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Giving up smoking can help back pain

A new study has found that giving up smoking can significantly reduce the pain experienced by people with back problems.
By David McNamee

BMJ Group News

What do we know already?


Nearly all adults will see a doctor for back pain or spine problems at some point in their lives.

Previous studies have found links between smoking and an increased risk of back pain and problems affecting your spine. Research has also shown that if you have back surgery and you smoke there is a greater likelihood of having complications after your operation, or of the surgery not working so well.

This study looked at 5,333 people treated for a spinal problem. They were asked about their pain and how it affected them over a period of eight months.

What does the new study say?

The results showed that people who had never smoked or who had given up smoking before having treatment had less back pain than people who were currently smoking, or who gave up smoking during treatment.

People who gave up smoking while having treatment also showed an improvement in pain. People who continued to smoke saw no improvement in their pain, regardless of the treatment they had.

How reliable is the research?

This was a large, well-conducted study. The researchers took into account people’s age, sex, and whether they smoke, have ever smoked, quit smoking during the study, or quit smoking before having treatment. However, the study did not assess other factors which may have influenced people’s pain, or how their pain might have been affected by any medical treatment they received outside of the study.

What does this mean for me?

If you are worried about back problems and how smoking might affect this, speak to your GP about treatments that can help you if you decide to try to give up smoking.

Published on December 06, 2012

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