Freeca Health

Studies Show Cigarette Smoking Causes Chronic Back Pain

You have probably experienced back pain. At one point or another, everyone has. Have you ever asked yourself whether your smoking has something to do with your back pain? You should have.

Smoking Hurts Your Back

It turns out that cigarette smoking has a direct influence on many aspects of your health. Back pain is just one of them.

How does smoking influence your back pain? It does so in the same way that it influences all other aspects of your health. Cigarette smoke contains toxic chemicals that affect your joints in a negative way.

One of my previous summer jobs involved lifting heavy items. Somehow I found lifting with my legs a hard concept to grasp. As a result, I ended up getting the nickname “Grandpa” that summer.

During that period, I experienced normal back pain, which I earned through hard work and stupidity. My pain went away when I finally changed the way I lifted stuff.

Chronic back pain is completely different. It doesn’t go away quickly, and you usually end up taking painkillers to control the pain.

The Search for Relief

Like smoking cigarettes, taking prescription painkillers has many negative side effects. One of the major issues associated with prescription painkillers is the risk of developing a strong addiction. Moreover, even with strong medication, only about 58% of chronic back pain sufferers get the relief they desire.

You may say that your nicotine addiction doesn’t have any influence on your pain. It may actually feel like cigarette smoking decreases the intensity of your pain. In general, though, cigarette smokers are more likely to lead unhealthier lives. Could this just be a coincidence?

You are like a hostage with Stockholm syndrome. You have gotten used to being a hostage, and you like your kidnapper-the cigarette. Smoking doesn’t add anything positive to your life, but you grasp at straws to justify your nicotine addiction. You know that you should quit smoking cigarettes if you really want relief. The relief that you feel when you smoke is just a distraction.

Cigarettes ARE the Problem

Smoking a cigarette allows you to switch focus for a few minutes. Your back pain doesn’t decrease in intensity, and it doesn’t go away. You have tricked your mind. If you don’t think about the pain, you don’t feel it. But it is still there.

Cigarette smoking is a major factor in the development of chronic back pain. More specifically, it is a major cause of hypertension and coronary artery disease, which negatively influence back pain.

Researchers conducted a study during which they monitored over 1,300 people for more than 50 years. The study followed 1,337 physicians, who graduated from Johns Hopkins University. The oldest participant was monitored for 53 years. This long-term study showed that high blood cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and other blood circulation issues played major roles in the development of chronic back pain.

Cigarette smoking has a devastating effect on the whole body. The circulatory system is no exception. The aforementioned study showed that, when all other variables remained the same, cigarette smoking was a major factor in the development of chronic back pain. The implications are very clear-if you want to get rid of your back pain you need to quit smoking cigarettes right now.

Smoking Impairs Your Ability to Heal

Every time you move, you damage your spine a bit. Your body constantly repairs this damage. When you smoke, your body makes available fewer, lower quality materials for these repairs. That is how smoking causes your back pain.

The study described above proved the existence of a connection between chronic joint pain and smoking. Another study determined how and why occasional back pain, which we all feel, develops into something that endures for weeks, months and years.

Nicotine addiction influences the development of chronic back pain in another way. Pain is not something physical. You can’t touch, taste or see it. Rather, your brain gets signals and interprets them.

Smoking Alters Your Brain

Smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop chronic back pain. How and why does cigarette smoking have such a strong, negative effect on your back? Smoking affects your brain’s addictive behavior and motivated learning connections. By strengthening these connections, smoking plays a major role in the development of chronic back pain and chronic pain in other parts of your body.

A strong connection between the two brain regions called the nucleus accumbens and the medial prefrontal cortex influences your resilience to chronic pain. Smoking makes the connection between these two parts of the brain stronger, thus impacting your susceptibility to developing chronic pain.

You Can Fix It

This damage is not permanent even if you have smoked for decades.

Researchers saw a dramatic drop in this brain connection among smokers who quit smoking cigarettes. Their vulnerability to chronic pain decreased. This means that that the damage was not permanent. Similarly, if you quit smoking, you can reduce the intensity of your chronic back pain.

