How Does Smoking Affect Spine Health?

Just about everyone is well aware of the costs to one’s health associated with smoking. However, not very many people know that smoking affects more than just your lungs. Smoking can actually affect your spine health. Many things, ranging from an increased likelihood of chronic back pain to slower recovery after back surgery, have all been linked to smoking in various studies. These are a few of the surprising ways smoking may affect your spine health:

Lower Back Pain

Many researchers have proposed a possible link between smoking and increased pain in the lower back. Indeed, several studies have identified this correlation. However, the exact mechanism by which smoking affects lower back pain is not yet fully understood. In terms of long-term studies, it’s important to remember that this link remains largely unexplored.

Spinal Fusion Complications

Smoking may also make complications after undergoing a spinal fusion more likely. The prevailing theory is that this occurs because of the effects of nicotine on the growth of bone. Nicotine can cause lower revascularization of the bone graft. This essentially means that not enough blood flow is making it to the bone graft. Therefore, the new bone does not have the nutrients it needs to properly grow and form a fusion.

Slower Recovery After Back Surgery

Smoking has been linked to a slower recovery after back surgery. This has been found to be most common after spinal fusions and it can occur regardless of whether or not the spinal fusion surgery itself ends up being successful. Researchers have proposed several different possible explanations for the findings that smokers face longer recovery times than non-smokers. One possible reason may be that smoking speeds up the rate of the disc degeneration that occurs in between the vertebrae of your spine. This may end up creating ongoing back issues even after a successful surgery.

Of course, if you are a smoker and you are experiencing issues with your back, there are many possible causes besides smoking. Call the Spine Institute today at 973-538-4444 to discuss your spine health with an expert.