An achy back is one of the most common complaints of adults in the US. Notably, its causes or triggers can range from sleeping in the wrong position to problems to having a cervical subluxation. Most people who experience this symptom use ibuprofen for back pain to get immediate relief. Interestingly, others try to cope by correcting poor habits like smoking. Have you ever wondered why smoking hurts the back? How can tobacco products such as cigarettes aggravate the pain experienced by people with mild to severe backaches? Learn more about this back pain risk factor below.
The Link Between Smoking and Back Pain
Smokers get more back pain than non-smokers. A study shows that the frequency of back pain among Americans was higher, from 23.5% for non-smokers to 33.1% for former smokers and 36.9% for current smokers. This brings you to the question, how does smoking hurt the back? Below are some of the most common reasons linking smoking to back pain.
Smoking Alters Blood Flow
Smoking has many health hazards and can trigger different health conditions, including altering your blood flow. Many people only focus on blood circulation’s impact on the heart. However, in truth, it affects the whole body. Nicotine, a common compound found in cigarettes, narrows your blood vessels, limiting the amount of blood reaching your organs. This causes the cells and tissues to receive fewer nutrients and oxygen molecules vital for different physiological processes.
Smoking Impacts Your Muscles and Connective Tissues
Additionally, smoking can damage your ligaments and muscles within the spine and increases the risks of developing injuries and problems like degenerative disc diseases. If you’re a heavy smoker, you might want to cut down on ibuprofen for back pain as it can mask the actual cause. Instead, pay attention to other symptoms you might be experiencing.
Smoking Increases Risks for Atherosclerosis
Another cause of back pain linked to smoking is atherosclerosis. When you smoke, you inhale chemicals that can damage your heart and blood vessels, making you more at risk for atherosclerosis or plaque buildup in the arteries. Even occasional smokers are at risk of this developing damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Atherosclerosis leads to a decreased flow of blood to your organs and body tissues that may result in ischemia. For example, atherosclerosis in the heart’s main artery (aorta) and ischemia in the leg are considered possible causes of low back pain and intervertebral disc degeneration.
Smoking Weakens the Spine
Studies explain that every cigarette you smoke reduces the nutrient content carried by your blood to your spinal discs and joints. Additionally, it can trigger specific nutrient deficiencies, such as the following:
Lack of Vitamin D
Smokers have slower vitamin D production, making them highly susceptible to vitamin D deficiency. Unfortunately, without ample amounts of vitamin D in the body, the bone density decreases, making you likely to develop bone fractures and low back pain.
Lack of Vitamin C
When you smoke, you process vitamin C faster, lowering its levels in the blood. Consequently, this impacts collagen production, an essential process needed to maintain the integrity of several structures in the body, such as the cartilage tissues in between your bones, the vertebral column, and several connective tissues.
Smoking Heightens the Brain’s Sensitivity to Pain
Smoking also affects brain function. Researchers explain that smokers have a higher chance of developing chronic back pain because smoking affects the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex, parts of the brain which play a vital role in motivation, addiction, and reward.
Unfortunately, the brain becomes more sensitive to pain, and it becomes harder to pursue activity-based remedies like physical therapy because of these factors.
Nicotine Withdrawal Causes Back Pain
When you attempt to quit smoking, you will experience withdrawal symptoms, including bouts of back pain. This might discourage you from continuing and choosing to slide back to your old habits. But withdrawal is expected due to chemicals leaving your body. You will experience physical and psychological withdrawal, the latter being more challenging to manage.
If you were a regular smoker, there’s a high chance you’ve experienced body pain, including back pain that continues or even comes out as soon as you start quitting. This is because nicotine withdrawal also causes lower serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also doubles as a mood stabilizer, and when its levels are lower, you experience an increase in pain sensitivity.
In addition to affecting the balance of your brain’s neurotransmitters, smoking can increase the chances of developing a degenerative disc disease. Studies have long proven that smoking can alter the structure of your intervertebral discs.
Ibuprofen For Back Pain No Longer Works? Try Upper Cervical Care
Reaching for your go-to ibuprofen for back pain is the quickest way to relieve an achy back. However, it’s not optimal as a long-term option, especially for chronic back pain. Instead, finding a more long-term approach is the most practical action you can take.
Smoking is just one of the many triggering factors of back pain, and one common yet often overlooked cause of back pain is a misalignment in the upper cervical spine. If the position of your upper cervical bones somehow got altered even by a small degree, your entire body can feel and suffer from it.
So, if you suspect cervical misalignment due to an injury, poor posture, weight gain, nerve compression, stress, or even a sedentary lifestyle, we recommend trying upper cervical chiropractic care.
An upper cervical chiropractor can help ease the bones back to their correct spot through precise and gentle corrections. Eventually, it can remove the pressure from your neck, head, and spine and free your back from pain.
Finding the best solution sooner will save you from days, weeks, or even months of pain that can affect your daily routine. You will need to consult with an upper cervical chiropractor to deal with misalignment. Find the nearest upper cervical chiropractic doctor near you today.