You’ve heard how smoking can negatively impact your lungs, but did you know it can also harm your bones and muscles?

A 2013 study1 outlined some of the primary risks and outcomes linking cigarette smoking with spine, muscle, and nervous system disorders. Smoking affects the bones, making them weaker, while muscles take longer to recover, and this ultimately slows down your body’s healing process. You’re also more prone to developing bone and vascular diseases, as well as muscle tears and chronic inflammation of tendons.

Here are seven of the most prominent ways that smoking can negatively impact your musculoskeletal health:

  1. You’re prone to more fractures: When you smoke, your bones lose mineral content. This makes them more fragile and can lead to more fractures.
  2. Your risk of osteoporosis increases: Smoking has been directly linked to bone loss, which increases your risk of osteoporosis over the course of your lifetime.
  3. It weakens your body’s collagen: Nicotine is toxic for the body. One effect of this toxicity is that it breaks down the collagen in the skin and body’s connective tissues (including muscles, bones, blood vessels, the digestive system, and tendons) faster than what would occur naturally over time.
  4. Your body heals slower: When your collagen is weaker, it’s more difficult for the body to regenerate those tissues. This leads to delayed healing time for your wounds, fractures, and tendon damage. This becomes a huge risk factor when it comes to recovering from surgery.
  5. It damages your blood vessels: Smoking decreases the supply of blood and oxygen to the body, which causes damage to your blood vessels, putting a greater strain on your cardiovascular system. This also puts an enormous strain on the body when exercising.
  6. You’re losing muscle mass and strength: Smoking makes it difficult for your muscles to metabolize the energy produced during a workout or any type of physical effort, which delays your body’s recovery time and its ability to regenerate and grow stronger with conditioning.
  7. You’re going to experience more muscle pain: When the body can’t repair itself as readily, muscle inflammation increases, and you’re more likely to be fatigued and sore. The study1 cited persistent shoulder pain and tendonitis as a symptom of smoking, which is a risk factor for rotator cuff tears.

What can I do to help? 

Quit! Quitting smoking has remarkably positive long-term benefits counteracting these harmful effects.  Even if you’ve been smoking for most of your life, cutting it out will help improve bone density and the ability of your bones and muscles to regenerate and heal.

Surgeons often strongly encourage patients to quit smoking prior to surgery in order to improve the outcome, knowing that removing that toxic source of nicotine from the blood will help the body’s ability to recover.

There are a number of resources available to help you quit smoking. It’s best to consult a doctor, who may refer you to group counselling, a behavioural therapist, or introduce you to nicotine replacement products. For help with any pain or discomfort in your spine, muscles, or joints, consult your family chiropractor who can help you get the care you need.


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