Smoking and its negative effect on your health has long been documented. However, if you still haven't quit, smoking has now been linked to patients and degenerative disc disease. 

There are many reasons why a person should stop smoking, yet millions of Americans still use cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. If you need another reason to quit, smoking has now been linked to worsening degenerative disc disease.

Research presented at the Association of Academic Physiatrists revealed that smoking can add to cervical disc degeneration. The link between degenerative disc disease and smoking relies on vital nutrients. Nicotine can deprive the cells in the spinal discs of these vital nutrients. Furthermore, smokers introduce carbon monoxide into the blood stream and other body tissues when they smoke.

According to the research, current smokers had more cervical disc degeneration on average. Interestingly, among nonsmokers, age was associated with worsening disc degeneration, but other conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol were not associated with worsening disc degeneration.

Carbon monoxide and the deprivation of vital nutrients can lead to dehydrated and less flexible discs. As the discs continue to degenerate, you are more likely to suffer a disc rupture.

Research suggests that smokers may be 4 times more likely than nonsmokers to develop degenerative disc disease.

Smoking Linked to More Medical Issues

Smoking can also increase pain sensitivity, which means you’re more likely to feel back pain if you’re a smoker. According to one study of 25,000 participants, of those who suffered from back pain, smokers said their symptoms were more severe and present for a larger percentage of the day.

There is also a strong link between smoking and osteoporosis. One study revealed that women who smoked more than one pack a day through adulthood had 5 to 10% lower bone density than nonsmokers. Osteoporosis is a disease that decreases bone mass and causes bones to become more fragile, which increase the risk of a fracture. Unfortunately, spinal fractures are the most common type of fracture among osteoporosis patients.

Though degenerative disc disease may be linked to age, smoking can worsen the condition. Furthermore, the disease can lead to other spinal conditions, such as:

  1. Spinal stenosis
  2. Bulging/herniated discs
  3. Osteoarthritis
  4. Spondylolisthesis

These spinal conditions may be treated with conservative therapies, but might also require surgery.

Whether or not you are experiencing back pain, quitting smoking can help prevent or stall further disc degeneration. Healthy eating, exercise, and other good habits for preventing back pain could help you in the long run.

If your back pain has become unbearable, contact the spine doctors at The Bonati Spine Institute. They can review your MRI for free and determine your options for treatment.

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