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Moving Toward Better Health

The official blog of Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic


Smoking Degenerates Your Spine

Posted by Dr. Tom Konicki
Dr. Tom Konicki
Dr. Thomas Konicki earned his B.S. in Biology at the University of Cincinnati and then went on to the Los Ange...
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in Health And Wellness

Question: My chiropractor told me smoking was bad for my spine. I don't understand why. Do you have any tips for quitting?

Answer: Your chiropractor is right. Smoking causes the discs in your spine to degenerate quicker. The discs are the movable cushions that sit between each vertebra and are like a sponge. They need blood, water, nutrients and motion to stay healthy.

There are numerous small capillaries (the tiniest blood vessels) that surround each disc. As you move your spine, the discs absorb the blood and nutrition much like a sponge. When you smoke a cigarette, the small capillaries constrict and shut off all blood supply. This allows your disc to start drying out sooner then it normally would. Our discs naturally dry out as we age and become smaller in size. That is why we all shrink in height as we age.

I have seen 40 year old smokers in my office that have the spine of a 60 year old person. Not only does smoking help degenerate your disc faster, but also puts you at more risk for a slipped disc or ruptured disc. Smoking then makes it more difficult for your body to heal because each cigarette shuts off blood flow and subsequent healing.

I believe one of the greatest services I can provide to my patients is to educate them about smoking and help them quit. It's never too late!
More than 50 million Americans smoke. People may begin smoking because of stress, peer pressure or simply trying to be more adult-like. But the main reason they continue is addiction to nicotine. Cigarette smoke contains more than 4,000 chemicals and when inhaled, they merge into a tar-like substance that sticks to the tissues inside your mouth, throat, lungs and stomach. These chemicals not only damage the tissues they contact directly, but they also harm the entire body by reducing the amount of oxygen in your blood that reaches your organs. Smoking affects nearly every organ in your body - heart, brain, stomach, bladder, kidneys and even the skin. Smokers increase their risk of developing cataracts as well.

So why is quitting smoking such a big deal? It is a terrible way to die from lung cancer or emphysema. The last years of a smoker's life can be a slow, gradual loss of ability to do tasks and simply get around. You become a prisoner of your own body.

Other benefits of quitting include decreasing your heart rate, decreasing your blood pressure, decreasing your risk of heart attack and stroke, decreasing your risk of lung, stomach, bladder and other cancers, decreasing chronic cough and lung disease. You will live longer and better; you are able to do more and, lead a more active life. And lastly, you will save lots of money!

Within five years of quitting, your risk of stroke is the same as a non-smoker. In 15 years, your heart attack risk is the same as that of non-smokers the same age. Your body can heal and repair if given the chance.

The following are tips for quitting:

Admit you are addicted, much like an alcoholic. In fact Nicotine Anonymous uses the 12-step method for helping smokers quit.

Set a quit date.

Get rid of all cigarettes and ash trays; remove your temptations.

Do not let people smoke in your home.

You can NOT smoke just one cigarette. Inevitably, you will return to your former smoking habits if you do.

Just understand that when you have an urge to smoke, the urge will pass in 3-5 minutes if you ride it out. Over time, your urges will be less frequent, but still just as intense.

I was a smoker for 12 years before becoming a chiropractor. When I entered this health field, I knew it was time to quit. It took 10 years before I had no urge to smoke at all. However, as time went on, I had learned to manage the urge to smoke; it would pass fairly quickly.

You can do it! Millions of Americans have. Get in a support group, talk to your doctor, get nicotine patches, go to the web site search engines and type in "quit smoking". You will have many resources to get you through this process.

Remember, once you quit, you can not have just one cigarette. You are a non-smoker 100%. Now pick your date and go for it!

Copyright © 2008 - Konicki Schumacher Chiropractic. All rights reserved.

Dr. Tom Konicki is a board certified chiropractic orthopedist and has practiced for many years in South Dayton. You can reach him at www.kschiro.com or mail your questions to Ask the Chiropractor, 2165 Miamisburg-Centerville Road, Dayton, Ohio 45459.

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