Smoking can wreak havoc on your health: this much we know. Smoking is hazardous to your health, and can cause lung disease, lung cancer, heart disease, emphysema, and a host of other health issues. Smoking can also influence back pain.

New research has found that non-smokers experience less back pain than smokers. The study was published in The Oxford Journal of Rheumatology.

Smoking and Back Pain

  • The study hypothesized that higher incidence of back pain among smokers is because smoking leads to malnutrition of discs in the spine.
  • Nicotine in cigarettes constricts blood vessels.
  • Constricted blood vessels can potentially change interior artery walls and blood flow.
  • Non-smokers with better blood flow should not experience this brittleness and dryness of discs that leads to pain.

This research confirms prior research on the same topic. A University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) analysis of 5,300 patients who were being treated for spinal disorders showed that cigarette smokers experienced more pain than non-smokers. Those who quit smoking prior to treatment on their spine also experienced less pain.

“We found that people who stopped smoking had meaningful benefit by reduction of their pain,” said Dr. Caleb Behrend, chief resident at URMC. “The pain improvement is in addition to all the other benefits you gain from quitting.”

Other Links Between Smoking and Back Pain

  • Smoking causes atherosclerosis. This is when plaque builds up in blood vessels, causing decreased blood supply, especially to areas that are fed by small blood vessels – including bones and discs in your spine. Thus, discs are not absorbing the nutrients they need from your blood. This leads to spinal degeneration and disc injury, such as herniated disc.
  • Smoking increases your sensitivity to pain.
  • If you smoke and you are also overweight or lead a sedentary lifestyle, you are at a higher risk for spinal injury and back pain.

According to the National Institute of Health, smoking harms nearly every organ in the body. In order to stay healthy, physicians recommend quitting smoking. That can be extremely difficult, and there are resources available at

If you are experiencing back pain, contact us. Or call our dedicated Medical Concierge at 800-890-1964.