BENGALURU: Back pain is the most common problem among those who spend their time sitting for long hours in front of computers. However, not every back pain is related to sitting cramped for long hours. It could be because of smoking too. Yes, you might be a victim of the smoking spine, if you are a smoker.
“Several patients come with complaints of lower back pain these days. Little do they realise that it has a strong link with smoking habits. The condition most commonly seen is degenerative disc, which occurs when the discs become weak and are no longer able to cushion the vertebrae. While ageing plays a role, smoking accelerates the process, leading to a severe back pain at a very young age,” said Dr Manjunath Mallige, Consultant Diabetologist & Endocrinologist, Fortis Hospital.
Studies have revealed that smoking accelerates degeneration of the spine and back pain is observed more among smokers than among non-smokers. The nicotine in cigarettes causes toxic damage to annulus and nucleus cells, hindering the functionality of the disc in the long term. Doctors said that patients with smoking spine have felt a lot better, without any external medication, after they quit smoking.
“Many toxins are present in cigarettes that can be fatal. Carcinogens like benzene, formaldehyde and vinyl chloride, metals like arsenic, lead and cadmium, and toxic chemicals like carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, ammonia and nicotine are present in cigarettes. These chemicals have immunomodulation, neuromodulator, vascular constriction and carcinogenic effect leading to problems of the back,” said Dr Mohan K. Puttaswamy, Consultant Reconstructive Orthopaedic Surgeon at Fortis Hospital.
He said that they see around 15-20 patients per month suffering from the back pain due to smoking. Quitting smoking is the only solution to get rid of the complications related to back pain, he said. Dr Naveenchand Dambekodi, Consultant Orthopaedic at Columbia Asia Hospital, Hebbal, said, “Cigarette smoking reduces calcium absorption and prevents new bone growth, leaving smokers with an increased risk for osteoporosis (brittle, fragile bones) and slower healing after bone fractures, which can cause back pain, according to NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).”
Dr Manjunath said that smoking even increases the risk of bone fractures and has a negative impact on bone healing. The longer one smokes and the more cigarettes one consumes, the greater is the risk of fracture. “Women who smoke produce less estrogen hormone and tend to experience menopause earlier which leads to increased bone loss,” he said.