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Musculoskeletal Disorders Linked to History of Smoking

In a recent study performed by researchers at the University of Southampton, England and published in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases it was found that former and current smokers tended to have a higher incidence of musculosleletal disorders (MSDs) over lifetime non-smokers.

To examine possible links between smoking and MSDs researchers looked at 13,000 smoking and non-smoking subjects from ages 16 to 64 as to the incidence of pain in the areas of the neck and upper limbs, and the low back and lower limbs over the course of the preceding year. Further questions were asked regarding smoking habits, physical activities at work, headaches, tiredness and stress.

Interestingly, the results indicated that both current and ex-smokers had a higher risk for pain in the areas looked at compared to lifetime non-smokers. In respondents who currently smoke it was found that they a 50% greater incidence of pain compared to nonsmokers that was severe to the extent that it prevented them from performing normal activities of work and recreation.

The researchers were cautious in their interpretation of the results of the study as to whether the experience of musculoskeletal pain was directly the result of cigarette smoking. It is always possible that some intermediating factor is involved which is associated with both the inclination to smoke and the occurrence of spinal and extremity pain.

1) Croasmun, Jeanie. “Link Reported Between Smoking and MSDs” 20 January 2003.
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