Aches & Pains Higher in Smokers

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Smokers reported more intense long term pain

April 14, 2013 / Author:  / Reviewed by: Chris Galloway, M.D.

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(dailyRx News) Quitting smoking, may at the very least, ease chronic pain conditions. Even occasional smoking may still contribute to long-term pain in seniors.

In a recent study, researchers in Sweden asked a group of people aged 65 and older about their smoking habits and any long-term pain problems.

These results showed that seniors who still smoked, even just occasionally, reported experiencing more long-term pain than non-smokers.

"Quit smoking to ease pain."

Ulf Jakobsson, PhD, professor of Medicine at the Center for Primary Health Care Research at Lund University in Malmö, Sweden, led an investigation into chronic pain conditions in seniors who smoke.

For the study, researchers recruited 1,141 men and women, 65 years of age and older, living in Sweden to filled out questionnaires in 2011.

The questionnaires helped the researchers gather information on the participants' living situations, chronic pain duration and intensity, worries about health and tobacco use habits.

Chronic pain was defined as having experienced pain for 3 months or longer.

The results of the study showed that 39 percent of respondents reported chronic pain. Women reported being more worried about their health, had greater pain prevalence and more pain intensity compared to the men in the group. The responders averaged 75 years of age.

More men than women reported smoking daily or occasionally, but only 9 percent of responders said they smoked at all.

The researchers did not gather information on when ex-smokers had quit smoking, but 41 percent of the group had been former smokers.

The researchers found that reports of chronic pain were higher in smokers at 48 percent, compared to people who had quit smoking at 36 percent and non-smokers at 39 percent.

Smokers with chronic pain reported higher levels of pain intensity than non-smokers with chronic pain.

No differences were found in pain management techniques between any of the groups involved in the study.

The researchers found that even passive smoking increased the prevalence of chronic pain. The authors suggested that quitting smoking altogether, not just cutting back, could reduce chronic pain in seniors.

“There was a clear association between smoking and chronic pain among older people, especially regarding pain intensity. However, the association between smoking and pain prevalence seems to only exist among women and not among men,” said the authors.

The authors noted a limitation to this study could be the brief nature of the questionnaire. No information regarding other chronic pain causes or lifestyle habits were incorporated in the questionnaire.

This study was published in April in Pain Practice.

King Gustav V and Queen Victoria’s Foundation of Freemasons, the Gyllenstiernska Krapperup Foundation and the Ragnhild and Einar Lundström’s Foundation helped support funding for this study. No conflicts of interest were found.

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Review Date: 
April 12, 2013
Last Updated:
January 22, 2014