Smoking & Spinal Health - Bad News

Unless you’ve been living under a rock and you haven’t heard – the harmful effects of tobacco smoke on both the cardiovascular (heart, arteries & veins) and pulmonary systems (lungs) is common knowledge. But what isn’t so widely known are the negative effects that smoking has on spinal health.

A recent study confirmed that smoking leads to a substantial change in the fluid and tissues surrounding intervertebral discs. This is due to a decrease in blood flow to the disc, thus meaning that red blood cells cannot deliver oxygen as efficiently and that the discs cannot get the nutrients they need.


What is an intervertebral disc and why are they important?

An intervertebral disc (shortened to ‘disc’) is a circular-type piece of cartilage which fits in between each vertebrae in your spine. Most people have 23 in total, starting from your upper neck and all the way down to the base of your spine. The centre of each disc has a gel-like substance that acts as a shock absorber for the spine. Our discs are under the most amount of force whilst bending and sitting. 


But what does this all mean? In a nutshell, this study found that cigarette smoking could result in the following:

  • It can speed up degeneration (break down) of the discs in your spine.
  • Can increase the level of pain suffered.
  • Decreases the possible success of both conservative (chiropractic, physio, exercise etc.) and surgical treatments.
  • Increases risk both during, and post-surgery.


It does seem a bit doom and gloom, but on a more positive level there is so much help out there these days. The ‘Quit’ website ( is just one of many sites out there to help if you (or a friend/family member) are wanting to quit.

Our aim at Waters Family Chiropractic is to ensure that our patients can experience life pain-free and be the healthiest version of themselves. We do this by encouraging our patients to be informed about their health so they can be confident in the health-related decisions they make.


Schroeder GD, et al.  2016. The Effect Of Smoking On Patients Having Spinal Surgery. Current Orthopaedic Practice