Smoking and Chronic Pain - Another Reason to Quit!
by Marcus K. Parker, M.D.
One of the worst habits that anyone could ever have is smoking, and we pretty much all know the common medical issues that can arise out of smoking such as heart disease, cancer and prolonged breathing issues. However, did you know that more and more research is showing that smoking tobacco could actually cause your body to experience MORE pain?!
Your body requires clean oxygen for your muscles and joints to function and repair, especially during times of injury. Smoking reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood your body can use, weakens you and prolongs the repair of tissue damage. And that can contribute to chronic pain.
The brain also seems to register pain differently when you smoke and make the use of some pain medications, especially opiate medications, less effective. In essence, smoking can actually work against the pain-relieving properties of analgesic medications which ultimately works against the ultimate goal of functional restoration.
As a pain management physician, I have now come to the point where I will not prescribe certain medications unless a patient has committed to quit smoking, and, in some instances, may not even start a drug until someone has already stopped smoking. Again…this is due to the counteracting pain promoting properties of smoking. BUT the good news is that there are MANY other options to control your pain while trying to quit smoking.
Once you successfully quit smoking, I may consider the use of certain medications if you are an appropriate candidate, but once you quit, you may actually notice less pain or you may not require any medications at all. Your overall sense of well being and energy levels will improve due to having enough clean oxygen to supply injured tissues. This, in turn, can open up a window of relief where your body can tolerate optimized physical therapy or low impact exercise such as swimming, which has shown to be quite beneficial in patients that have chronic pain and can even prevent chronic pain!!!
Studies have shown that smokers experience more chronic pain, experience pain at a higher intensity, experience pain that interferes with usual daily activities, require higher amounts of opiate prescriptions, experience more depression and anxiety and perform worse in physical activities. So stop the habits that can make chronic pain even worse! Quitting smoking is certainly not easy and if you do smoke and desire to quit there are some medications that can actually assist in the quitting process and I would urge you to discuss quitting with your Primary Care Doctor.
Copyright 2019 Marcus K. Parker