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Smoking Causes Back Pain

Smoking Causes Back Pain

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ back-to-back-to-back victories made them the first team in NBA history to win a championship after being behind in the playoffs three games to one. That caused serious pain for the Golden State Warriors and their fans.

But did you know that back problems are the real pain-inflicting champions in America—and a major cause of all that back pain is smoking!

Smokers have a 300 percent greater rate of chronic lower back pain than nonsmokers. Why? One theory is that the inflammation from smoke’s hydrocarbons coupled with decreased blood flow (nicotine constricts blood vessels) disrupts of the supply of oxygen to the spine’s discs which leads to degeneration (ouch!). Plus, smoking kills off cells that build bone. Even secondhand smoke has been shown to negatively affect bone mineral density.

The negative effects on the back from smoking are so profound, that at Dr. Mike’s Cleveland Clinic, spine doctors won’t perform an elective spinal fusion operation on a patient who smokes. For those patients that means no smoked marijuana (one joint releases hydrocarbons equal to four cigarettes, triggering inflammation), no chewing tobacco, no cigars.

So if you have chronic back pain and you smoke, your best, first step is to quit! (You’ll also reduce your risk for lung, esophageal and other cancers, COPD, stroke and heart attack.) Need help? Go to my.clevelandclinic.org. Dr. Mike’s program is 63 percent effective on the first try for at least seven months. Be a champ. You can do it!

Medically reviewed in May 2018.

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