Most of us recognize that smoking is not good for the body or overall health. There is quite a long list of reasons to convince you not to smoke. However, here is one you may not be familiar with. A recent study has linked smoking and degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine. This research was presented at the Association of Academic Physiatrists Annual Meeting in Sacramento, California.
The Cervical Spine
The cervical spine is in the area of the neck and composed of vertebrae that have in between them cervical discs to absorb shock endured by the spine. These discs begin to degenerate due to the normal process of aging. They dehydrate and get smaller and can cause a person chronic neck pain that is nearly impossible to treat. Sometimes, when the discs dry out, the end result is cracks and tears through which the jelly-like middle portion of the disc spills out. This can irritate nerves and result in pain in the shoulders, arms, fingers, and hands.
How Smoking Plays a Part in Neck Pain
There are other things besides normal wear and tear which can damage to these discs. Unhealthy practices, such as smoking, can add to the degeneration of these discs. According to Mitchel Leavitt, MD, smoking is not good for a person’s intervertebral discs due to the risk of developing microvascular disease (a disease of the small blood vessels) because of using nicotine. The problem is intervertebral discs get their nourishment from the microvasculature that is lining the endplates on each side of the disc. If blood vessels become damaged due to smoking, the discs don’t get the proper nutrition, speeding up the degenerative course.
Studies have been done to confirm that smoking negatively affects the lumbar spine. However, up to this point, none have confirmed a problem with the cervical spine as well. To take a closer look at whether this is true, Dr. Leavitt and his team examined the CT scans of 182 consecutive patients who had them done for a variety of reasons.
Dr. Leavitt noted that just as a healthy lifestyle helps you to have improved life quality and quantity and better disease management, a healthy lifestyle similarly affects the spine. The study he performed not only quantifies this is true of cervical health but it also shows how existing studies prove blood vessel health can impact whether one has chronic back pain or not.
Most of the patients they observed were female (57%) and some were smokers (34%). A specially trained radiologist and a physiatrist reviewed the CT scans and documented their findings on the severity of cervical degenerative disc disease.
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The discs were rated as follows:
- Normal – no loss of disc height
- Mild – 1 – 33% loss of disc height
- Moderate – 34 – 66% loss of disc height
- Severe – more than 66% loss of disc height
The scores of zero to three were then given to each disc and a cumulative cervical degenerative disc disease score was given for the whole cervical spine ranging from zero to fifteen.
Other factors taken into consideration were whether the patient smoked now or many years ago, how many packs were being smoked, and the number of years smoked. They also considered BMI, age, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. The results were quite enlightening.
Those who were currently smoking scored one point higher on average for worsening cervical disc degeneration, indicating yet again the harmful side effects of smoking. Tobacco has repeatedly been seen to lead to numerous diseases and even death.
This study can help doctors give their patients more reasons to quit this life-threatening habit. Dr. Leavitt hopes those reading about this study will see how important it is to make positive lifestyle changes in order to maintain a longer, healthier lifestyle with little pain.
More Revealing Studies
A study of more than 6000 women in Kentucky who were smokers proved that they had a greater chance of developing sciatica, fibromyalgia, chronic neck pain, joint pain, and chronic back pain. Those in the study who smoked every day saw their odds of having some type of chronic pain double.
Another interesting study in Norway compared the pain levels of those where were smokers and former smokers versus non-smokers. Surprisingly, smokers had a very low tolerance to pain, while those who never smoked had a very high pain tolerance. JAMA also reported on a study proving those with multiple sclerosis that continued to smoke after their diagnosis saw their disease progress much faster than those that did not smoke.
Neck Pain and Proper Spinal Alignment
Neck pain can be caused by other things, in addition to smoking. If the neck is not properly cared for in a timely manner, it can lead to spinal arthritis and chronic neck pain. Other symptoms that may come about due to upper cervical issues are headaches, dizziness, and other problems. Therefore, if you would like to see an improvement in your chronic neck pain, you may want to work hard at quitting smoking and make an appointment to visit us here at Source Chiropractic and Wellness in Draper, UT.
We use a specialized technique that helps to determine whether your neck is out of alignment. We then use minimal force to help the neck bones move back into their original position. The body can then begin to heal from the damage incurred by the misalignment. This will not restore a disc that may have degenerated, but by keeping the neck in proper alignment, further damage can be slowed down. Many patients report positive results after only a few visits.
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Cheney call our Draper office at 385-237-3110. You can also click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com