2 Bad Habits to Quit for Better Spine Health

Most of us have them – bad habits that keep us locked down under their persuasive power. However, some of those bad habits are dangerous to our health, including our spines.
Smoking and unhealthy eating are bad for our entire bodies, but they have terrible consequences for our spines, in particular. Fortunately, these two bad habits can be kicked for a healthier body, from our head to our toes.
Bad Back Habit 1: Smoking
Smoking cigarettes impairs the body’s blood flow, which deprives your spinal tissues of the nutrients and oxygen they need to stay healthy and strong. When you smoke, bone density can decrease, which increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. Not only does osteoporosis cause back and neck pain, but it also causes weakness, cramping and pain in your legs.
Additionally, smoking typically decreases your physical activity because it damages the lungs and leads to deoxygenated blood. Simple tasks like walking up a flight of stairs can become difficult and painful. Staying active is crucial for spine health, so reducing your mobility can eventually lead to spinal problems.
Finally, smoking prevents proper healing. If you have spine surgery and are a smoker, expect the healing process to take significantly longer. And, in some cases, smokers’ bones may never fully heal.
Bad Back Habit 2: Unhealthy Eating
Nearly one-third of Americans who are obese experience musculoskeletal pain, and specifically back pain, according to the American Obesity Association. In addition, the Association reports that more obese people say they are disabled and have difficulty completing everyday activities, compared to people with other chronic conditions.
And those excess pounds are taking their toll on the back and skeletal system. Joint pain and musculoskeletal problems are the most common obesity-related problems. In fact, every additional pound you carry adds strain to the muscles and ligaments in your back.
When your spine tries to compensate for the extra weight, it can become tilted and stressed unevenly. Over time, your back can lose its proper support and develop an unnatural curvature of the spine.
Particularly, lower back pain can be aggravated as a result of obesity. Carrying extra weight in the stomach pulls the pelvis forward, straining the lower back. The American Obesity Association tells us that women who have a large waist size are especially at risk for lower back pain.
Besides chronic pain, obesity can lead to additional spinal conditions. Obese patients may experience sciatica and low back pain as a result of a herniated disc. This condition occurs when discs and other spinal structures become damaged from having to compensate for the pressure of excess weight on the back.
If you are a smoker or an unhealthy eater, the bad news is that these habits are damaging your spine and possibly causing long-term, painful conditions. However, the good news is that, with the help of a support system (including your doctor), you can quit both habits and find your way to better health.