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Researchers find correlation between smoking and back pain

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Buffalo: Researchers find correlation between smoking and back pain
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Researchers have found a link between back pain and smokers. Geoff Redick has more.

We've all likely suffered back pain at some point. But for smokers, it appears back pain is much more common.

"A large body of literature has shown that back pain and disc disease presents earlier in patients who smoke," said Dr. Caleb Behrend of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

No one really knows why. But one of the negative effects of smoking is decreased blood supply to organs and joints, which naturally slows the healing process.

Behrend said, "There are studies that show that patients who smoke have lower rates of healing following surgeries, spinal surgeries in particular."

Behrend is an orthopedic doctor. Several years ago, he and colleagues began examining medical records of spinal care patients. What they found, was a surprise.

"We were basically looking at pain and inadvertently in looking that the group that quit smoking, found that they improved dramatically," Behrend said.

Here's the breakdown: Over 5,300 spinal care patients were asked several times during treatment to rate their pain on a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being the worst. Seventeen percent of patients were smokers during treatment. They consistently showed the least change in pain over time. Those who never smoked or quit smoking during treatment, showed the greatest improvements in pain ratings as treatment progressed.

Behrend said, "There's increasing evidence that it's associated with quality of life, meaning it causes you pain and is associated with increased disability."

Which is more impetus to quit.

"I think it affects many organ systems: Your muscles, your bone, your heart, your lungs. I don't think you should be surprised at all. It affects anything it can through your respiration and your bloodstream," said Behrend. "You got New Year's right around the corner, I think it's a good time of year to quit!"

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