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Cigarette can heighten pain in people with spinal injuries: Study

A recent research has revealed that smoking of cigarettes can worsen pain in people with spinal cord injuries.

Cigarette can heighten pain in people with spinal injuries: Study
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According to the study, with Tamil Nadu alone seeing 1,500 -  2,000 cases of spinal injuries each year, a majority pick up the habit of smoking and some are unable to let go of existing addiction. This has caused doctors in the state to urge for intensified awareness about the effects of smoking on those with spinal injuries. 

The study, which was conducted by a team of researchers from Indiana University, found out that a key component in cigarette smoke (a neurotoxin called acrolein) intensifies neuropathic pain in those who have injured their spine. 

“Previously, it was reported that people with spinal cord injury-induced chronic neuropathic pain have experienced heightened pain sensitivity when smoking tobacco cigarettes, and less pain after cessation of smoking,” said Riyi Shi, professor of Neuroscience and Biomedical Engineering, Purdue University’s Department of Basic Medical Sciences, who was part of the team that conducted the study. 

Explaining the same, Dr Murugan Natarajan, Pulmonologist, Institute for Thoracic Medicine, Chennai, said, “Acrolein increases the number of pain receptors in the spinal cord. Therefore, in case there is any pre-existing spinal cord injury or damage, an individual who smokes will see an increase in pain threshold.”   

Stating that persons with spinal injuries suffer from four major problems, of which Pulmonary-related problems is the fourth, Gnana Bharathi, president, Spinal Injured Persons’ Association, said, “Those with spinal injuries breathe more frequently than normal persons due to lack of mobility or exercise. As their lungs shrink, it causes them to breathe often. 

At least one in five or ten persons with spinal cord injuries are found to be smokers. This habit adds to the pain and trauma that they face. Becoming aware of the link between the two, may help many get rid of the habit,” he added. 

With the lack of movement, many spinal injured persons tend to feel lonely. “Left alone at home, at most times, these persons tend to befriend cigarettes and alcohol. While some begin to smoke post injury – to fill the void – many others find it difficult to let go of their already existing addiction,” said P Nilam, a psychologist.

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