You must first quit smoking if you want to eliminate your chronic back pain.

Nicotine Is Poison

This is one reason why quitting with the assistance of nicotine replacement therapy (nicotine gum, patches or other nicotine-containing products) is not as great as ads would have you believe. In order to reduce the pain in your joints, you need to eliminate all nicotine consumption. Nicotine promotes unhealthy brain connections, damages nerves and reduces your body’s ability to mend itself.

Smoking cigarettes damages your back because it damages your body and alters your brain. Decreasing the amounts of toxic chemicals you consume while continuing to consume nicotine might lead to some improvements in how you feel. However, you will still be addicted to nicotine and continue to strengthen those brain connections.

What Dumbo Can Teach Us About Habits and Addictions

“I’m scared to stop smoking.” Edna said.

As a psychotherapist specializing in habit control, I’d heard that statement from many clients. Edna (not her real name) had come to my office for an initial consultation, as part of my smoking cessation program. Like many people who want to part with a harmful habit or addiction, she felt ambivalent. Every addiction, regardless of its consequences, brings elements of comfort, satisfaction, or pleasure.

“What are you scared of specifically?”

“Well, smoking has always been my source of strength. It got me through the tough times. When my father died, and I had to comfort my mother emotionally, and pay the bills, and arrange the funeral – I smoked. When I worked overtime to meet deadlines, I smoked in order to keep going. I’ve stopped smoking many times, but when life gets rough, that’s when I smoke. Otherwise, I could not get through the tough times. This is what scares me. How can I part with my source of strength?”

“Have you ever heard the story of Dumbo the Elephant?” I asked. “It was a Disney animated movie – a lovely and touching story.”

She said she had not. So I told her about it. I’m sure my version doesn’t do justice to the Disney movie, but here it is.

Dumbo was a baby elephant born in the circus. His mother loved him dearly, but all the other elephants laughed at him because of his big ears. His ears were so large, the circus owner removed him from his mother to put him with the clown troop. Dumbo was sad and lonely, separated from his mother.

With those over-sized ears, the clowns thought Dumbo would be a great addition to their antics they performed for the many circus-goers. They decided that Dumbo’s feat would be to jump from a high platform into a pool of water, making a big splash, drenching all the clowns. Dumbo was terrified of the prospect and sadder than ever.

One day a group of mischievous crows befriended Dumbo and learned of his plight. One of them plucked a feather from his tail and gave it to Dumbo. He told Dumbo the feather would give him the ability to fly. The crows later laughed among themselves at the joke. They knew a feather could not make an elephant fly.

The day came when Dumbo had to climb the high platform. In quivering terror, he walked to the edge of the platform and held the feather tightly at the end of his trunk. Whether he leaped or was pushed, I don’t remember. When Dumbo left the platform, lo and behold, he did fly! His large ears spread out like the wings of a glider! He was airborne! He soared above the crowd! Everyone was amazed! Dumbo became the starring act of the circus! No one made fun of him after that!

So Dumbo continued to perform his amazing act, always holding on to the feather. Then one day he accidentally dropped the feather. He felt a rush of fear – fear that he would plummet to the ground. Instead, he stayed aloft. How? It wasn’t the feather – it was his own ears that made it possible for Dumbo to fly.

Edna smiled. Unlike those of really great storytellers, my metaphors are highly transparent. “So maybe it wasn’t cigarettes that got me through those tough times – is that what you’re saying? Maybe cigarettes are just a crutch?”

“Maybe the strength you demonstrated comes from within – not from cigarettes. Maybe you would have done the same things, even without cigarettes.”

She kept smiling. “Thanks for that story. It gives me something to think about.”

In psychotherapy, metaphors afford a neat, non-confrontational way to deliver a different point of view that can shift a client’s thinking in a new direction. Of course, there was one flaw in my story that Edna missed. Dumbo was not addicted to his feather in the way she was addicted to nicotine.

For Dumbo, the feather had a placebo effect. Believing in the purported power of the feather, he accomplished a feat that seemed impossible. Placebos set up an expectation that allows people to tap into some unrecognized ability within themselves – often the ability to heal an illness or relieve pain.

