Jason H. Thompson, MD

Smoking and Back Pain


A study published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery reported some interesting results regarding smoking and back pain. Previous research has shown that smoking is associated with a higher risk of surgical complications and less satisfying outcomes after surgery, but this particular study focused on the relationship between smoking and patients’ self-assessment of their own back pain.

The researchers compared over 5,000 patients with back pain, looking at their reports of pain over an average period of about eight months. Some of the patients had surgery, but most did not. They found that the patients who were current smokers reported significantly more pain, and significantly less improvement over the treatment period, than patients who had never smoked. What’s more, they found that patients who quit smoking during their course of care also experienced more improvement in their own assessment of pain. In short, they discovered a strong link between the improvement of patient-reported pain and not smoking, even if the patients quit smoking during the course of treatment.

To sum up, if you quit smoking, you may decrease your back pain in addition to saving money and, probably, living longer!

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