Smoking linked to back pain

New research suggests that smoking can increase your risk of back pain.

In a study of 95,000 nurses, women who smoked were three times more likely to develop arthritis. This inflammatory arthritis causes pain in  the low back and sacrum. Past smokers were 1 and a half times more likely to develop arthritis, and women who smoked for over 25 years had the highest risk of all. Researchers suggested that smokers may be more susceptible to arthritis because smoking could induce oxidative stress that causes inflammation and harms the immune system.

In another new study, smokers were more likely to have an early onset of inflammatory back pain. Compared to non-smokers, patients who smoked had greater disease activity, worse function, and a poorer quality of life. MRI scans revealed that smokers were also more likely to have structural lesions on their spines and sacroiliac joints. More severe symptoms forced smokers to miss work more often than nonsmokers. Researchers recommended that patients with inflammatory back pain be "strongly advised" to quite smoking.

If  you suffer from back pain, your chiropractor can ease your pain while supporting you in making healthy lifestyle choices to reduce pain and improve your overall health. Call our office to learn more.


Chung HY, Machado P, Heijde D, et al. Smokers in early axial spondyloarthritis have earlier disease onset, more disease activity, inflammation and damage, and poorer function and health-related quality of life: results from the DESIR cohort. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2012;71:809-816. doi:10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200180.

Li W, Han J, Qureshi A. Smoking and risk of incident psoriatic arthritis in US women. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2012;71:804-808. doi 10.1136/annrheumdis-2011-200416.

Walsh, Nancy. Smoking Tied to Back Pain, Arthritis. Medpage Today. May 18,2012. Accessed May 24, 2012.