Are you a smoker? Aside from some occasional coughing fits related to your habit, have you also been experiencing frequent back pains as well? While smoking and recurring back pain among Bergen County residents (as well as all others worldwide) don’t seem to match at all, a recent study has proven that the two may be directly related.
Conducted by researchers from the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the study pointed out a rather peculiar link between chronic back pain and continuous cigarette smoking–a connection that lies deep within the brain. Paula Wolfson of WTOP.com reports:
The researchers found that those who developed chronic pain lasting longer than 12 weeks were three times more likely to be smokers. Reporting in the journal Human Brain Mapping, the Northwestern team said its study turned up a difference in the smokers’ brain scans.
The difference was in the connection between two sections of the brain dealing with addictions and motivated learning. Dr. Edwin Numsuwan, a pain specialist with MedStar National Rehabilitation Hospital, says “there is too much talk, in a way, between those two parts of the brain.”
All that chatter makes the body less resilient to pain. It isn’t necessarily more intense, but it does tend to last longer.
The researchers analyzed the MRI scans of 160 subjects and focused on two regions of the brain most affected by smoking addiction. While they don’t directly affect the spine, these two brain regions (the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex), which deal with addiction and motivated learning, have too much “communication” going on, drastically affecting pain threshold and making individuals less pain tolerant.
As a result, researchers say, lower back aches in smokers tend to last longer than in non-smokers. What this means is that as long as smokers continue with their habit, they can expect to suffer pain longer than others. For those who have spinal problems like bulging or herniated discs—both conditions already painful in their own right—and who smoke, relief may just come in more belatedly.
Of course, the most logical way to counteract this is to quit smoking. While the pain itself wouldn’t disappear overnight, Bergen County back pain relief providers such as MedWell Spine, OsteoArthritis & Neuropathy Center, offer treatments that can alleviate the symptoms of spinal and disk problems, with results that last longer than when taking pain killers.
Whether smoking will mean more therapy sessions is a subject for further study; but meantime, back ache sufferers who smoke might want to think about a holistic type of treatment that addresses both the physical and neurological aspects of their condition. This means a combination of effective physical therapy, and quitting smoking.
(Source: Smokers More Likely to have Chronic Back Pain, WTOP.com, November 4, 2014)