Cigarettes did the same for Edna – and for many people who smoke. In fact, in his book, First Things First, Stephen Covey noted that addictive substances and behaviors give people and an “artificial sense of self-worth, power, control, security, intimacy, or accomplishment.” We give addictive substances more credit than they deserve – while underestimating our own capabilities.

Our addictions seem to rescue us in moments of difficulty because that’s the nature of addiction. The first thing we want when we feel afraid or overwhelmed is to find relief or comfort – no matter how temporary – and no matter the long-term costs. Addictive substances work especially well when they are convenient, within reach, and deliver that relief quickly. So we reach for the drink or the cigarette or the donut. With that moment of comfort or relief, we may find the clarity and courage to proceed. Fortunately, we can accomplish the same result in safer and healthier ways.

The problem with addiction, as Covey also noted, is that addictions eventually exacerbate the problems and feelings they are sought to remedy. Eventually the consequences of addiction, themselves, become the crisis, the threat, the vulnerability. Recovery and sobriety require that we find within ourselves the strength to get through the tough times. I choose to believe that, as Dumbo demonstrated, we all possess the potential to do so.

Smoking Addiction Can Be Overcome

Smoking Addiction Can Be OvercomeIt is one of the most insidious things that humans do and it doesn’t only affect the smoker as many who breathe in the toxic fumes are also at risk. Cancer is the big one and should be warning enough and a strong reason to quite the habit. Unfortunately some would rather die from cancer than give it up. Others, however, want to quit smoking but can’t manage to achieve it. After painful efforts to do so they may then give up trying and return to the habit.

If one is sincere about wanting to quite any addiction they need to examine why they do it in the first place. Why did they take their first puff? Was it because of inducement from someone else or was it because it was a family thing to do? Maybe they did it out of rebelliousness against parents or society. The problem doesn’t go away with discovering the answer to these questions.

It will go away, however, if one takes a different approach. Think of your body as a great gift from God. It was given to you without blemish or need aside from those of essential survival patterns. You have food and water to sustain it and anything else will tarnish or destroy it.

If you give a present to a friend do you want to see him tip acid over it or paint it with stain? How would that make you feel? Transfer that to how God must feel when we do things to our bodies that stain them or put holes in places where they are not meant to be? Look at the rest of your life. Are you happy? Do you get depressed? Have you got major problems you can’t handle? Is smoking a relief mechanism?

If you answer yes to one or all of those questions then you are out of sync with your spirit. Inside you have a link to the Great Creator of the Universe. It leads and guides its own and steers them out of trouble. That link gets severed through the worship of false gods, and they can be anything including cigarettes, money, drugs, and so on.

So the question you need to ask yourself is how much you love God. Do you ever think about it and does it matter to you. If you do then ask the Spirit to help you quit the smokes. In my experience it is possible for you to be healed of the addiction in seconds. Throw the packet away and when an urge to light up strikes turn to the Spirit within and you will overcome it.

The pain of God is reflected in our actions and addictions are the result of a loss of spiritual connection. The Mountain of God is visible now through the Internet where all things are made known and the truth flows to every corner of the world.

Deaths and Disease From Smoking

Tobacco smoking is one of the largest causes of preventable illness and death in Australia. Research estimates that two in three lifetime smokers will die from a disease caused by their smoking. The most recent estimate of deaths caused by tobacco in Australia is for the financial year 2004-05. Tobacco use caused a total of 14,901 deaths in that year.

Deaths in Victoria

The most recent estimate of deaths caused by tobacco in Victoria is for the financial year 2008-09. In that year, 3,793 people died from diseases caused by smoking. This figure includes the deaths of 8 children and 27 adults from secondhand smoke.

Disease and health problems caused by smoking

Cancers of the lung, throat, mouth, tongue, nose, nasal sinus, voice box, oesophagus, pancreas, stomach, liver, kidney, bladder, ureter, bowel, ovary, cervix, and bone marrow (myelitis leukemia). Smoking-related cancers accounted for about 13% of all cancer cases in 2010.

