Smoking and Pain

April 13, 2023

Smoking is a widespread habit that is known to have negative effects on health including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory problems. What people may not understand as much is the impact smoking can have on pain and tissue healing, both in the short and long term.

The chemicals in cigarette smoke, including nicotine and carbon monoxide, can constrict blood vessels and reduce blood flow to the body’s tissues. This can impede the healing process and increase the risk of complications after injury and surgery. In addition, smoking can interfere with the immune system’s ability to fight infection, further hindering the body’s ability to heal.

Smoking has been linked to delayed healing and increased pain in a variety of conditions, including fractures, wound healing, and surgical procedures. One study found that smokers had a 34% increased risk of delayed healing after a fracture compared to non-smokers. Another study found smokers had a higher risk of postoperative complications, including infection, wound healing problems, and decreased range of motion.

In addition to delaying healing and increasing pain, smoking can also exacerbate chronic pain conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia. A study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that smokers with fibromyalgia reported higher levels of pain and greater functional limitations compared to non-smokers with the same condition.

Quitting smoking can have a significant impact on pain and tissue healing. Studies have shown that quitting smoking can improve healing rates and reduce the risk of complications after surgery. A study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery found that patients who quit smoking before undergoing surgery had a significantly lower risk of complications compared to those who continued smoking.

In addition to improving healing rates, quitting smoking can also help reduce chronic pain. A study published in the Journal of Pain found that smokers with chronic pain who quit smoking reported as significant reduction in pain intensity and pain interference after six months.

There are several evidence-based ways to quit smoking that have been shown to be effective:

  1. Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT): NRT products such as patches, gum and lozenges can help reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms and cravings. They work by delivering a small amount of nicotine to the body without the harmful chemicals found in cigarette smoke.
  2. Medications: There are several prescription medications that can help people quit smoking, including bupropion and varenicline. These medications work by reducing cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
  3. Behavior Therapy: Behavioral therapy, such as cognitive-behavior therapy or contingency management, can help people develop coping skills and strategies to manage triggers and cravings.
  4. Combination Therapy: Combining nicotine replacement therapy with medication or behavioral therapy can be more effective than using any one method alone.
  5. Support Programs: Support programs, such as quit lines, support groups, and online communities, can provide encouragement and guidance during the quitting process.

In is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to quitting smoking. Different methods work for different people, and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take several attempts to quit smoking, and it is important to be patient and persistent.