Chronic Pain Intensity More Severe in Smokers

If you needed another reason to stop smoking, here it is: a study published in Pain Medicine analyzed patients with chronic pain and found that those who also smoke reported more severe pain.

If you needed another reason to stop smoking, here it is: a study published in Pain Medicine analyzed patients with chronic pain and found that those who also smoke reported more severe pain.

It isn’t news that those who smoke cigarettes face a wide range of health problems, including a variety of cancers and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). A recent report even showed that patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a tough time kicking the habit. Now, researchers are connecting smoking and chronic pain, a condition that affects millions of Americans.

Previous studies determined a link between non-veteran smokers and increased pain. However, the same in-depth research has yet to be done in veterans, a population in which smoking is highly prevalent.

The analysis included 355,966 male and 50,988 female Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) with an average age of 30. Each participant had visited Veterans Affairs at least once from 2001 to 2012. Using an 11-point pain rating scale, the subjects reported their pain intensity as none to mild (0 to 3), moderate (4 to 6), or severe (≥7).

Sixteen percent of the patients were former smokers and 37% were current smokers. Evaluation using a pain scale revealed that 66.3% experienced none to mild pain, 19.8% had moderate pain, and 13.9% had severe pain. The researchers used multivariable logistic regression analyses to determine the relationship between pain and smoking.

“Results indicated that current smoking [odds ratio (OR) = 1.29 (95% confidence intervals (CI) — 1.27 – 1.31)] and former smoking {OR = 1.02 (95% CI = 1.01 – 1.05)] were associated with moderate to severe pain intensity, controlling for age, service-connected disability, gender, obesity, substance abuse, mood disorders, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder,” the authors wrote.

There was a connection between moderate to severe pain (≥4) and smoking among the patients. Notably, the association was only relevant in those who were current smokers, but not former smokers. The research suggest smoking and intensity of chronic pain go hand in hand. These findings come quickly after another team found a link between disability from chronic pain and alcohol consumption.