How can smoking affect fibromyalgia?

Smoking cigarettes can increase the pain you feel due to fibromyalgia, a condition that makes muscles and other body parts more tender and responsive to stress. A 2002 study of 223 women with fibromyalgia found that those who smoked experienced more pain, numbness, trouble functioning, and overall severity of symptoms than the women who did not smoke. Smoking lowers the level of oxygen in your blood, which can increase the sensation of pain. And nicotine is a mental stimulant that can increase your perception of physical pain, which can cause you to experience fibromyalgia symptoms more acutely.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
This much you can probably bet on: Smoking isn't going to make your fibromyalgia any better. Not much is known about the link between smoking and fibromyalgia. But the few clues we have suggest that smokers are more likely to develop this chronic condition. And if a smoker does have fibromyalgia, he or she usually has worse symptoms than nonsmokers. Why that might be true isn't clear, but there's little question that sitting around in a cloud of smoke worsens headaches and other common symptoms of fibromyalgia.

You probably didn't need another reason to quit smoking, but here's one all the same: It just might make fibromyalgia easier to manage.
Dawn Marcus
Approximately one in four people with fibromyalgia smokes. Using nicotine changes a number of important brain chemicals that affect pain, including endorphins, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

These nicotine-induced changes in brain chemicals make you more sensitive to pain. In an interesting study of 984 people with fibromyalgia at the Mayo Clinic, pain and disability were both significantly worse among those who were smokers. In addition, problems with work, sleep, stiffness, anxiety, and depression were all significantly more impaired among participants who used tobacco. A similar Korean study of 336 people with fibromyalgia found a link between smoking status and pain, functional disability, and mood. Although smoking doesn't cause fibromyalgia, it generally worsens the severity of chronic pain conditions, including fibromyalgia.

Smoking can also decrease the effectiveness of pain medications:
  • Smokers use more painkillers than do non-smokers.
  • When taking the same amount of painkillers, blood concentrations are lower in smokers.
  • Smokers get less pain relief from taking pain medication.
Smoking may reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants. Smokers taking antidepressants to treat mood problems experience less of an improvement, as compared with nonsmokers using the same drugs.
The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit: Manage Your Symptoms and Take Control of Your Life

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The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit: Manage Your Symptoms and Take Control of Your Life

The Woman's Fibromyalgia Toolkit tells readers what they need to know to take control of fibromyalgia symptoms. It includes step-by-step instructions for using effective non-drug treatments,...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.