Smoking and Spine Health


Smoking is evil and everybody knows it. The bad effects of smoking to our health is acknowledged by the medical community, the public, the government, and even by the tobacco companies themselves. The ill effects of smoking have been long known to cause diseases of the heart and lungs, along with many other unwanted conditions of the body. But what could be the effects of smoking to your bones and tissues?

Studies show that smoking can also cause damage to your bones and tissues. And when you think that your bone structures include the spine, the communication center of your nerve system, you will shudder at the thought of the havoc that smoking can bring to your body and your life.

The spine consists of the vertebrae, vertebral discs, joints, and connective tissues and the muscles and nerves attached to them. The nicotine and other toxins in the smoke from cigarettes can damage the normal functions of your spine and nervous system as a whole.

Smoking and Its Effects on Spine Health

Recent studies have shown that smoking can cause damage to all the parts of your spine, negatively affecting their functions.

  • Vertebrae – Smoking can cause reduced bone density, which can lead to greater risk of osteoporosis, spinal arthritis, facet disease and other deterioration in the spine.
  • Intervertebral discs – As they are, these discs that separate the adjacent vertebrae have very low supply of blood. The effects of smoking can further restrict the blood circulation and make impossible the flow of nutrients they need to function normally.
  • Connective tissues – Collagen levels are reduced by nicotine, making the soft tissues and cartilage lose elasticity and resilience. Ligaments and tendons become prone to injury.
  • Nerves – With the weakening of the vertebrae, intervertebral discs and cartilage, the possibility of herniated or bulging disc increases. This disc condition can impinge on the spinal nerves.
  • Muscles – Smoking has degenerative effects on the muscles. Also, the harm to the lungs smoking brings can result to inactivity, which can lead to lower muscle mass.

A prolonged research on the effects of smoking to the musculoskeletal system discovered that smoking, coronary artery disease and hypertension were strongly associated with the development of low back pain. Another conclusion from that research was that smoking, hypertension and cholesterol were significant factors in the the development of lumbar spondylosis. Spondylosis of the lumbar are  degenerative changes in the lumbar spine such as osteoarthritis of the vertebral joints and degenerative disc disease in the low back.

More evidences on the bad effects of smoking are surfacing with the results from medical researches and studies. It’s not just the heart and lungs that are seriously affected by the bad habit of smoking, but the spine as well. A healthy spine is just as vital to our health and well being as the heart and lungs are.