As an established chiropractor for neck pain in Escondido, California, I’ve done extensive research about this condition. Through those years of study, I’ve found a connection between cigarette smoking and recurring neck pain. 

2016 study shared by the Association of Academic Physiatrists California linked cigarette smoking to degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine. Smoking is an unhealthy practice that only causes more damage to multiple parts of the body. 

If you happen to be a long-time cigarette smoker, this article should open your eyes to more side effects of this habit. I will delve deep into the dangers it brings and the irreparable damage it causes. But toward the end of this piece, I will give you a natural care option proven to provide some relief for various types of neck pain. 


Understanding the Cervical Spine

There are cervical discs located between each vertebra of the cervical spine. These discs act as shock

absorbers in the neck. They also naturally degenerate during the aging process.

These discs also tend to get smaller once they get dehydrated. Chronic neck pain is one of the outcomes of dehydration and is extremely difficult to treat. 

When these discs dry out, cracks and tears may also develop. This can result in the spillage of the soft material on the inside. In turn, nerves become irritated, leading to pain in the shoulders, arms, hands, and fingers.


Smoking and Neck Pain

I briefly mentioned how cigarette smoking causes disc degeneration. As explained by Dr. Mitchel Leavitt, MD, smoking directly affects intervertebral disks because of the heightened risk for microvascular disease from nicotine exposure. Microvascular disease targets small blood vessels. 

The intervertebral disks get nourished from the microvasculature that lines the endplates on either side. When blood vessels are damaged from smoking, these discs can’t get the nutrients that they need. That causes the acceleration of the degenerative process. 

Dr. Leavitt also noted how smoking negatively affects the lumbar spine. To support this claim, he and his team examined the CT scans of 182 patients who had them done for different reasons. 

Fifty-seven percent of the patients were female, 34 percent of whom were smokers. A specially-trained radiologist and a physiatrist examined the CT scans. They then recorded their findings regarding the severity of cervical degenerative disc disease, which is as follows: 

  • Normal – no loss of disc height
  • Mild – 1 – 33% loss of disc height
  • Moderate – 34 – 66% loss of disc height
  • Severe – more than 66% loss of disc height

Each disc had a score of zero to three. A cumulative cervical degenerative disc disease score was given for the whole cervical spine ranging from zero to fifteen.

Other details considered were whether the patient smoked now or many years ago, the number of packs they smoked at the time, and how many years they smoked. They also recorded BMI, age, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. 

Ultimately, smokers scored one point higher on average for worsening cervical disc degeneration, highlighting the harmful side effects of smoking. 

Dr. Leavitt observed that healthy habits improved quality of life. This study shows how positive lifestyle choices impact cervical health, and previous studies prove blood vessel health can affect the likelihood of a person having chronic back pain or not. 


More Studies Connecting Smoking to Other Disorders

2011 study done involving 6,000 female smokers in Kentucky also showed how cigarette smoking leads to other diseases like fibromyalgia, sciatica, and chronic pain in the joints, back, and neck. Those who kept a daily smoking habit were twice as likely to have some kind of chronic pain. 

2014 study led by Bogdan Petre of the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern also suggested that smoking interferes with a brain circuit associated with pain. This makes them more susceptible to chronic back pain. 

And according to 2015 research done by JAMA Neurology, smokers with multiple sclerosis who continued smoking after their diagnosis experienced a faster progression in their disease. 


Correct Spinal Alignment for Long-term Neck Pain Relief

Smoking is just one of the many causes of chronic neck pain. Another would be a misalignment of the upper two bones in the neck, known as the C1 and C2 vertebrae. And when left untreated, it may cause other issues such as spinal arthritis, headaches, dizziness, and numbness. 

You don’t need a professional to tell you to quit your nicotine habits altogether. But to correct a misalignment in your neck vertebrae, one good way is to visit an upper cervical chiropractor. 

Upper cervical chiropractic care makes use of gentle, precise methods with minimal force to encourage these bones back into alignment. It does not involve the popping and cracking techniques that some chiropractors use. 

This is what I offer here in my clinic at Rickards Chiropractic. Using a specialized technique to suit your needs, I will examine your neck to pinpoint where these misalignments are on your neck. Once we’ve completed our procedure and corrected the misalignment, the body will begin its natural healing process. In no time, you’ll feel your neck troubles dissipate. So for those in search of a chiropractor for neck pain in Escondido, California, schedule an appointment with me at Rickards Chiropractic. 

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To schedule a consultation with Dr. Rickards, call our Escondido office at (760) 274-0564. You can also click the button below. If you are outside of the local area, you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at