Smoking & Pain

Cigarette smokers are much more likely to report having persistent musculoskeletal pain than nonsmokers, according to an American Pain Society (APS) study. The results echo those of several previous studies, which concluded that smokers of both sexes are more likely than nonsmokers to report pain syndromes.

Researchers surveyed more than 6000 women to assess the association of smoking with the presence of various types of chronic musculoskeletal pain. The survey respondents were categorized according to age, smoking status, and amount of daily cigarette intake. They were asked about pain symptoms and whether they had received a diagnosis of a musculoskeletal pain disorder, such as fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) or low back pain (LBP). Pain variables selected for analysis were the presence or absence of LBP, neck pain, sciatica, nerve pain, FMS, joint pain, and pain “all over the body.”

Daily smokers were 2 times more likely to report pain than nonsmokers. Those who smoked a pack or more a day also were most likely to report a high burden of chronic pain.

The authors noted that smoking-induced coughing increases abdominal pressure and back pain and that nicotine may decrease pain thresholds by sensitizing pain receptors. The study also showed a dose-dependent relationship between smoking frequency and having a chronic pain syndrome, suggesting that smoking cessation treatments could be helpful for chronic pain management.

Durham, North Carolina

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