There are several studies that link the habit of smoking with the propensity to suffer chronic back pain. But in this recent study by researchers at Northwestern University in Evanston (USA) it is suggested for the first time that smoking interferes with a brain circuit associated with pain, because it smokers are more prone to this kind of pain.
The medial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens played a key role in the development of chronic pain. Smoking reduces the ability to resist this type of pain, in short, because it strengthens the connection between both (the stronger it is, the less resistant an individual was to chronic pain) as published in the magazine Human Brain Mapping.
The study was conducted with 160 volunteers who had recently developed acute back pain (which lasts between 4 and 12 weeks) as well as 32 patients with chronic back pain (pain for 5 years or more) and 35 participants without Back pain. On five different occasions over a period of one year, all participants completed questionnaires that collected information about their tobacco use and other health conditions, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Smokers had a stronger connection between the medial prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, which would mean suffering three times more likely to develop chronic back pain.
Add Bogdan Petre, study leader:
However, we have seen a dramatic drop in the activity of this circuit in smokers who (of their own volition) quit smoking during the study. So when they quit smoking, their vulnerability to chronic pain was also reduced.
Back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the world: it is estimated to affect 8 out of 10 people at some time in their lives.
Image | josemanuelerre