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How Smoking Can Cause Arterial Damage and Back Pain

Many of us know that smoking is bad for our lungs. However, fewer people are aware that it can also harm other parts of our bodies. Tobacco smoke contains many chemicals that can damage our arteries. When this happens, it affects the flow of blood through our bodies. As a result, our blood may not deliver enough nutrients to various parts of our bodies. Let's dive into how smoking can cause arterial damage and, in turn, back pain.

Arterial Damage from Tobacco Smoke

The chemicals in tobacco smoke can cause damage to our arteries. Arteries are the tubes that carry blood from our hearts to other parts of our bodies. When they get damaged, they may become narrower, which reduces blood flow. This means our blood can't transport as much oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed.

How Reduced Blood Flow Affects the Back

Blood flow is crucial to keep our bodies healthy. Our spines and the disks that cushion our vertebrae also need a constant supply of nutrients. However, if our arteries are damaged, it can lead to reduced blood flow to these areas. This can cause our backs to hurt because the disks are not getting enough nourishment. Low back pain is common and can be linked to smoking.

The Link Between Smoking and Back Pain

Over time, if blood flow to the back is low, it can lead to back pain. The most common type of back pain is low back pain, and research shows that it can be caused by smoking. If the disks don't get enough blood, they can weaken and lead to conditions like osteoarthritis. The damage can be significant because the back already doesn't get as much blood as other parts of the body, even for people who don't smoke.

A Study on Smoking and Back Pain

In 2016, a study looked at data from more than 34,000 adults in the United States. This study reviewed a survey conducted in 2012. The researchers divided the people into three groups: "never-smokers," "current smokers," and "former smokers." Out of these people, more than 10,000—about 28%—said they experienced back pain in the last three months.

Smoking Increases the Risk of Back Pain

When the researchers looked at those who experienced back pain, they found that 23.5% had never smoked, 33.1% had quit smoking, and 36.9% were still smoking. This suggests that current smokers might have a higher risk of back pain compared to those who never smoked.

The More You Smoke, the Higher the Risk

The study also found that the more cigarettes people smoked every day, the more likely they were to have back pain. On average, daily smokers who experienced back pain smoked about 13 cigarettes a day. However, those who did not have back pain smoked about 10 cigarettes a day. This data points to a positive relationship between smoking and back pain.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you smoke and have back pain, it could be because smoking is damaging your arteries. This means your back might not be getting enough nutrients. Quitting smoking could improve your blood flow, which may help reduce your back pain. It's never too late to make a positive change for your health.


In conclusion, smoking can damage your arteries and reduce blood flow, leading to back pain. The best way to protect your body is to quit smoking. Not only will your lungs thank you, but your back might also start feeling better. If you're struggling with back pain and you're a smoker, talk to a healthcare professional about ways to quit smoking. It's a big step, but it's worth it for your health.


  1. Green BN, Johnson CD, Snodgrass J, Smith M, Dunn AS. Association Between Smoking and Back Pain in a Cross-Section of Adult Americans. Cureus. 2016 Sep 26;8(9):e806. doi: 10.7759/cureus.806. PMID: 27790393; PMCID: PMC5081254.

  2. Schembri E, Massalha V, Spiteri K, Camilleri L, Lungaro-Mifsud S. Nicotine dependence and the International Association for the Study of Pain neuropathic pain grade in patients with chronic low back pain and radicular pain: is there an association? Korean J Pain. 2020 Oct 1;33(4):359-377. doi: 10.3344/kjp.2020.33.4.359. PMID: 32989201; PMCID: PMC7532299.

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