Practice Health: Smoking bad for the spine, too
Dec 01, 2013 | 746 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Most people know that smoking increases the risk of cancer, emphysema, asthma and other breathing disorders. Smoking accelerates the aging process, causing wrinkles and bodies to break down decades early. But can smoking also have some surprising effects on your spine.

Intervertebral discs are made of thick, fibrous tissue and a liquid center. Smoking dehydrates your whole body, pulling moisture from vital organs and also your discs. This increases your risk of disc injury, and also makes your back muscles work harder to maintain the function that your discs would normally perform. This increases general backache and increases your risk for a sprain or strain of the back. Because smokers’ spines are not functioning properly, they become subluxated, or misaligned, much more frequently.

Smoking also increases incidence of osteoporosis, even in younger people. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones can’t maintain enough calcium and become weak and more brittle. A common place for fractures due to osteoporosis is the spine. Even just the weight of your body on a compromised vertebra can cause it to be crushed. This is extremely painful, and the only real treatment is time. To add injury to more injury, smoking inhibits your body’s healing power, so your fractured bone will take even longer to heal.

The good news is the human body is incredible, and the healing power that can be unleashed by just a change of lifestyle can actually reverse the dangerous effects of smoking.

First things first — stop smoking. Then drink more water, take vitamin C to help your depleted tissues heal, and do some light exercise every day. Eat vegetables. Dark green veggies like spinach and broccoli are full of calcium and other nutrients. You should also eat dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt for more calcium.

Your health is in your hands, so take control. Nobody else will (or even can) do it for you. If you think you are unable to quit, think about my grandfather who quit smoking in his late 70s and lived into his 90s with a better quality of life. If he could do it, you can too. Truly, it is never too late.

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