Smoking and Back Pain

Smoking is a known risk factor for back and disc pain that is so significant that some surgeons are refusing to  operate on workers’ compensation patients if they are smokers. This trend may very well be based on the results of a study published in the December 2012 issue of Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. The recent study found that smokers suffering from back pain reported greater discomfort than patients who stopped smoking during an eight-month period.

Overall, patients who had never smoked or had quit smoking before the study reported less pain than current smokers and those who quit smoking during the study. Current smokers reported greater pain and higher average weekly pain when compared to patients who had never smoked.

Researchers found that those who quit smoking during treatment reported greater improvement in back pain when compared to those who continued to smoke. In addition, there was a significant improvement in pain ratings among nonsmokers. The group that continued to smoke during treatment reported no significant improvement in pain. When measured against patients who had never smoked, current smokers did not even come close to the improvement in back pain. Study author Glenn R. Rechtine, MD, University of Rochester Department of Orthopaedics made the results clear: “In this study, if you quit smoking during treatment, you got better. If you continued to smoke, there was statistically no improvement, regardless of the treatment you had.”

For patients with back injuries, quitting smoking will improve chances of reducing pain and of making a full recovery.  If a physician will prescribe a smoking cessation prescription, sometimes it is possible to get workers compensation to pay.  For help with this and other medical issues, please contact attorney Shari Miltiades at (912) 354-8122.