Smoking and Low Back Pain

November 7, 2014

With the Great American Smokeout coming up on the 20th of November this year, I’d like to send out a bit of information on the effects of smoking on health. However, what I’d like to bring up specifically is its effects on something most people might not already be aware of. While increased risks of several types of cancer, especially of the lung, and cardiovascular conditions are well known, what isn’t as well known is that a history of smoking is a major indicator of low back pain.

I’m sure that even among our many non-smoking patients there are a number of friends or family members who do smoke. As of 2012, the national average of cigarette smokers was just over one in five, according to the Center for Disease Control, with South Dakota showing just above the average and approaching one in four adults. While many chiropractors would rather not be known as just ‘back doctors’, back pains are still a major factor when people decide to be seen by a doctor of chiropractic. That’s why this 2010 study between smoking and rates of low back pain is important.

In The American Journal of Medicine an article in 2010 was entitled “The Association between Smoking and Low Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis.” This article looked at 40 separate previous studies relating to smoking and low back pain. Based on their findings, it was determined that not only are people who smoke more likely to have low back pains in general, they were also found to more often have chronic and/or disabling low back pain. This increase even extended to former smokers, but not by as much as for current ones, of course. What was especially interesting was that the strongest correlation between smoking and low back pain was in adolescents.

While it’s always worth repeating that smoking is a major contributing factor to both cardiovascular disease and a number of types of cancer as well as being an unhealthy practice in general, nobody wants to go through life with low back pain. So if you or anybody you know smokes, just let them know about this article and study to make a slightly more informed decision.

--Joshua J. J. Jorde D.C.