Could Your Lifestyle be Contributing to Your Pain?
We all know that leading a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of developing diseases. Now scientists are beginning to understand exactly which lifestyle habits may increase your odds for having chronic pain. New research points to at least two factors: smoking and obesity.
A recent study tracked 11,000 people in Finland over the course 28 years.1 When participants were fourteen years old, they completed questionnaires about their health and lifestyle like whether they smoked or participated in sports. Nearly 30 years later, researchers discovered that women who were obese at age 14 were more likely to develop sciatica severe enough to require hospitalization and surgery. While obesity was a major predictor of sciatica for women, smoking played a larger role for men's development of severe sciatica. Former and current smokers were also more likely to develop low-back pain, regardless of gender.
But smoking doesn't just increase your risk of sciatica and low-back pain, it also plays a role in the development of other chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia and neck pain. Another study looked at lifestyle factors and the prevalence of pain conditions in 6,000 women in Kentucky.2 Women who smoked or were former smokers had a much greater chance of having at least one chronic pain condition. Daily smokers had the highest risk of all. In fact, smoking was more strongly associated with chronic pain than old age, education, and obesity.
Still, researchers pointed out that many lifestyle factors contribute to chronic pain like physical activity levels, occupation status, and stress.
- Rivinoja, Anni, Markus Paananen, et al. Sports, Smoking, and Overweight During Adolescence as Predictors of Sciatica in Adulthood: A 28-Year Follow-up Study of a Birth Cohort. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2011, March; 173 (8): doiI: 10.1093/aje/kwq459.
- Mitchell, Michael, et al. Associations of Smoking and Chronic Pain Syndromes in Kentucky Women. The Journal of Pain. 2011, August; 12 (8): 892-899. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2011.02.35.