Why does my bone doctor care if I smoke cigarettes?
Well, for your overall health, of course, but there are some curious and bad effects that nicotine has on the healing powers of your musculoskeletal system.
Scientists are still studying these matters, but it seems that nicotine, in any form, somehow stops the tiny, microscopic blood vessels from getting into healing tissue. These tiny blood vessels are one of the first things that the body does to try to heal an injury. In some injuries it doesn’t matter much, but in some it seems to matter a lot.
One case where it seems to matter a lot is disc injuries in your spine. It’s well-proven that, as a group, people who smoke have a much harder time getting over back injuries. They are more likely to have spinal surgery, and if they do, they take longer to heal.
The other clear cut case is in fracture healing. These small vessels are critical to the healing process. Different scientists will quote you different numbers, but it seems clear that smokers take longer to heal fractures, and are more likely to need surgery to help them heal a fracture than their non-smoking counterparts.
Of course, we all know heavy smokers who seem to heal things just fine, so there are clearly things the scientists haven’t been able to explain to us yet! But this is why your bone doctor wants you to quit smoking!! It puts the healing odds on your side!
And, you know, reformed smokers are the hardest on you!!!
Count me in that group! One day at a time, folks….
Encouraging you to quit!!
Until next time
James Bailey MD