower back pain, and their incidences of chronic lower back pain and disabling lower back pain were higher.
The Finnish researchers added that the effects of smoking may be reversible since former smokers had a lower prevalence of lower back pain than current smokers. Still, current and former smokers did have higher incidences of back pain in the lumbar spine (lower back) than people who never smoked.
The effects of smoking on the lumbar spine have been examined in the past, with a theory noting that nicotine constricts the blood vessels and can lead to blood flow changes that deprive the spinal discs of essential nutrients and make it harder for the spine to repair itself naturally.
Smoking has also been linked to delaying the healing process for patients who have undergone back surgeries like spinal fusion.
Smokers experiencing lower back pain are advised to stop smoking for not only their spine but their lungs, with anti-smoking medications like Zyban and Chantix possible considerations for breaking this addicting habit.