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Many Lower Back Problems a Consequence of Body Shape -- Except Among Smokers

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Feldman says one intriguing aspect of this study of smoking and back pain is that these students could not have had very long smoking histories since they were so young. "It may be that relatively short smoking histories are detrimental to growing tissue," he tells WebMD. While there have been other studies showing a connection between smoking and lower back pain, the Canadian research is the first one to show a relationship between smoking and low back pain in young people.

How does smoking hurt people's backs? Smoking reduces blood circulation all over the body, even in the tissues of the lower spine. Less circulation means more risk for back pain and less ability to heal injuries.

Feldman believes this information should be publicized among young people. While the young are well aware of the risks of cancer and heart disease from smoking, publicizing those risks haven't had much of an effect on deterring young people from smoking. "Although anti-smoking campaigns have not been all that successful with teenagers, it is hoped that as more adverse reactions to smoking are discovered, the appeal of smoking will be diminished for young people," Feldman tells WebMD. "Now maybe we can add healthier backs to the benefits of quitting or not starting."

Feldman believes further study on biological effects of smoking in growing adolescents on musculoskeletal tissue, specifically, the spine, may be warranted.

Vital Information:

A new study shows that physical factors, such as a long, stiff, and flat lumbar spine, are better predictors of low back pain than psycho-social factors or engaging in strenuous activity.

  • Other risk factors for developing low-back pain are improperly lifting objects and smoking.
  • Researchers say that smoking causes low-back pain possibly because it reduces blood circulation and may even damage growing tissue in adolescents.
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