Smoking When in Pain

Blog Post created by dr_hays on Apr 13, 2016

Often people who suffer from pain will report that smoking helps them manage their pain whether it be acute pain (from an injury or temporary condition), or chronic pain (lasting for longer then 6 months, with no identified cause).  For some, this can be a hurdle that can impact their motivation for stopping smoking.  


However, research shows that smoking not only impairs healing, but it is often a cause or major contributor to pain.  Our muscles, tissues, organs, and nerves require oxygen to heal and relieve pain.  Smoking delivers carbon monoxide which binds to the red blood cells more than oxygen, not to mention the 4000 other toxins in tobacco smoke.  People with circulation problems or conditions such as neuropathy (nerve pain in legs, feet, etc) benefit tremendously from stopping smoking, in part due to improved oxygen flow to these areas.


The Mayo Clinic Pain Rehabilitation Center has found that patients who smoke report higher levels of pain when they enter treatment, take more pain medications, and many report increased smoking while on these pain medications.  Another study from the University of Miami Medical School found that smokers who completed treatment for low back pain, had more pain than non smokers and were less likely to return to work.  While smoking may feel like a reliever, it appears it is a short-acting band-aid that is not the solution for pain.


There are other ways people can distract themselves without smoking.  Pain may limit a person’s behaviors, but finding things to do (walking, reading, time with loved ones, relaxed breathing, drinking water, taking a nap, etc) may help manage boredom and stress that can result from having pain.  Remember you are not alone, and stopping smoking is a process that is possible. To share your quit process with others who are going through the same smoke-free journey, continue to provide support on the EX community. If you aren't a member, register today on BecomeAnEX.org.




Shi, Y., Weingarten, T. N., Mantilla, C. B., Hooten, W. M., & Warner, D. O. (2010). Smoking and PainPathophysiology and Clinical Implications. The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists113(4), 977-992.