Five Ways Smoking Affects Your Bones and Soft Tissues

Most people are aware of the fact that smoking can contribute to heart and respiratory diseases and several types of cancer, but did you know that smoking can harm your bones and the soft tissues in your body as well? The effects of smoking on the musculoskeletal system may not be as deadly as the effects on the heart and lungs, but can still greatly affect your quality of life.

Smoking can affect your bones and soft tissues in a number of ways. Did you know these facts about smoking?

1. It increases your risk of osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a condition that results in weakened bone, which increases the risk of fractures. Your bones need calcium to stay strong and healthy, but smoking decreases the body’s absorption of calcium. This can result in the porous, weakened bone known as osteoporosis. Smoking also reduces blood supply to the bones, slows the production of bone-forming cells, and breaks down estrogen in the body more quickly. All of these factors can affect bone health.

2. It increases your risk of soft tissue injuries.

Smoking has been linked to a higher risk of rotator cuff tears, overuse injuries, sprains, low back pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. Smoking decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to the soft tissues in the body. This makes it difficult to build muscle. Lack of oxygen also makes your muscles get tired more easily, which can affect athletic performance and leave you with more aches and pains than a non-smoker.

3. It makes you more susceptible to fractures.

Nicotine prevents the bones from getting the nutrients they need to stay healthy, eventually resulting in weakened and brittle bones. For this reason, smokers have a higher risk of fractures and other traumatic injuries than non-smokers.

4. It can slow down the healing process.

Because smoking slows down the production of bone-forming cells and reduces the flow of oxygen and blood to the soft tissues, it can also impair the healing process when you injure yourself. The blood stream supplies all of the nutrients your body needs to heal wounds, but nicotine constricts the blood vessels, decreasing that supply of nutrients to the areas that need them. Injuries can take longer to heal in smokers when compared to non-smokers.

5. It can negatively affect the outcome of a surgical procedure.

Those who continue to smoke after undergoing orthopaedic surgery often have less satisfactory outcomes than those who do not smoke or those who quit smoking before the procedure. As discussed above, smoking can slow down the healing process, which slows down a patient’s recovery time after surgery. Also, patients who smoke have a higher risk of infection and other postoperative complications. Research has shown that surgical procedures requiring bone fusion or muscle repair are significantly more successful in smokers than in non-smokers. The recovery process takes time even without increased risk of complications, so if you have to undergo surgery, it’s in your best interest to quit smoking first.

Smoking is a difficult habit to break, but it isn’t impossible. There are several organizations and programs available to help you quit. Do your bones and muscles a favor and commit to quitting smoking.