Most people know that smoking is bad for your heart and lungs. Few people know that it’s bad for your bones and joints.
There’s a host of reasons why smoking leads to poor bone health. And I’m not sure how interested you are in the nitty gritty bichemical details of why this is. So I will cut to the chase and highlight two specific scenarios in which smoking can be bad for your bones.
1) If you have a bone fracture and you smoke, you will have a higher risk of not healing.
Fractures aren’t something for which we can plan. But they can take a huge toll on your overall well being depending on how severe they are or where there are in your body. If they don’t heal, you can really be in for trouble.
About 6 months ago I performed a surgery on a patient that had a shoulder fracture that had not healed. She had a relatively simple fracture pattern- what looked like a crack- in an area that usually heals well. Another surgeon saw her for the better part of a year and tried to treat it conservatively without surgery. The fracture did not heal, she was not able to raise her arm and had significant pain.
The patient has been a heavy smoker for 30 years and continued to smoke while she was being treated conservatively for this fracture.
By the time she saw me, her only good option was surgery. Unfortunately because it was late in the process, and she was a smoker, she needed bone graft which we had to obtain from her own pelvis- a potentially painful operation.
We were able to successfully fix the fracture with a plate and bone graft. And while her shoulder function is much improved, she’s still not 100% healed. Unfortunately she continues to smoke. It’s a tough habit. And in this case it can cost you in pain, time and suffering.
Most patients that I see who fail to heal after a fracture smoke.
So DON’T SMOKE. There, I said it. It can make the unexpected fracture much more complicated set you back considerably.
All of us lose some bone mass as we age. Women lose it faster than men due to lack of estrogen after menopause leading to such side effects as lose of height, brittle bones and higher potential for fractures.
But smoking can hasten the development of osteoporosis.
It’s tough to convince people not to smoke by telling them they will get osteoporosis. It’s slow to develop and similar to diabetes in that it is a “silent” problem: t usually doesn’t become apparent until it’s late in the game.
Again: DON’T SMOKE. It will make your bones weak and brittle.
I know this little article likely won’t get many people to quit smoking. Most already know they SHOULD quit, but they don’t. If it was that easy they would have done it already.
But just in case you need another reason to quit, here are two more to add to your list.