Some people turn to smoking tobacco when in pain. In fact, evidence suggests that pain can be a strong motivator of smoking. While cigarette nicotine can stimulate the body’s natural pain relief system, the long term effects of smoking can actually lead to more pain. Due to its harmful effects, smoking can significantly hamper your pain management program.
Smoking and Chronic Pain
Nicotine tricks the body into feeling good. It does this by stimulating the release of various chemicals and neurotransmitters that are linked to the body’s pain relief, reward, and mood systems. For example, nicotine triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is linked giving your body a satisfying reward sensation. Nicotine also triggers the release of endorphins, which inhibit pain in the body. The release of all these “feel good” chemicals is what makes smoking feel good and difficult to quit.
How Smoking Makes Pain Worse
Despite these short-term “feel good” sensations, smoking can lead to more pain and damage in the long run. From cancer to heart disease to degeneration diseases, smoking can lead to many severe medical conditions.
Smoking is Harmful to the Body
Smoking is extremely damaging to our bodies. It can lead to diseases that cause chronic pain. One way smoking causes damage is by impairing the body’s ability to deliver oxygen-rich blood to tissues, organs, and bones. Decreasing this nutrient and oxygen-rich blood flow can lead to degeneration diseases. Disc degeneration of the spine, for example, is one of these diseases, and causes chronic back pain.
Smoking can also affect the knees. One study found that smokers with knee osteoporosis sustained greater cartilage loss and had more knee pain than non-smokers with osteoporosis.
Impairs Body’s Ability to Heal Itself
Smokers who have surgery or injure themselves can have a difficult time healing and fighting infection. In fact, research shows that smokers’ risk for wound problems after surgery can be 2-10 times greater. As mentioned earlier, this has to do with the harmful chemicals that affect how the body handles and delivers oxygen. When damaged or injured areas of your body aren’t receiving oxygen and nutrients, then healing is slowed.
Cigarette Smoking: A Risk Factor for Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune inflammatory disease that attacks the tissue of joints and surround tissues. This causes chronic joint pain and stiffness. Smoking cigarettes is a risk factor for developing RA. A published meta-analysis found that there was a 40% higher risk for smokers than people who never smoked.
Quit Smoking for Improved Health and Better Pain Management Results
If you smoke and suffer from chronic pain, quitting smoking may be one of the best things you can do to improve your health and pain. Talking to your doctor may be a great starting point for quitting. Your doctor can offer different approaches and suggest nicotine replacements and medications. Also, seek support from family, friends, or support groups. It’s easier to quit when you have a support team, rather than trying to quit on your own.