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Smokers are Nearly 50% More Likely to Need Spinal Surgery

Smoking increases the risk of lower back pain that needs to be fixed by spinal surgery, a Swedish study suggests.

Researchers focused on a common cause of lower back pain known as lumbar spinal stenosis, which occurs when the spinal canal narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.

The condition often develops as people age, but nicotine’s constriction of blood flow and promotion of inflammation are believed to contribute to the process, the study authors write.

The participants in the Swedish study, however, were mostly in the prime of their lives, and, though they all worked in a labor-intensive industry, the smokers were far more likely to develop debilitating back injuries.

The researchers examined data on 331,941 construction workers who were part of a nationwide occupational health registry in Sweden.

Workers were followed for an average of more than three decades, starting when they were typically in their 30s, and 1,623 of them eventually had surgery for lumbar spinal stenosis.

Compared to people who never smoked, heavy smokers who went through at least 15 cigarettes a day were 46 percent more likely to have this spinal surgery, the study found.

For moderate smokers who had up to 14 cigarettes a day, the increased risk was 31 percent, while ex-smokers had 13 percent higher odds of surgery.

‘Smoking appears to be a risk factor for developing lower spine space narrowing that can lead to surgical treatment,’ said senior study author Dr Arkan Sayed-Noor, a researcher at Umea University.

‘Quitting smoking can reduce the risk,’ Sayed-Noor said.

While some previous research has linked smoking to worse outcomes from spinal surgery, the current study offers fresh evidence that it can also increase the odds that back pain will require surgery, Sayed-Noor added.

Overall, 44 percent of the study participants were non-smokers. Another 16 percent were former smokers, while 26 percent were moderate smokers and 14 percent were heavy smokers.

In the US, about 15 percent of the adult population still smokes.

The connection between smoking and spinal surgery persisted even after researchers accounted for other factors that can increase the odds of lower back pain such as aging and obesity.

Smoking damages the spine in several ways, researchers note in The Spine Journal. Nicotine can damage spinal tissue, weaken bones and make back pain worse.

The fact that it is nicotine, not just combustible tobacco, that was linked to back pain is particularly worrisome, since even safer e-cigarettes still use nicotine in their liquid cartridges.

Heavy smoking is also often accompanied by a sedentary lifestyle that may lead to muscle weakness and increase strain on the lower back.

One limitation of the study is that researchers lacked data on exercise habits, the authors note. Most of the construction workers in the study were men, and the results might be different for women.

Still, the findings add to evidence linking cigarettes to disc damage and back pain, said Dr Jean Wong, a researcher at the University of Toronto who wasn’t involved in the study.

‘There are multiple short and long-term health reasons for smokers to quit, and by quitting smoking, smokers can reduce their risk of back pain due to disc degeneration and spinal stenosis – which can be a debilitating problem in smokers,’ Dr Wong said.

‘Although it may take multiple attempts, quitting smoking is the best thing a smoker can do to minimize the risk of spinal stenosis and other health problems,’ said Dr Wong.

SOURCE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5247481/Smokers-nearly-50-percent-risk-PAIN.html


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Practice Policy Update Regarding COVID-19

Dear Patients:

Our patients, employees and family are our top priority at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

We ask you to not visit any of our locations if you have symptoms such as fever, sneezing, coughing and possible shortness of breath.

Please cancel your appointment and re-schedule once you are feeling better and are no longer suffering with symptoms.

Only non-symptomatic patients will be seen. No exceptions.

Accompanying family members – including children – are asked to remain in the waiting area and will not be allowed to enter the exam rooms.

During this time of high concern regarding the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) we are taking extra precautions to maintain the highest possible standards of safety and cleanliness. Please be advised that we are carefully following recommendations from both the CDC and WHO and are here to help guide you through this time if needed.

Some steps we are taking to keeping safe:

  1. We know how important cleanliness is and always maintain the highest standards of cleanliness. To further offer you peace of mind, we have increased the frequency of the cleaning of our office.
  2. Rest assured that hand washing is strictly followed. Hand sanitizer is available to all staff and patients.
  3. Additionally, if you have recently traveled to a country with high rates of the coronavirus or have been on a cruise, please reschedule your visit for at least 14 days from your return date. We will gladly accommodate your needs to reschedule. At that time, a telehealth interface can be arranged if necessary.

Find up-to-date and accurate information on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website and feel free to reach out with questions.

- Your team at Long Island Spine Specialists, P.C.

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