When someone talks about the harmful effects of cigarettes, you’d straight away think of the lungs and heart. Chances are, other problems like ear and neck pain won’t cross your mind. According to a study in 2016, cigarette smoking can increase one’s risk of developing degenerative disc diseases.
This means that you might become prone to ear, neck, or back pain if you smoke cigarettes regularly. But how does this happen? How can smoking impact your cervical bones? Let’s investigate further in the discussion below.
What is the Cervical Spine?
The cervical spine refers to the uppermost neck bones. All in all, you have seven cervical bones equipped with discs that act as shock absorbers. This protective structure has two layers, the tough annulus fibrosus (outer ring) and the gel-like nucleus pulposus.
As you age, these discs can change in quality, reducing their protective function. They become thinner, narrowing the space between each cervical bone. Consequently, this reduces neck flexibility. It also increases friction between the bones. This is the very reason why many older adults complain about ear and neck pain.
Besides aging, injuries or trauma to the head or neck can also affect the discs. They could potentially slip out of place or become irritated. It’s a common issue among athletes who play contact sports like football, wrestling, and basketball.
The cervical discs can also degrade fast due to dehydration, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and smoking. Most of the time, disc desiccation can trigger many painful symptoms like numbness, muscle stiffness, and radiating pain.
Smoking and How it Impacts the Neck
Countless organizations campaign against smoking cigarettes. Often, you’d hear them say that it causes irreversible damage to the lungs. Many would warn you about cigarette’s ability to increase one’s risk of developing cardiovascular problems like plaque buildup inside the blood vessels. However, you might not hear many folks talk about smoking’s effect on other parts of the body, such as the neck and ears.
As we’ve mentioned earlier, smoking can contribute to disc desiccation. It’s a risk factor that tends to hasten the aging process of various body parts, including the protective barriers between your seven cervical bones.
Nicotine, a key component of cigarettes, causes dehydration. It contributes to the degeneration of the cervical discs. A study explains that the nicotine from cigarettes also increases the spine’s vulnerability to coronary microvascular disease. It impacts your blood vessels and the efficiency of your blood circulation process.
Unfortunately, if you have poor blood circulation, your cervical discs fail to receive enough nutrients. It can also delay the distribution of nourishment to the rest of our cervical spine, causing irritation and chronic ear and neck pain. Later on, your smoking habits can also affect the lumbar spine or your lower back. It can potentially trigger or worsen severe health problems like sciatica, fibromyalgia, and chronic joint pain. On top of that, excessive smoking can lead to poor brain function and increased pain sensitivity.
Switching to a Cleaner and Healthier Lifestyle
Indeed, smoking can do more harm than good. As we have established in the discussion above, it can affect your body in many ways. The earlier you stop or reduce your smoking habit, the better your chances of preventing irreversible damages.
We know that’s no simple feat, especially if you have been smoking for quite a while. You can try the following expert tips to help you quit:
- Have a target date on when you will stop smoking
- Think about all your smoking triggers and try to avoid or reduce them
- Enlist the help of loved ones – they can help you stay motivated through the process
- List possible challenges that you might meet along the way and the solutions you can use
- Throw away your stash of tobacco products
- When you’re craving a cigarette, opt to chew on food items like gum, nuts, or raw carrots
- Get help from your physician, especially when you start experiencing withdrawal symptoms
- Focus your energy on doing physical activities – this can help you deal with the frustration and mood swings
If you are already experiencing health issues due to smoking cigarettes, we suggest consulting with a health professional.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic and Neck Pain Resolution
Besides smoking, upper cervical misalignment is one of the leading causes of ear and neck pain. That’s why some smokers who struggle with neck pain come to an upper cervical clinic for help.
With upper cervical care, you can correct the alignment of the uppermost neck bones – the C1 and C2. These two bones are pretty vulnerable to shifting from their position because of their flexible design. That’s why even maintaining a poor sitting posture while working for long hours can increase your risk for neck misalignment.
If you are a smoker who has started experiencing ear and neck pain, you might find it helpful to seek upper cervical chiropractic care. It’s an all-natural procedure that aims to make gradual adjustments to the upper neck bones until they resume their neutral alignment.
Combined with your effort in quitting smoking, seeking upper cervical care can significantly reduce the pain you experience in your neck. It can also help you reap other benefits like improved transmission of signals to the brain and decreased pain sensitivity.
If you want to discover more about what upper cervical chiropractic care can offer for your ear and neck pain, you can try finding an upper cervical chiropractor near you today.