We highlighted an article a while ago about how smoking was bad for your bones in general. It not only leads to osteoporosis (weak bone) but can lead to poor healing if you are unlucky enough to break a bone.
More and more evidence continues to mount showing that smoking is also specifically bad for your shoulders as well. Notably, smoking leads to an increased risk of rotator cuff disease. This study reviews a long list of studies that add up to the same conclusion: smoking is no good for your shoulder in the long run.
The four rotator cuff muscles live deep in your shoulder and are responsible for helping lift your arm overhead and keeping the ball portion of the joint contained in the socket. Rotator cuff problems such as rotator cuff tears and rotator cuff inflammation are some of the most common shoulder problems that people develop as they age.
All of us develop some degree of “degeneration” of the rotator cuff tendon tissues as we get older. Simply put, our tendons (the tissue that attached muscle to bone) become slightly less elastic and resilient with time.
Smokers develop much more severe rotator cuff degeneration and at a much more rapid rate as they age. This is primarily because smoking can damage the small blood vessels which feed these tissues and that are so vital to providing nutrition to the tendon tissues. Nicotine itself has also been shown to stiffen tendon tissue in animals experiments.
Additionally smokers seem to develop larger rotator cuff tears and a higher rate of shoulder impingement than similar persons who don’t smoke.
Why is this important?
For most shoulder problems, there are factors that your doctor cannot control. Your tissue quality is one of those factors. Many things affect your tissue quality: age overall health etc. Smoking is one of those major factors.
If you want to have a better chance at having a pain free shoulder throughout your life, you can help stack the deck in your favor by not smoking or quitting smoking. Easier said than done, I realize. But food for thought nonetheless.