Osteopathic Support for Smoking Cessation

By Dr Guy Ashburner | June 27, 2013

Osteopathic Support for Smoking Cessation

Osteopathic Support for Smoking Cessation

Although osteopathy and smoking may seem at first glance to be unrelated, there is a common interface which can be of great assistance to anyone giving up smoking.

There is much information in the media today, focusing on educating smokers to actively encourage them to quit. Despite this, the link between smoking and back, muscle and joint disorders is not so well documented. Other than the conventional treatments for smoking cessation available with mainstream health services, there is other help that we can get to support us in becoming healthy non-smokers. Complementary therapies such as osteopathy are increasingly used to support the move to a new lifestyle. Osteopathic clinics can play an important part of our treatment plan, with advice and support during smoking cessation and active treatment for symptoms that are likely to be smoking related.

Smoking Linked to Lower Back Pain and Muscle Disorders

A number of countries have been involved in research looking for links between smoking and lower back pain. It is now widely accepted as a result of these studies that there is a link between smoking and back injuries; with smoking related disorders such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and coronary artery disease also being connected with both osteoarthritis and lower back pain. The blockage or partial blockage of arteries carrying blood to the lower spine (atherosclerosis) makes the lower back susceptible to both joint and disc damage. An increasing number of osteopaths recognize that function of the diaphragm is negatively impacted by smoking and this can cause both gastro-intestinal and ventilator disorders.

There is growing recognition that complementary medicine has a valuable role in supporting mainstream health services with smoking cessation services to their patients. It is becoming more commonplace for trainee osteopaths to receivespecific instruction in supporting smoking cessation for better health whilst they are studying to become qualified. The valuable advice and support they are able to give their clients, combined with osteopathic treatments for back pain which is smoking related, as well as other muscle and joint disorders, make a significant contribution to the drive to reduce smoking in the general population by conventional medical services. While a client can be supported through mainstream medicine with the use of nicotine patches, electronic cigarettes and other smoking cessation aids available either on the open market or by prescription from their doctor, osteopathy can help to counter some of the side effects of nicotine withdrawal. This allows for a holistic approach which can only benefit the client and increase the probability of permanent cessation.

Using Osteopathy to Reduce Symptoms

It is generally recognised that tobacco has analgesic properties and that, due to this, smokers have a higher tolerance to lower back pain and other injuries. When someone stops smoking, this side effect is lost, leading to a lowering of pain thresholds. In cases where injury has already occurred, the use of osteopathy to reduce pain and to stimulate the production of neurotransmitters is of great assistance in combating the unpleasant effects of nicotine withdrawal. The body’s pain and pleasure centers are controlled by the neurotransmitter dopamine, and when dopamine levels in the body drop, this can cause the characteristic mood fluctuations commonly suffered by smokers as a consequence of withdrawal. A genetic defect affecting one of the five dopamine receptors has been identified as a link with addictive behaviors, such as alcohol abuse and nicotine dependency. This can be a factor in tobacco addiction, alongside the chemical dependency caused by long term smoking, which interrupts the normal chemical release of dopamine, requiring the smoker to repeat the behavior in order to stimulate the release of dopamine to the receptors.

Osteopathy can help in regulating dopamine levels through massage of joints and muscles, which may counter the mood fluctuation and pain levels that a smoker often experiences as the chemical levels from tobacco drop in the body. This can assist the client in overcoming cravings, depression and anxiety which may accompany smoking cessation. Where the client is also suffering lower back pain, the use of osteopathy during this process is of great assistance in compensating for the loss of analgesic properties associated with tobacco, helping to smooth the path to a new, healthier, pain-free life.


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