Smoking and Chronic Pain

It is well known that smoking can lead to many long-term health issues such as cancers, heart disease,and stroke; however, it is less known that smoking can affect healing and pain in the body. 

Nicotine in tobacco can reduce pain sensation in the short term; however, other associated effects of smoking such as decreased blood oxygen, increased blood carbon dioxide, and decreased blood flow increase pain in the long term after the effects of nicotine wear off.

Due to the short-term pain-relieving effects of smoking, smokers with chronic pain will often smoke more, further promoting chronic pain. 

Smoking produces free radicals which lead to significant stress and damage on the body.  These free radicals are normally neutralized with antioxidants such as vitamin c, vitamin e, and glutathione.  However, neutralizing free radicals consumes these antioxidants, after which they are not available to perform their many normal functions in the body. 

Smoking can promote the development of disc herniations in the back.  As we discussed previously, nicotine and other components of tobacco decrease blood flow and quality of oxygen delivered to the body.  This slows the normal healing rate of all tissues.  This can lead to accumulated damage over time in the cartilage of the joints and the discs of the back as the reduced healing rate may not be quick enough to repair the wear and tear of normal daily life.  Eventually, this can lead to degeneration of the discs of the back or even disc herniations, and smokers have an increased chance of these conditions over those who do not smoke.  

Cartilage is present over the joint surfaces of the body, and accumulated wear of the cartilage surfaces can lead to pain and arthritis

Smoking is a particular concern with regards to healing from an injury where smoking both slows healing and promotes chronic pain.  Auto accidents produce multiple injuries throughout the body.  Healing from these injuries already requires significant nutritional resources due to the many areas involved. 

Decreased oxygen in the body due to smoking promotes chronic pain especially when other injuries are present. 

The combined effects of smoking make it much more difficult to recover from injuries sustained in an auto collision and can lead to the situation where pain becomes chronic and long lasting despite apparent healing of injuries. 

With so many negative effects of smoking giving up smoking is among the best things you can do for your health.  However, as with any addiction giving up smoking is not easy and the process of doing so can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety. 

Chiropractic therapy can help manage and decrease many of the effects of smoking including the aches and pains in the body and in the process, help decrease stress as you adopt a healthier lifestyle.  Contact our Chiropractor in Aloha/Beaverton or Portland, OR if you are suffering from joint pain