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Smoking Cessation Reduces Back Pains

Previous research has shown that smoking increases the risk for low back pain, spinal disorders and poor post-operative outcomes. Glenn R. Rechtine, MD, of the University of Rochester Department of Orthopaedics reports that their new study, published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, reveals that smokers who do not stop smoking suffer from significantly greater discomfort  related to spinal disorders compared to smokers who quit their habit.

The study involved more than 5,300 patients who had spinal disorders accompanied by back pains and leg pains and were being treated surgically or non-surgically for eight months. The researchers noted that upon entry to the study, nonsmokers and patients who previously smoked suffered from lesser degrees of back pain than current smokers and those who had just quit during the study. Using the visual analog scale (VAS) to report pain, the patients indicated their worst, current, and average weekly pain ratings.

The results showed that during the 8-month study period, improvement in back pain was clinically significant among nonsmokers. They also found that current smokers who quit smoking during treatments experienced greater improvement in pain scores than smokers who did not quit.Using another parameter called the Oswestry Disability Index low back pain assessment, the investigators reported a greater mean improvement in patients who never smoked compared to current smokers.

Dr Rechtine emphasizes that nicotine increases pain and is one of the modifiable factors that can influence outcome of treatment for low back pain. He believes that their study demonstrates the need for patients with spinal disorders to undergo smoking cessation programs given that a strong association exists between smoking cessation and improved patient-reported pain.


American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Patients with severe back pain who quit smoking report less pain than patients who continue to smoke. ScienceDaily.

Posted in: Back Pain, Cigarette Smoking, News Briefs, Pain Management, Quitting Smoking

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