Smoking is a tough habit to quit for anyone, but it can be even more complicated if you suffer from chronic pain.
Pain and smoking have been linked for decades, and research shows that people coping with pain may be up to twice as likely to smoke than the general population. A 2009 study found that the prevalence of smoking was:
- 42% among people with medically unexplained chronic pain in the past year
- 35% among people with medically unexplained chronic pain in their lifetime
- 30% among people with chronic neck or back pain in the past year or in their lifetime
Yet that same year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention classified just 20.6% of U.S. adults as current cigarette smokers. So why do more people with chronic pain become smokers? And what makes it so difficult to stop?
The nicotine in cigarettes can offer short-term pain relief. It releases chemicals, like dopamine, that trick your body into feeling good temporarily. But in the long run, smoking may actually worsen your pain, increase your pain sensitivity, and slow your body’s healing.
Tobacco impedes blood flow to bones and tissues, which can lead to degeneration, especially in the discs of the spine. Smokers are nearly three times as likely to get lower back pain than non-smokers, and smoking may also exacerbate abdominal and joint pain.
“We all know the risks of smoking,” says Dr. Len Cerullo, MD. “But many people who smoke to relieve their chronic pain don’t realize that it is actually perpetuating a cycle of increased pain. If you needed another reason to quit, this is it.”
Quitting smoking is difficult, but it’s worthwhile when you consider the enormous positive difference it will make in your pain management treatment and your overall long-term health. Take the first step toward a smoke-free life this month. The Great American Smokeout, an event sponsored by the American Cancer Society, begins on November 15. Join thousands of smokers from across the country, and commit to quit.
Take a personal and holistic approach to pain management. Learn more about The Len Cerullo Method.