Smokers and intervertebral disc problems

Being healthy and feeling good is everyone’s desire. We all strive to live our life to the fullest. Unfortunately, very often along the way, we have created some bad habits that prevent us from enjoying a good health. One of those bad habits is smoking. But habits are just habits, and they can be changed.

Even though some people may think that smoking has nothing to do with their spine, we now know that there is a direct correlation between smoking and intervertebral disc disease leading to low-back pain. It is of high importance to chiropractors because, even though chiropractic care is primarily preventative, low-back pain is the number one complaint that prompts people to seek our help.

Every time a new patient comes to our office, we start by finding out what is their main complaint, by asking questions about their health status and habits. We talk about posture, nutrition, exercise and other health habits like stress levels and smoking.

Researchers discovered that smoking not only leads to hypertension and coronary artery disease (all of which are risk factors for occlusion of the arteries) but is also significantly associated with the development of low-back pain.

It suggests that smokers have a 3-4 times higher risk of developing degenerative disc disease and that smoking can exacerbate pre-existing disc degeneration.

The intervertebral discs are the cushions between the vertebral bones that provide a buffer for compression between vertebrae. A disc looks like a sponge and it acts like a shock absorber and keeps the vertebra from putting pressure on the nerves. The cushioning ability of your discs is based on their water content.

Smoking decreases the amount of water in your discs and, with less water content, your intervertebral discs can wear out sooner.

It is the nicotine that deprives disc cells of vital nutrients. In addition to nicotine, smokers introduce carbon monoxide into the blood stream and from there into body tissues. These poisons inhibit the discs’ ability to absorb the nutrients they need from the blood. The result can be prematurely dehydrated, less pliable discs – degenerated discs.

As the discs become more and more malnourished, there is a greater risk of a ruptured disc. This occurs when the disc contents break through the outer layer of the disc, often impinging on nerves and causing great pain, numbness and, in some cases, nerve damage in the legs or arms.

Coughing is also a factor that affects discs, and we know it is more prevalent among smokers. Coughing causes increased pressure by adding strain on the spine and discs, creating greater risk of disc bulges and ruptures, especially in a spine already weakened because of smoking-related toxins.

Another factor that puts your discs under pressure is vertebral mis-alignment and lack of proper joint mobility. Just as people who experience a heart attack do not feel their arteries clogging, you may not feel your vertebral dysfunctions until you suffer an episode of back or neck pain. Get your spine checked by a chiropractor. We make a great team to get you better.

The benefits of quitting smoking are tremendous. After only half an hour, your heart rate will slow down. After three months, your circulation and lung function will improve and, after one year, you cut in half your risk of coronary heart disease.

The body needs oxygen to flow in the body to heal the tissues affected and to increase circulation. That can be achieved by quitting smoking and starting to move. Replace your smoking breaks by going for a short walk. We have the best environment to enjoy the sea view and fresh air. The Algarve is a fantastic place to live and to be healthy.

Prevention is the key to stay healthy and it is the focus of chiropractic care. Get your spine adjusted and your nervous system free of interference and it will help you stay on track for good healthy habits.

By Sandra Genest-Boudreau | Christophe O. Alves
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Sandra Genest-Boudreau is French-Canadian, who graduated from the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College in 1990 before coming to the Algarve in 2002. She is passionate about adjusting all her patients, particularly children. Christophe Alves graduated from the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic (AECC) UK, and has a special interest in Sport Chiropractic. Algarve Quiroprática clinic: EN125 in Pêra | 282 312 853 | 969 397 375
Licença da ERS n.º 17485/2019 de 11-06-2019