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Can Smoking Make My Pain Worse?

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Updated October 08, 2009

Question: Can Smoking Make My Pain Worse?
Answer: Absolutely. Nicotine greatly reduces the efficiency with which your heart and lungs work to deliver oxygen to your body. It also slows healing, reduces your skin’s elasticity, and increases heart rate and blood pressure. When all of these factors combine, they not only weaken your health, but they can also intensify feelings of chronic pain.

To work efficiently, your muscles and joints need a steady supply of oxygen-rich blood. Smoking not only tightens arteries, but it decreases the rate at which oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged in the blood. In other words, when you smoke your muscles not only get less blood, but lower quality blood.

Other side effects of smoking include fatigue, chronic lung disorders and a slowed ability for the body to heal itself, which indirectly affect chronic pain. Fatigue and lung disorders lead to inactivity, which causes deconditioning. Slowed healing means that injuries affect you for longer than usual, and healing from surgeries or infections can be problematic.

Giving up smoking is not easy, but it can help you get part of your life back from chronic pain.

Sources:

The Pain Clinic. “Stop Smoking.” Accessed January 22, 2009.

Jamison et al. “The Relationship Between Cigarette Smoking and Chronic Low Back Pain.” Addictive Behaviors. 1991;16(3-4):103-10.

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