The Dangerous Habit That Triples Your Risk for Serious Back Pain

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If you are a smoker you are already well aware of the dangers that go along with it: cancer, tumors, liver damage, heart disease, stroke, etc. However, a new study shows a new and surprising health problem you would not normally associate with this deadly habit.

Northwestern University scientists looked at 160 subjects with what is called sub-acute back pain. This means that these patients had been dealing with some severe back pain for between 4 to 12 weeks. They also looked at 32 other subjects who had chronic back pain, which means these subjects had been dealing with constant back pain for a minimum of 5 years. Then they add 35 persons who had never had back pain.

All of the above subjects completed 5 surveys, all different, about their health during the following year. They had MRI scans of their brains as well. The purpose of this study was actually to look into the areas that regulate motivation, learning, and addictive behavior.

For those of us in other professions, we might not see the link between these areas, the nucleus accumbens and the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain, but it is these areas that make some people more susceptible to chronic pain than others.

Smokers had the strongest connection of all. Somehow, smoking increased their risk of feeling chronic back pain, and not just by a small margin. Scientists found that smokers were three times more likely to develop chronic back pain than their non-smoking counterparts.

This isn’t the first study to link smoking to chronic pain, but this is the first study to show that smoking interferes with the circuits in the brain that area associated with feelings of pain.

If you have ever experienced back pain, even for a short length of time, you know just how terribly debilitating it can be!  In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Estimates say that 8 out of every 10 Americans will experience some type of back problem during their lifetime. Back pain is the number one reason people miss days at work and the second most common reason people visit their doctor!

This study was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping.

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However, if this news were not bad enough, there is still another item to consider. The researchers noted that smokers who were using NSAIDS, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, to help reduce their back pain were able to find some relief, however, these types of medications did nothing to change how their brains worked. So although they might have found some measure of pain relief from these drugs, they didn’t actually do anything to fix the real problem, which is the way smoking changes, your brain and how you experience pain.

The research team believes that, because their findings showed that smoking affects the actual circuitry in the brain, there might even be some type of link between chronic pain and addiction overall.

Medical News Today reported a study that suggested that about 14 million major medical problems in America are directly related to smoking. The original study was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

There really is only way to fix the problem, and that is to stop smoking. The lead researcher noted that, when smokers quit their habit, there was a dramatic drop in the circuit activity in the brain that brings on back pain. People who stop smoking decrease their vulnerability to feel chronic pain. Find out more why you need to quit smoking now.

OK, so you are shaking your head thinking that there is no way you can quit smoking, you’ve tried and failed. There are plenty of effective and natural ways to quit, however. Cutting back on caffeine and taking on a healthy exercise program is a good place to start. Then switch to organic fruits and vegetables along with plenty of water, which will also help you quit.


SEE ALSO: 12 Foods That Can Help You Kick the Smoking Habit


The National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stoke funded this particular study.