Heart disease. Around 30% of all cases of heart disease in those under 65 years are due to smoking.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPS) includes emphysema and small airways disease. Emphysema is rare in non-smokers.

Chronic bronchitis is a recurring cough together with frequent and increased phlegm. It occurs in about half of all heavy smokers.

Stroke. Smokers under 65 years are around three times more likely to have a stroke than non-smokers of the same age.

Peripheral vascular disease is a narrowing of the leg arteries that can lead to blockage and, in some cases, amputation. Cigarette smoking is the main risk factor for this disease.

Abdominal aortic aneurysm is the bursting of the lower part of the aorta leading from the heart. It often leads to sudden death. Cigarette smoking is the main preventable risk factor for this disease.

Type 2 diabetes, and higher risks for diseases associated with diabetes in people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes.

Peptic ulcer disease in persons who are Helicopter pylori positive.

Eye diseases, such as oracular degeneration and cataracts.

Lower fertility in women.

Low bone density in older women and hip fractures in both sexes.

Periodontists, a dental disease that affects the gum and bone that supports the teeth.

Respiratory symptoms including shortness of breath, coughing, phlegm and wheezing. These symptoms occur in both child and adult smokers.

Faster decline in lung function, which is measured by how much air you can breathe out during a forced breath. All adults lose lung function as they age but this process occurs earlier and faster among smokers.

Impaired lung growth among child and adolescent smokers and early onset of lung function decline in late adolescence and early adulthood.

Problems during pregnancy and childbirth including restricted fetal growth and low birth weight, topic pregnancy, complications that can lead to bleeding in pregnancy and the need for cesarean section delivery, and shortened time in the womb and preterm delivery (the baby is carried for less than 37 weeks). Smoking during pregnancy also causes death in early infancy (particularly from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), reduced lung function in childhood, and oral clefts (e.g. harelip) in infants.

Erectile dysfunction. Men who smoke increase their risk of impotence, and may have reduced semen volume, sperm count and sperm quality.

Tuberculosis disease and death.

Rheumatoid arthritis.

Worsening asthma. Smokers with asthma have poorer asthma control, faster decline in lung function, more airway inflammation, and get less benefit from some asthma medications, compared to non-smokers with asthma.

Smoking as a risk factor

Cigarette smoking is also a risk factor associated with a number of health problems, including:

Breast cancer in women.

Croon’s disease (a chronic bowel disease).

Back pain.

Cirrhosis of the liver and bile ducts, and pancreatic.

Complications during and after surgery, including delayed wound healing and increased risk of infection, drug interactions, lung complications and breathing difficulties.

Further complications during pregnancy and childbirth including miscarriage, and birth defects such as clubfoot, heart defects and gastroenteritis (the guts protruding through an opening in the abdominal wall). Smoking in pregnancy also increases the risk of the child being overweight or obese.

Childhood cancer (hematologist) where the mother or both parents smoked before and during pregnancy.

Childhood leukemia where the father or both parents smoked before the pregnancy.

Period pain and early menopause in women. Smoking may increase the risk for painful periods, missed periods and irregular periods. Women may also experience more menopausal symptoms.

Facial skin wrinkling tends to occur earlier.

Skin diseases, such as psoriasis and tendinitis suppuration (painful boils or abscesses in the groin and underarm).

Increased susceptibility to bacterial and viral infections, ranging from the common cold through to influenza, pneumonia, meningeal disease, legionnaires disease, tuberculosis, and bacterial vaginas.

Motor vehicle crashes, death from injury in accidents, house fire deaths, and burn injuries.

Alzheimer’s disease (dementia) and cognitive (brain function) decline.

Autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis.

Hearing loss.

Poorer sense of smell and taste.

Lower fitness.

Sleep disorders.

More fat around the abdomen (gut), which raises the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and metabolic problems.

Tooth decay and loss, and dental implant failure.

In combination with the contraceptive pill, smoking increases a woman’s risk of heart attack and stroke. This risk increases dramatically with age, particularly over the age of 35 years.


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