October 2, 2011

Women Who Smoke Experience More Chronic Pain

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Female smokers experience higher levels of chronic musculoskeletal pain

(dailyRx News) If you have chronic pain, quitting smoking may be one of your best bets. Women who are heavy smokers or even former smokers tend to experience substantially more pain than non-smokers.

Daily smokers are at more than double the risk of at least one chronic pain syndrome, University of Kentucky researchers found.

"Quit smoking if you have chronic pain."

Dr. David Mannino, a pulmonary physician in the UK College of Public Health and co-author of the study, said the research showed a strong relationship between heavy smoking and chronic pain in women. Additional research will be needed to ensure that the added chronic pain is caused by smoking, instead of women in chronic pain taking up smoking as a coping mechanism.

Mannino said that acute pain is a protective response. He suggested that female smokers may experience acute pain that turns into chronic pain because their normal protection and mechanisms are damaged by exposure to smoke.

Researchers surveyed more than 6,000 Kentucky women over the age of 18 about their health, including smoking habits and symptoms of chronic pain.  Participants suffered from a variety of chronic pain ailments including fibromyalgia, sciatica, chronic neck pain, chronic back pain, joint pain, chronic head pain, nerve problems, and all over body pain.

They found that women who smoke or had smoked in the past had a higher chance of reporting at least one chronic pain syndrome in comparison to non-smokers. Former smokers showed a 20 percent increase, while occasional smokers demonstrated a 68 percent increase, and daily smokers were found to be substantially higher at 104 percent.

Investigators found that daily smoking had a stronger association to chronic pain than demographics including older age, lower education level, obesity or the area where participants resided.

Dr. Leslie Crofford, director of the Center for the Advancement of Women’s Health and co-author of the study, said the results indicate that patients experiencing chronic pain may benefit from smoking cessation treatment in addition to their pain treatment. He said it also is possible that more appropriate treatment of chronic pain could increase a smoker's chances of successfully quitting.

The research was recently published in the American Pain Society Journal of Pain.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
September 29, 2011

Last Updated:
October 2, 2011