Home / Smoking and chronic pain

  • Smoking makes pain worse in the long run.
    • It slows down the healing process, damages blood vessels, and decreases blood flow. By reducing the amount of blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles, it causes more pain.
    • It interferes with many pain medications, making them less effective for you.
  • Smoking triggers diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Smoking worsens disability because your body’s ability to heal is affected when blood flow is reduced.
  • Smoking is especially bad for back pain, sciatica, facial pain, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis (brittle bones), and knee pain.
    • One study found that people who smoked were 4 times more likely than those who don’t smoke to need back surgery.
  • Let your doctor know if you smoke. It may impact your treatment plan. If you are not yet ready to quit or cut back, just say so.
  • It’s never too late to quit or cut back. Your health will start to improve within a few weeks.

Smoking can cause or worsen other conditions

  • It is well documented that smoking causes heart disease, stroke, lung disease, and cancer. 
  • Smoking also triggers diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), and Crohn’s disease.
    • Smokers are more than twice as likely to get rheumatoid arthritis and MS as non-smokers.
  • Smoking and nicotine speed up the damage done by many chronic diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis.
  • Smoking counteracts many drugs that treat the conditions listed above.
    • Many drugs that work well for non-smokers don’t work nearly as well for people who continue to smoke.
  • Smoking can make it difficult for people to exercise. This is a real problem because exercise can improve pain and many other symptoms.

Smoking and pregnancy

  • Quitting smoking during pregnancy is the best thing you can do for your baby.
  • Your baby will be born healthier if you don’t smoke during pregnancy.
  • Many women find that it’s much easier to quit when they want to get pregnant, others when they find out they’re pregnant.  It’s better for you and your baby if you can quit before you get pregnant.
  • Many smoking cessation programs are designed especially for pregnant women who want to quit smoking.

Smoking and surgery  

  • Smoking delays recovery after surgery.
  • Smoking causes problems with anesthesia used during surgery.
  • Quitting smoking a few weeks before surgery will lower your risk of surgical complications and speed up recovery.
  • If you can’t quit, the more you cut back, the better off you’ll be.
  • Because of the risks, some surgeons require a patient to quit smoking before they will operate.

Need help quitting? 
Want to quit but need help? You are not alone.

  • Many agencies and organizations offer free and confidential help to smokers who want to quit. If you have tried to quit before and failed, there are many techniques to quit smoking that might work for you.
    • Seek help online here (smokefree.gov) or here (www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/index.htm)
    • By phone: Smokers’ Helpline offers free telephone counseling service 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669)
    • By mobile App here (www.smokefree.gov/tools-tips/apps)
  • Tips from former smokers who have successfully quit.