Does smoking make joint pain worse?

It’s Stoptober again – and you probably already know many reasons to quit tobacco and become a non-smoker. We hardly need tell you again about cancer, strokes and heart disease.

But did you know that smoking affects the musculoskeletal system too? It increases the risk of developing conditions in joints and bones and makes recovery from injury or surgery more difficult. Evidence shows that smokers with occasional back pain are three times more likely to progress to persistent back pain than non-smokers.

How does smoking affect your joints and bones?

  • MRI scans confirm that smoking changes how pain signals are processed in the brain (the reasons why are not well understood yet).
  • Studies also show that harmful changes to cells caused by smoking accelerate intervertebral disc damage.
  • Nicotine affects the production of bone-forming cells, so recovery from fractures and broken bones is delayed, leaving sufferers with painful long-term conditions.
  • Smokers with rotator cuff tears tend to have worse injuries and take longer to recover, while the vasoconstrictor effect of nicotine impedes delivery of oxygen to cells and inhibits tendon to bone healing.

It’s all bad news when it comes to smoking – and as we’ve seen, there’s a clear link between back pain and nicotine.

So how can a visit to the chiropractor help you quit?

The stress of coping with persistent back pain is a major cause of smoking. Nicotine has measurable analgesic effects and for centuries has been used to help deal with pain. It raises the pain threshold, provides a distraction and helps people feel calmer. Paradoxically, as we’ve seen, it also causes other painful and life-threatening conditions. So it’s essential to deal with the root causes of pain in order to help you quit smoking.

Chiropractic treatments are non-invasive, gentle and effective. There are many psychological approaches which can help you to break free of the smoking habit, and these work well alongside physical therapies designed to restore you to health. As part of a package of self-care, becoming pain free will surely help you to become tobacco-free as well.

Don’t forget to book in for a check up.


Acute Analgesic Effects of Nicotine and Tobacco in Humans: A Meta-Analysis – PMC

Four effects of smoking on your bones and joints


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