2002-06-08 / Columnists

Health and Harmony

Smokers Have More Back Pain, Depression
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

Smokers Have More Back Pain, Depression

One quarter of adults in the U.S. smoke cigarettes, and smokers live an average of 5-10 years less than those who have never smoked. Studies have shown an association between smoking and low back pain,, but recent research has refuted the results of the previous studies. What is clear is that smoking decreases healing time, increases the risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, pulmonary diseases and osteoporosis.

To determine the link between smoking and health, duration of pain, and severity of pain in spinal patients, the authors of this study utilized the National Spine Network database. The initial visits of 25,455 patients at 23 health care locations were included in the final results. Patients answered questions on work status, symptoms, medical history, mental health, and demographics on the SF-36 questionnaire, which means overall health. Practitioners provided clinical information and smoking status on their patients.

Smokers were more likely to report severe back pain symptoms (50%) and symptoms of depression (54%) than non-smokers, but the smokers’ symptoms were more severe and presented more often each day.

Categories of smokers (based on number of cigarettes smoked per day) were not identified in this study, according to the authors, so this study cannot provide information about a possible dose response link between smoking and health. They conclude, "Patients who smoke should be carefully screened for clinical depression so that their depressive symptoms can be treated as well as the spinal symptoms." (Vogt, M.T., HanscombB,Lauerman WC, et al. Influence of smoking on the health status of spinal patients: The National Spine Network Database. SPINE 2002:27(3), pp. 313-319).

May The Blessings Be!

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