Quitting Smoking Improves Spinal Pain

Smoking has been tied with lower back pain, psoriatic arthritis, sciatica, and other chronic pain conditions. However, little has been known about the potential effects of smoking cessation on this pain, or on the outcome of treatment. Now, a recent study has found that patients with painful spinal disorders may experience improvements in pain and disability levels, in addition to better outcomes following treatment, when they stop smoking.

The researchers examined a database of records for 5,333 patients with pain from a spinal disorder. Compared with patients who had never smoked, those who were current smokers reported significantly greater pain. Over the course of care, smokers reported less substantial improvement in pain, on average. However, those who quit smoking while receiving treatment reported greater improvement in pain than those who continued to smoke.

These findings support the need for incorporating smoking cessation support into treatment for patients with back pain, radiculopathy, and other spinal disorders.


Behrend C, Prasarn M, et al. Smoking cessation related to improved patient-reported pain scores following spinal care. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery 2012; doi: 10.2106/JBJS.K.01598.