Another Reason to Quit Smoking: Pain Relief

May 29, 2013

Healthy Life

Quit Smoking

Quit Smoking

If you’re a smoker you’ve probably heard all the reasons why you should quit. You may even have tried to quit smoking, but failed to kick the habit, or perhaps backslid into smoking again. As if you needed yet another reason to give quitting another shot, a new study presented at the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) shows that quitting smoking can mean less pain. This is especially true if you’re receiving treatment for spinal disorders.

The Study

The study reviewed medical and treatment information for 6,779 patients receiving medical care for spinal disorders, ranging from axial (spine) to radicular (leg) pain. Each patient’s file included his or her age, gender, weight, smoking history, self-reported pain levels, type of treatment and occurrence of co-morbid depression.  For the purposes of the study, patients were separated into two groups: those patients who were older than 55 and those patients who were age 55 and younger. In the study, 8.9 percent of patients over age 55 smoked. The rate of smoking was much higher among younger patients in the study. Overall, 23.9 percent of patients age 55 and younger smoked. Of the older patients, 25 percent had quit smoking. However, only 1 percent of the younger patients had managed to kick the smoking habit.

In both age groups, current smokers reported significantly higher levels of back pain and leg pain than the levels of pain reported in patients who had never smoked. Improvement in pain levels over the course of treatment was also significantly higher in non smokers than smokers. This difference in improvement was true for both age groups.

Quitting and Pain Relief

One result that emerged from examining the study data really caught the researchers’ attention. Namely, they were struck by the significant impact that quitting smoking had on pain levels and back pain relief. According to the study, patients who quit smoking during their treatment reported receiving greater pain relief than those who continued to smoke. In fact, among the study group, patients who continued to smoke reported no clinically significant improvement in reported pain levels. This lack of improvement in back pain over the course of treatment was true for both age groups of patients.


Among its many harmful health effects, smoking is a well known risk factor for back pain as well as spinal disc disorders. However, this new study also reveals that smoking has a detrimental effect on the effectiveness of treatment for back pain. The study also reveals that quitting smoking can make a real difference in whether or not treatment for spinal disorders is effective.

Patients who refuse to give up cigarettes risk receiving little or no pain relief, despite the physician’s best efforts. It would also seem that physicians must seriously consider how to deal with patients who smoke and who report spinal pain. The implication of the study seems to indicate that physicians should strongly encourage patients receiving treatment for spinal disorders to give up cigarettes. Perhaps stop-smoking support should be offered as a supplement to treatment for patients who wish to quit the habit.

Alicia Bell is a mom who recently quit smoking. An avid blogger, she likes to encourage others to live healthy lives on various websites.

Another Reason to Quit Smoking: Pain Relief

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