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Degenerative Disc Disorder

Degenerative Disc TreatmentDegenerative Disc Disorder › Smoking and Degenerative Disc Disorder

Smoking and Degenerative Disc Disorder

Degeneration of the intervertebral discs in the spinal column is part of the natural process of ageing. However, the condition can become serious as it progresses. Although many people are still unaware, research has shown that smoking is one of the leading risk factors associated with the rapid development of degenerative disc disorder. In the past, genetic predisposition was considered to be the number one risk factor for degenerative disc disease. Medical researchers have found however, that smoking increases the risk of the development of degenerative disc disorder by 300%.

Just how does smoking cause degenerative disc disorder?

Degenerative disc disorder is caused by the flattening of the intervertebral discs resulting in a reduction in the space between the vertebrae. The active ingredients in cigarettes and cigars cause the process of loss of height in the discs to occur more rapidly. As a result intervertebral discs lose height, mass and diameter.

Smoking also affects the level of water within the discs. When a baby is born, the discs contain fluid which consists of about 80% water. As humans grow older the percentage of water in the discs reduces to less than 80%. The fluid in the discs also contains several proteins and collagen. The combination of these substances with water results in a jelly like fluid which gives the discs a spongy feel making them effective shock absorbers.

Smoking accelerates the rate at which the water within the discs is lost. The loss of water from within the intervertebral discs results in structural and chemical changes in the proteins and collagen contained within the discs. This results in the discs becoming more rigid and losing their spongy properties. They therefore lose their shock absorbing properties and are unable to recover their original shape and size when compressed.

Smoking also increases the chances of developing arthritis earlier in life,
arthritis is known to contribute to the formation of herniated discs that
are associated with the development of degenerative disc disease.

Smokers are now considered to have more than 3 times higher risk of developing degenerative disc disorder than non smokers. Smoking has also been shown through research to worsen existing degenerative disc disorder conditions.

Smoking and Degenerative Disc Disorder
Detailed information on smoking and degenerative disc disorder.
Article published February 17th, 2011
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