Smoking and Back Pain

Studies Show Smoking Contributes to Low Back Pain.

If you are a smoker, you have heard countless reasons why you should quit. But did you know smoking is ruining your back? Some studies show:

  1. Pain is worse in smokers compared to non-smokers1
  2. Smoking decreases bone mineral density2 which leads to degeneration and osteoporosis.
  3. Smoking worsens lumbar disc disease.2
  4. Smokers who have back surgery are more likely to suffer severe complications.3

The overwhelming research and evidence show that smoking restricts vital oxygen, nutrients, and healing factors to the spine. Everyone should quit smoking for their health – especially if they have pain.

All is not lost. The participants who quit smoking experienced less pain compared to those who continued to smoke1.

Here Are the Three Most Effective Tips for Quitting:

  1. See your doctor. Your doctor has many tools. For example, there are newer medications that can help you quit.
  2. Counseling. Attend group or individual smoking cessation counseling. Check out your local hospital for a list of programs.
  3. Exercise. Just 30 minutes of physical activity has been shown to be an effective and healthy way to distract from smoking cravings. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.


  1. Behrend, C, Prasarn,M, Coyne, E, Horodyski, M, Wright, J, Rechtine, GR. Smoking Cessation Related to Improved Patient-Reported Pain Scores Following Spinal Care. J Bone Joint Surg Am, 2012 December 05;94(23):2161-2166.
  2. Melhus H, Michaëlsson K, Holmberg L, Wolk A, Ljunghall S. Smoking, antioxidant vitamins, and the risk of hip fracture. J Bone Miner Res 1999;14:129–35.
  3. Perlman MH, Thordarson DB. Ankle fusion in a high-risk population: an assessment of nonunion risk factors. Foot Ankle Int 1999;20:491–6.