Dr. Gray's Straight Talk

Honest and blunt healthcare discussion and advice.

More Bad News for Smokers

Posted by Dr. Gray on Thursday, July 24, 2008

This is the text of an article I sent out in 2004.

A new study published in the journal SPINE this past March [March 2004] has shown evidence that exposure to nicotine can lead to, accelerate, and/or worsen disc degeneration in the lumbar spine:

Summary of Background Data. Numerous studies confirm that smoking is a strong risk factor for back pain. The most widely accepted explanations for the association between smoking and disc degeneration is malnutrition of spinal disc cells by carboxy-hemoglobin-induced anoxia or vascular disease. Nicotine, a constituent of tobacco smoke, present in most body fluids of smokers is known to have detrimental effects on a variety of tissues. It may also be directly responsible for intervertebral disc (IVD) degeneration by causing cell damage in both the nucleus pulposus and anulus fibrosus. The effect of nicotine on IVD cells has not previously been investigated.

Conclusions: Nicotine has an overall detrimental effect on NP disc cells cultured in vitro. There was significant inhibition of cell proliferation and extracellular matrix synthesis. Nicotine in tobacco smoke may have a role in pathogenesis of disc degeneration.

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