If smokers want to get rid of their back pain issues, they'll have to put the cigarette out, reveals a new study.
A new Northwestern Medicine study has found that smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to develop chronic back pain, and dropping the habit may cut your chances of developing this often debilitating condition.
Bogdan Petre, lead author of the study, said that smoking affects the brain the way the brain responds to back pain and seems to make individuals less resilient to an episode of pain.
The results come from a longitudinal observational study of 160 adults with new cases of back pain. At 5 different times throughout the course of a year they were given MRI brain scans and were asked to rate the intensity of their back pain and fill out a questionnaire which asked about smoking status and other health issues. 35 healthy control participants and 32 participants with chronic back pain were similarly monitored.
Scientists analyzed MRI activity between two brain areas (nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex, NAc-mPFC), which are involved in addictive behavior, and motivated learning. This circuitry is critical in development of chronic pain, the scientists found.
These two regions of the brain "talk" to one another and scientists discovered that the strength of that connection helps determine who will become a chronic pain patient. By showing how a part of the brain involved in motivated learning allows tobacco addiction to interface with pain chronification, the findings hint at a potentially more general link between addiction and pain.
The study was published online in the journal Human Brain Mapping.