Cigarette Smoking and Chronic Pain


It is well known that smoking cigarettes is not a healthy habit; however, some people use smoking as a way to cope with chronic pain. They may feel that smoking calms the nerves and relaxes the mind. However, over time, smoking actually increases pain sensitivity and worsens joint and abdominal pain. Approximately 18 percent of Americans are smokers, and these individuals make up more than 50 percent of those who receive treatment for pain each year.

The nicotine in tobacco triggers the release of pleasure-inducing chemicals, such as dopamine, in the brain. Although inhaling nicotine provides an immediate reward, it also impairs the transport of oxygen-filled blood to tissues and bones. Decreased blood flow can result in lower-back pain, disc degeneration and osteoporosis.

Smoking cigarettes is detrimental to a healthy lifestyle in general. If an individual is smoking to cope with chronic pain, quitting the habit will not only aid in pain management but will also benefit overall health.

To help individuals stop smoking, pain-management specialists provide the following guidance:

Set a date

Schedule the exact day and time to quit smoking.

Talk to experts

Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW to receive support from trained coaches.

Get support

Establish a team of friends and family to lend support.

Find a community group

Join a smoking-cessation support group.

Make an appointment

Make an appointment with a primary care physician to discuss nicotine replacements and medication to ease cravings.

Consider alternatives

Consider alternative therapies, such as hypnosis and acupuncture. Begin a new exercise program to release the “feel good” chemicals in the brain.