Health Blog

Need a Reason to Stop Smoking?

You may have heard that smoking can cause cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and lung disease. But not everyone knows smoking can also lead to the development of back pain or make your existing back pain worse.

Across our country, back pain is the most common chronic pain condition and afflicts many of our patients here at MTI Physical Therapy. As a result of back pain, people have experienced a limited ability to participate in sports, have suffered from financial burdens and have also affected their ability to work, sleep, and enjoy time with friends and family. Let’s explore this topic further by understanding how smoking can cause back pain and learning about the additional benefits of quitting smoking.

What does smoking have to do with back pain?

  • Smoking narrows blood vessels.
  • When blood vessels are narrowed, it’s harder for nutrients, oxygen and healing factors to travel to injured muscles, ligaments, nerves, bone and vertebral discs. This slows our body’s natural healing processes. It can even cause disc degeneration, which can increase your back pain.
  • Smoking decreases blood flow to your legs and feet, which can worsen any symptoms you have and cause additional pain in your legs.

Additional benefits of quitting smoking or reducing how often you smoke:

  • Improve your sense of smell and taste
  • Increase your life expectancy
  • Save money (smoking one pack-per-day in Washington state costs more than $4000/year)
  • Decrease your risk of erectile and sexual dysfunction
  • Decrease the risk that you or your loved ones (from second hand smoke) will develop health conditions such as diabetes, lung cancer, liver disease, high blood pressure and depression

I have tried to quit smoking before – there’s no way I can stop smoking completely.
Consider quitting temporarily. It takes 72 hours for the negative effects of smoking to leave your system. This means even one cigarette can impact you body’s healing processes for three days. On the positive side, this means  that within three days of quitting, your body can start the healing process! If you consider quitting for even one week, this could reduce the amount of back pain you are feeling considerable. Perhaps if you notice the difference, it will help motivate you to keep going and stay strong!

Don’t have back pain? Well, there’s another important reason to consider quitting…and it has to do with COVID-19.

  • Smoking can ultimately impact your immune system by decreasing your vitamin C levels
  • Smoking increases your risk of catching a cold or pneumonia because it generates more mucus within your lungs

Given the circumstances of the current COVID-19 pandemic, this is an especially important time to do everything we can to prevent getting sick. If you reduce your risk of catching a cold, virus or developing pneumonia right now, you are not only helping yourself, you are helping to prevent the additional spread of disease in your community.

Here at MTI we are passionate about empowering our patients to take charge of their health. If quitting smoking or reducing how often you smoke is something you’re interested in, we would love to have an open, safe, non-judgmental conversation with you about it. Don’t hesitate to bring it up at your next appointment!

If you’re experiencing back pain for any reason, contact your nearest MTI Physical Therapy clinic to schedule an initial evaluation with one of our highly trained physical therapists. We are following all of the safety precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and are open for in-clinic visits at all of our 7 locations.

From our MTI family to yours, stay healthy and be well.



Rachel Harren is a Physical Therapy Intern who was working with Rebecca Catlin, PT, DMT, OCS, FAAOMPT, at MTI Physical Therapy’s First Hill Clinic earlier this year. She is currently scheduled to graduate from Pacific University’s School of Physical Therapy with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She is also her class President and the Treasurer of The Collective for Diversity and Social Justice.

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