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Chronic Back Pain? Quit Smoking Cigarettes

A new study finds cigarette smokers are three times as likely as nonsmokers to develop chronic back pain. And quitting can make you less likely to suffer back pain.

“Smoking affects the brain…and…affects the way the brain responds to back pain,” according to lead author Bogdan Petre.

Their study was published in the journal Human Brain Mapping and was the first to link smoking and chronic pain with the part of the brain associated with addiction, reward and motivation for learning.

MRI activity between the brain areas related to addictive behavior (nucleus accumbens) and motivated learning (medial prefrontal cortex) were correlated with chronic pain. The researchers found brain cross-talk between the areas, the strength of which correlated with the likelihood that the person would become a chronic pain patient.

In other words, tobacco addiction makes the part of the brain involved in motivated learning to be trained more easily towards chronic pain.

Clinical Takeaway:  Smoking seems to make people less resilient to back pain episodes.

Weinger’s Take:  It’s a riff on the Posture Principle 4 – Your Body Learns To Move in the Patterns You Teach it…chemically, as well as physically.
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Petre, Bogdan, Torbey, Souraya, Griffith, James W., De Oliveira, Gildasio, Herrman, Kristine, Mansour, Ali, Baria, Alex T., Baliki, Marwan N., Schnitzer, Thomas J., Apkarian, Apkar Vania (2014). Smoking increases risk of pain chronification through shared corticostriatal circuitry. Human Brain Mapping. Retrieved from


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