Smoking is a real pain!
Smokers have more severe pain than non-smokers and require higher doses of painkillers.
A recent study found that smokers had more pain after surgery than non-smokers and needed significantly more opiate pain killers over the following 3 months. (1)
Smokers are also at greater risk of developing chronic painful conditions such as low back pain, headache, arthritis and fibromyalgia and cancers (2) Pain is generally more severe in smokers and higher doses of pain killers are needed. Heavier smokers have more severe pain.
Back pain is especially common in smokers and is more severe. Smoking causes degeneration in the spinal discs, leading to pain and discomfort.
The good news about quitting
The good news for smokers is that quitting smoking reduces pain. In a study of patients with back pain, those who stopped smoking had less pain and were more active than those who continued to smoke. (3)
The benefits of quitting are especially relevant before surgery. Smokers who quit before an operation have less severe pain after surgery and are less likely to have surgical complications, such as poor wound healing and wound infections. Quitting at least 4-6 weeks before surgery is recommended, although quitting even earlier is better.
1. Montbriand JJ. Smoking, pain intensity, and opioid consumption one to three months after major surgery. Nicotine Tob Res 2017
2. Orhurhu V. Prevalence of smoking in adults with chronic pain. BioMed Central 2015
3. Behrend C. Smoking cessation related to improved patient-reported pain scores following spinal care. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2012
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