Women who smoke heavily are more likely to experience chronic pain, according to a recent study at the University of Kentucky.
Over 6,000 Kentucky women were surveyed on their smoking habits and symptoms of chronic pain. Researchers found that women who smoke and former smokers had a greater chance of reporting at least one chronic pain syndrome compared to non-smokers. Syndromes included in the analysis were fibromyalgia, sciatica, chronic neck pain, chronic back pain, joint pain, chronic head pain, nerve problems, and pain all over the body.
Women who smoked daily more than doubled their odds of having chronic pain (104%), while occasional smokers showed a 68 percent increase and former smokers showed a 20 percent increase.
Daily smoking had a stronger association with chronic pain than old age, education and obesity.
“This study shows a strong relationship between heavy smoking and chronic pain in women,” said Dr.David Mannino, co-author of the study and a pulmonary physician at the University of Kentucky’s College of Public Health. “But what is the direction of this association? Does smoking cause more chronic pain, or do more women take up smoking as a coping mechanism for experiencing chronic pain?”
Mannino believes female smokers experience more pain because their normal protection mechanisms are damaged by exposure to smoke.
Dr. Leslie Crofford, a study co-author and Director of the UK’s Center for the Advancement of Women’s Health, believes the next step for researchers is to see if female smokers can manage chronic pain better if they stop smoking.
“It’s possible that patients experiencing chronic pain could benefit from smoking cessation treatment in addition to the treatment for their pain,” said Crofford. “Similarly, it’s possible that appropriate treatment of chronic pain could increase a smoker’s chances of successfully quitting. Right now, more research is needed on these interventions.”
The study was conducted through the Kentucky Women’s Health Registery, which regularly surveys nearly 15,000 Kentucky women on their health, demographic and socioeconomic status.