Is Smoking a Cause of Back Pain?

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Smokers are putting down their cigarettes after decades of participating in one of the world’s most popular pastimes. Recent observations have shown that the smoke is clearing whether it does to employer mandates, increase in product costs, or fear of permanent health complications. The American Lung Association has long cited that Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Lung Cancer are life-threatening complications related to smoking. These conditions have routinely been discussed and studied in public arenas. However, what about those complications that do not rate as life-threatening but are disabling and life-altering all the same?

Back pain is a nondiscriminatory condition affecting all genders, ages, and race. The pain experienced often requiring those suffering to seek therapeutic intervention. The incidence of back pain is rising. Along with the increase in a number of those experiencing some degree of back pain is an increase in associated complications. How does that relate to smoking? A recent Finnish study, a Meta-analysis, in the American Journal of Medicine showed an association between smoking and back pain. The exact link between smoking and back pain is unknown. A large Danish study discussed past research which provided possible explanations including the release of toxic gases into tissue as well as actual structural damage of the spine.

There are many reasons to stop smoking. Let your health be at the top of the list. When taking into consideration all possible health complications of tobacco smoke include those often not seen on billboards or television ads. Despite the fact that back pain is not as publically associated with smoking as other conditions it is just as significant. Future research may reveal a more definite link between back pain and smoking. Stay informed; education will allow you to make all your healthcare decisions.


Lung Disease. (2010). Retrieved January 2, 2011, from American Lung Association:

Pilsinger, C., Aadahl, M., Birke, H., Zytphen-Adeler, J., & Jorgensen, T. (2011). The Association between Active and Passive Smoking and Frequent Pain in a General Population. European Journal of Pain, 77-83.

Shiri, R., Karppinen, J., Leino-Arjas, P., Solovieva, S., & Viikari-Juntura, E. (2010). The Association between Smoking and Low Back Pain: A Meta-Analysis. The American Journal of Medicine , 87.e7-87.e35.

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