Is Smoking and Vaping Causing Your Pain?

Is Smoking and Vaping Causing Your Low Back Pain?

In the United States, smoking cigarettes continues to be the leading cause of preventable disease and death.  As of 2020, 30.8 million Americans smoked cigarettes. Most of us know the negative impact it can have on our heart and lungs, but did you know that it also has a negative impact on our bones, joints and muscles? It can, and it can even make low back pain and other body aches worse!

How Smoking Increases Pain and Injury Risk

Smoking reduces blood flow throughout our body, which can make our bodies feel achy and stiff.  Nicotine, the most addictive chemical in cigarettes, causes blood vessels to get more narrow.  This reduces the amount of blood the vessels can carry and will eventually cause them to lose their flexibility.  To add more fuel to the fire, this loss of blood vessel flexibility will cause the heart to work harder and, therefore, lead to higher blood pressure.

When we have decreased blood flow, there are lower amounts of oxygen going into our tissues.  Less oxygen to our soft tissue puts us at a higher risk of injury and if you are already injured will slow your healing time.  Reduced blood flow also means that lactic acid is removed from muscles at a much slower rate, so sore muscles will stay sore for longer.  Studies have suggested that smoking is associated with the development of rotator cuff tears, and commonly smokers develop larger tears than non-smokers.  

Smoking and Back Pain are Linked

Studies have also shown that smokers with sub-acute back pain were three times more likely to progress to chronic back pain.  This is due to smoking changing how our body interprets pain and processes it in the brain.  Smoking cigarettes also can make it more likely for someone to have disc degeneration, overuse injuries such as bursitis and tendonitis and traumatic injuries such as strains, sprains and fractures.  It will also cause a fracture to heal slowly or not at all due to nicotine negatively impacting new bone formation.

Get Support to Quit Smoking

So, now that you know how smoking not only impacts your heart and lungs but also your soft tissues such as muscle and bone, how do you stop? Quitting smoking and vaping is incredibly difficult, so having a good support system can play a positive impact in the success in smoking cessation.  Talk to those who you know will support your goal of quitting smoking.  Look into smoking cessation services in your area or ask your workplace to see if they offer smoking cessation support.

Exercise to Remedy the Effects of Smoking

To begin to combat the negative effects of smoking on your body look into starting a cardio and stretching program.  Cardio can mean a variety of different things, such as walking, jogging, biking, etc. Pick the one that works best for you.  The key with starting a new cardio program is to start with smaller duration and speed and slowly work your way up.  Your body is going to be going through a detox process after quitting smoking, so be patient with yourself during this process.  

Below are some stretches to consider trying to help improve tissue quality and increase blood flow to the muscles in the lower back and shoulders. Use these stretches anytime you want to relieve stiffness in your lower back or shoulders. You can also reference our Facebook page for other stretches and exercises for your body here:  Balanced Fitness & Health - Home | Facebook