Smoking, Spinal Health, and Chronic Back Pain


Smoking negatively impacts an individual’s health, as most know about its effect on the lungs. However, it can cause chronic back pain, and affect spinal health, as well. Research has discovered that having a history of smoking, hypertension/high blood pressure, and coronary artery disease are all risk factors for atherosclerosis and have a significant connection with low back pain development.

Despite all the anti-smoking ads created by The American Lung Association or American Cancer Society showing longtime smokers with tracheotomies, oxygen tanks, etc, individuals continue to smoke.

Risks associated with smoking

  • High increase for many cancers
  • Increased risk for heart disease
  • Injury/s, wound/s take longer to heal
  • Increased risk of infection after surgery
  • Aggravating pre-existing health conditions like asthma
  • Chronic back pain

Chronic pain and blood vessels

Smoking can generate general body pain that can overwhelm the vascular system. These are the blood vessels that include:

  • Arteries
  • Capillaries
  • Veins

Smoking’s primary impact is on blood flow and circulation. The blood becomes thick and sticky, which makes the heart have to work harder to circulate the blood. This thickening and lack of proper circulation can cause blood clots, as well as, damage muscles, tendons, and the other spinal structures, like the discs.

Individuals that smoke have issues with healing properly from injuries/wounds, as well. This means if a disc or nerve gets injured it takes longer to heal or does not heal properly/completely.

  • Smoking contributes to continued inflammation, which can increase pain
  • It can interfere with prescribed medications for pain management/other conditions
  • Proper absorption of minerals, nutrients, chemicals, medications, is disrupted
  • Damage to the spinal discs and facet joints

The pain can come from the neuron stimulation from the nicotine, as well as the other chemicals and toxins in the smoke itself.

Back Pain Worsened

There are spinal conditions like dried out/desiccated discs, or osteoporosis, that could’ve been caused or worsened through smoking.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Smoking is connected to the development of this disease, also known as disc dehydration. Smoke toxins, as well as, nicotine contributes to dehydrated discs and the cellular damage done to the vascular system.


It is associated with a higher risk of osteoporosis/thin bones, which can lead to an increased risk for spinal fractures.


Individuals that smoke and have fibromyalgia report intensified symptoms, quality of life is worse, and an increase in anxiety compared to non-smokers with fibromyalgia.

Spinal Fusion

Smoking can delay or prevent proper healing/fusion when trying to permanently connect the vertebrae. The negative impacts can lead to worse surgical outcomes.

Sleep and Mood

It can also negatively influence mood and sleep quality. It is a vicious cycle for individuals that are depressed, have pain, or anxiety. Because of the tendency to smoke more in order to cope. However, this is very unhealthy and only leads to worse pain and other health issues.


It can absolutely be done with the right resources. Various therapies can help an individual to quit smoking.

  • Medications
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Hypnosis
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic for spinal alignment and blood circulation

Quitting improves an individual’s lifespan, quality of life, reduces the chances of chronic disease, and alleviates pain. Talk with a primary care physician about a treatment plan that can include nicotine replacement therapy, counseling, and support.

Depression and Chronic Pain Therapy

Dr. Alex Jimenez’s Blog Post Disclaimer

The scope of our information is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, and sensitive health issues and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Our posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate and support directly or indirectly our clinical scope of practice.*

Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We also make copies of supporting research studies available to the board and or the public upon request. We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation as to how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez or contact us at 915-850-0900. The provider(s) Licensed in Texas& New Mexico*


Green, Bart N, et al. “Association Between Smoking and Back Pain in a Cross-Section of Adult Americans.” Cureus vol. 8,9 e806. 26 Sep. 2016, doi:10.7759/cureus.806

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