Women’s back pain, cigarette smoking could be related, study says

By Coriá Bowen

Chronic pain in women could be directly linked to smoking.

Students conducted a study on the association of chronic pain in Kentucky women who are cigarette smokers.

The study was done through the Kentucky Women’s Health Registry and under the leadership of Dr. Leslie Crofford, director of the registry, and Dr. David Mannino, director of the Pulmonary Epidemiology Research Laboratory. The registry is a database that collects information from various women volunteers ages 18 and older through survey questions related to health.

The study analyzed more than 6,000 women.

“We made observations in the clinic about this, so we wanted to ask this question and test it,” Maninno said. “If this is true, then women should know.”

The registry defines chronic pain as pain that has occurred almost all day and almost every day for the past three months, Crofford said. Most common types of chronic pain are headache, muscle ache, pelvic pain and chest pain.

“I see a lot of women with chronic pain and it’s amazing to see the relationship with smoking,” Crofford said.

Forty percent of Kentucky women overall who smoke report pain, Mannino said. “Most women realize smoking is bad. Though, in Kentucky, most women continue to smoke — about 25 percent,” Mannino said.

Questions asked participants whether or not they smoke, how many days a week and how much they smoke. The answers were adjusted for age, weight, education and location of the women. Adjustments were also made for factors such as depression and anxiety.

Overall, the results showed the strongest relationship between pain and smoking in everyday smokers. The relationship was less strong in some-day smokers, and even less in women who do not smoke or who have quit.

“We can say that the two are related to each other,” Mannino said. “It makes us feel this is real and not merely an artifact.”

College students are the most unrepresented group of women on the registry, said Crofford, and they are encouraged to take the surveys.

Sophie Barnhill, a psychology senior, said she smokes a half a pack a day and experiences no chronic pain.

“It’s become more of a concern to quit now, but the stress of school keeps me from being more proactive about it,” she said.

She said she has never heard of the relationship between chronic pain and smoking before, however, she said she wants to stop before chronic pain is a concern.

Women can take other surveys with the registry at the Center for the Advancement of Womens Health website. Volunteers receive an identification number upon signing up with the registry and can consent to being contacted to participate in more studies.

Crofford said she hopes women stop smoking. “It’s a really important message for women,” she said.