Smoking not only leads to wrinkles it also makes you much more likely to suffer from neck pain. This is because smoking impairs blood circulation, tissue oxygenation and nourishment, causes dehydration, depletes vitamin C and other antioxidant nutrients, increases the risk of cancerous growths in the neck, and even adversely affects bone metabolism.
Depleted vitamin C means less collagen production and unhealthy connective tissue. Dehydration can affect the spinal discs, reducing intervertebral height and causing trapped nerves and even spinal cord compression. Poor tissue oxygenation can make muscle cramps and neck pain more likely, and decreased bone growth increases the risk of osteoporosis and spinal fracture, and a poorer response to back surgery involving spinal fusion.
If this plethora of negatives about smoking doesn’t have you wanting to quit then maybe the prospect of cancer will.
Quitting smoking is one of the most popular New Year resolutions, but many people find themselves resolving over and over to kick the habit, only to take up smoking within weeks. In fact, only 8% of people actually succeed in keeping that New Year’s resolution for twelve months or more, so how can you improve your chances of quitting for good?
Here are five quick tips to help you quit smoking and reduce your risk of chronic neck pain:
1. Figure out your motivation
If you don’t know why you want to quit then you’re unlikely to stay the course. Maybe you want to combat the signs of ageing. Maybe you’re afraid of lung cancer. Maybe you want to be around to see your kids and grandkids grow up or perhaps you want to stop exposing your family to secondhand smoke. Maybe you’re simply sick of spending all your money on cigarettes. Whatever your reasons for quitting, now’s the time to figure them out and stay focused. Write yourself a reminder and stick it on the refrigerator, on your desk, on the rear view mirror. Wherever you’ll see it every day to remind yourself to avoid temptation.
2. Recognise that the first few days can be awful
Quitting smoking is not easy, at least for most people. Typically the first few days will involve physical symptoms as you go through nicotine withdrawal. This can leave you feeling grumpy, irritable, restless, and depressed and suffering from headaches. This usually subsides within a week, after which the psychological effects of quitting smoking really kick in. Nicotine gum and patches can help as you wean yourself off the cigarettes, as can eating well, sleeping well, and minimising stress. Other handy remedies include oats avena sativa, magnesium, B vitamins and Rhodiola rosea, all of which help with nerve function and anxiety.
3. Avoid Your Smoking Triggers
Maybe you light up when you have a beer, or when you see certain friends, when you drink coffee, or when you’re at a game, at the park, or even after sex. Whatever your trigger(s), recognise them and make a concerted effort either to avoid them (at least for the first few days or weeks) or find alternative ways to relax instead of reaching for a cigarette.
4. Brush Your Teeth
It might sound a little odd but brushing your teeth more regularly not only combats nasty smoker-breath but may also help you to quit. Having minty fresh breath means you’re less likely to want to ruin that with gross cigarette smoke.
5. Don’t Diet
Aside from being generally good advice, not dieting while quitting smoking can also help improve your chances of success. Dieting can leave you feeling tired, cranky, and hungry as well as deprived. Eat well by including lots of wholegrains, fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes and you’re much more likely to feel great even without that nicotine kick. What’s more, eating healthy meals regularly will start to help reverse some of the damage done by smoking, including helping with hydration, blood sugar regulation, protection against free radical damage, and reduced inflammation.
Finally, if you’re trying to quit smoking consider getting others involved. Start a competition at work where everyone trying to quit puts their cigarette money into a kitty and the person who lasts longest gets the cash. Or, quit with a friend and be accountable to each other. Some companies even have financial incentives for employees who quit smoking as this decreases the number of sick days taken and even increases productivity by reducing time lost to smoke breaks, fatigue, and ill health.
Anyone with chronic neck pain who still smokes is likely to experience benefits for pain management and reduced progression of any degenerative spinal disease if they quit smoking now. Damage may even be reversible in some cases, turning chronic neck pain into a great motivator for improving overall health by throwing those cigarettes out once and for all.