Quit Smoking to Fight Chronic Pain

Jun 28, 2017

Janene Alcantar

by Janene Alcantar
PT, DPT | Surprise Location

If you have chronic pain symptoms and are a smoker, there may be a correlation between the two. Chronic pain affects many aspects of life, including sleeping, immune function, and vision. Smoking has a detrimental effect overall health, but studies have shown there is an increased dependence on tobacco due to chronic pain. The team at Foothills Sports Medicine can show you physical therapy benefits and how to fight both chronic pain and smoking.
Smokers make up twice the number of people who experience pain when compared to the general public. Approximately 42% of the population who experienced chronic pain last year were smokers. They are also more likely to be less active, rely on pain medication, and report increased stress in their lives. Unfortunately, smokers with this chronic pain may seek out other treatments that include alcohol or illicit drugs. This can worsen depression, which is common in high levels among smokers.
The most likely correlation between smoking and pain is carboxyhemoglobin induced anoxia or vascular disease; this can lead to disc degeneration in the spine. Smoking brings in a variety of toxic substances that damage the interior lining of blood vessels, which impedes their ability to carry oxygen, leading to tissue starvation, and degeneration. Medication efficiency is also affected because a smoker’s metabolism is much higher.
There are indications that smoking can cause a slight analgesic effect as it makes the pain receptors hypersensitive to pain, thus increasing the desire to smoke. Chronic exposure to nicotine sensitizes pain receptors, decreases pain tolerance, and increases pain awareness, resulting in greater need for analgesic agents.
Individuals who seek cigarettes for pain relief describe their pain as more constant, and use cigarettes to modulate pain and stress, which increases their likelihood of smoking again. When smokers are suffering pain, they also tend to smoke more frequently. They falsely believe that smoking helps their pain by alleviating anxiety, depression, anger, and frustration.
Starting to smoke begins a dangerous downward cycle of degradative health effects. Seeking treatment from a therapist from Foothills Sports Medicine and learning about physical therapy benefits can teach an individual to control their pain symptoms without the need of nicotine. Exercise can help by increasing activity level and improving one’s health. Improving activity and decreasing pain will positively affect your quality of life, so don’t wait.

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