Intervertebral disc and smoking

For the last 40 years, researchers have shown that Lung cancer was primarily caused by Cigarette smoking. More recent studies show a close relationship between disc degenerative disease and Cigarette smoking as well. In our Acupuncture clinic, it is common to see patients that have neck pain due to degenerative disease and they are smokers. As a clinician, I cannot ignore their smoking habits. If I only treat the pain then I am only treating the symptoms without addressing the cause. Acupuncture can help a patient quit smoking too. Why is there a relationship between smoking and degenerative disc disease?

The shock absorber:

The spinal column (backbone) is composed of 33 vertebrae and they are separated by intervertebral discs, the shock absorbers. These discs help to prevent damage to the surrounding bone structures. For example, when we jump, the shock absorbers provide a cushion to the vertebrae so they don’t collide. They are many complex components within a disc forming a water base gel suspension (like gelatin).

Degenerative disc disease:

It is normal to find individuals over the age of 50 years old to experience some degenerative disc disease due to the aging process. Most of them are not going to have any symptoms at all. During the aging process, less water is retained within the joints and tissues and also the components creating the elasticity are also decreasing with time. Some of these factors will be responsible to increase a certain level of unstability along the spine. According to acupunture theory, smoking increases inflammation in the human body. Inflammation is equal to heat. If there is too much heat in the body, the water concentration will decrease affecting the skin, internal organs and joints. After a while, the disc will start losing its water capacity and it will start slipping off outside the joint causing pressure on the nerves. The result will be pain.

Stopping smoking:

It is a big step for most patients and it cannot happened overnight. When I meet a patient for the first time, I always ask if he or she is ready and commited to stop smoking. Patients have to be ready psychologically before making the first step. We have in our clinic the information to help the patient to make a healthy choice. It has been proven scientifically that patients who stop smoking will increase their overhaul health within weeks. Patient will start experiencing a reduction of their symptoms. Acupuncture will help with the cravings, withdraws effects and the pain due to degenerative disc. If the patient is commited, acupuncture should be performed for one month, twice per week for smoking cessation. For the pain due to degenerative disc or disease, it will all depend of the damages and the patient’s overall health.


Smoking cessation will help with your overall health and it will reduce your risk of cancer, heart attack and the progression of degenerative disease.