Smoking weakens spine, causes spine infections: Experts

New Delhi, July 31 (IANS) Smoking weakens the spine and thus further leads to several types of diseases including infection in the spine, health experts warned here on Friday.

According to the experts, smoking reduces bone density, which puts the vertebrae at greater risk of developing osteoporosis, facet disease, spinal arthritis and other degenerative spine conditions.

Cigarettes contain dried tobacco leaves and flavorings, which includes more than 4,000 chemicals. Some of these substances are harmless until burned and breathed.

“The discs that separate adjacent vertebrae have a very low blood supply. Smoking inhibits circulation even further, making it impossible for these discs to absorb the nutrients they need to stay healthy,” said Satnam Singh Chhabra, the head of Neuro and Spine department at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here.

He said nicotine causes a reduction in collagen levels, which makes soft tissues and cartilage less elastic and resilient.

“When cartilage, vertebrae and intervertebral discs gets weaken, the chances of a herniated disc or bulging disc increases. These conditions can cause disc material to impinge spinal nerves,” said Chhabra.

Vinay Singhala, consultant, Centre for Joint Replacement and Orthopaedics at city Saroj Super Specialty Hospital said one of the procedures to rectify the spine is the spinal fusion, a surgical procedure used to join bony segments of the spine.

“In order for fusion to heal, new bone growth must occur, bridging between the spinal segments. Sometimes fusion is combined with another surgical technique termed spinal instrumentation,” he said.

Stating that spinal fusion can be performed at the cervical, thoracic, or lumbar levels of the spine, Singhala said it takes months to heal.

“The long-term success of many types of spinal surgery dependents on the successful spinal fusion. In fact, if the fusion does not heal, spinal surgery may have to be repeated,” he said.

Arvind Kulkarni, the head of Mumbai-based Spine Scoliosis and Disc Replacement Centre at the Bombay Hospital said,” After surgery, one should drink plenty of water or opt for non-caffeinated beverages because caffeine can increase the nicotine craving.”

“Try to exercise on a regular basis and get about eight hours of sleep each night. Many people reach for their pack of cigarettes when they feel tired or unenergised. A change in life style is very much required,” he said.

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