The question of why injuries cause chronic pain for some individuals and not others is hotly debated. Scientists don’t know all the answers yet, but there is clear evidence that certain lifestyle factors increase a person’s risk of chronic pain.

Here are four common but often overlooked reasons for chronic back and joint pain.

1. Nicotine Use

There is a clear link between smoking and back pain. Smokers sometimes experience chronic back pain without ever being injured. If your back is injured and you smoke, your chances of full recovery are not as good as a non-smoker’s. There are several reasons for the connection between smoking and back pain. The first factor has to do with blood flow. By increasing blood pressure and cholesterol and encouraging inflammation, smoking damages the vascular structure of discs and joints. When these areas can’t get the nutrients and oxygen they need from blood, degeneration occurs. Nicotine itself is harmful to blood vessels and can decrease the regeneration of cells within spinal discs. Smoking also slows the healing process by increasing inflammation and impairing the immune system.

It’s important to note that all nicotine products, including chewing tobacco and vaping, can contribute to these problems. When you stop using nicotine, your body will go through a recovery and cleansing process. Your blood pressure will likely fall, and your cardiovascular health should improve. Quitting should be the first step in your back pain treatment plan. If you don’t quit, treatments may not be effective and long-lasting.

2. Obesity

Chronic pain of many types, including back pain and migraines, are more common in obese individuals. Studies have shown that when obese people lose weight, they often experience a reduction in pain.

The relationship between obesity and chronic pain is complex. First, there’s the mechanical issue of too much weight on joints. Second, there are the endocrinological consequences of extra body fat. Adipose tissue (fat) is an active body part that secretes and stores hormones. Some hormones associated with obesity may increase a person’s sensitivity to pain. Hormonal factors also play a role in inflammation. For decades, studies have found that obese people have chronic low level inflammation that plays a role in many pathologies, including chronic pain.

Low vitamin D levels may be to blame for obesity in some people. Low vitamin D is common in the general population and even more common in obese people. Vitamin D helps with a healthy inflammatory response and directly affects a person’s ability to keep a healthy weight. Individuals who have had low vitamin D levels from a young age are more likely to be obese and to have poor bone formation. Bone problems may contribute to chronic pain in these individuals.

Some obese people also have poor muscle development. Since weak muscles don’t stabilize joints and bones effectively, this may be another reason for the link between chronic pain and obesity.

The takeaway is that many factors contribute to a person being overweight or obese. Some of these same factors can cause chronic pain. If you are struggling to keep a healthy weight, consider having your hormones, especially your thyroid, checked. Your doctor can do simple blood and urine tests to look for hormone imbalances and low vitamin D levels. You may have an easier time losing weight if these problems are treated. Building muscle may also help alleviate pain even before you lose a significant amount of weight.

3. Lack of Exercise or Improper Exercise

Exercise can be both the cause and the treatment for chronic pain. Exercising regularly has many pain-fighting benefits, but if you aren’t careful, you can injure yourself. The most common mistake people make when exercising is not warming up. Take at least five minutes to do gentle warm-up exercises and then stretch before you start your real workout routine. Warming up and stretching will prevent injury and increase your performance. The other common cause of exercise injuries is improper form. If you have any doubts about how to use a machine at the gym or do an exercise you saw in a video, ask a personal trainer to help you. It’s better to skip an exercise than to do it improperly.

Sedentary lifestyles also contribute to chronic pain. A person can be thin but out of shape. Weak muscles often lead to back pain and injury. Lack of exercise is a risk factor for obesity and cardiovascular problems. Both of these issues will then contribute to chronic pain. Exercise is also a great stress buster, and holding stress in your muscles is a common cause of back pain and headaches.

Try to get half an hour of moderate physical activity every day. “Moderate” means that you can talk while doing the activity but can’t sing. A brisk walk or a bicycle ride are good examples of moderate activity. Adding a strength training day to your exercise program will help keep your muscles strong so they can support your spine and joints. Strong core muscles also protect your back from injury.

4. A Stalled Healing Process

When you get injured, inflammation is the first step of the healing process. Your body is supposed to move through other steps to create new tissue and strengthen that tissue. At that point, inflammation should return to what it was before the injury. Blood flow is key to a healthy healing response. Even in healthy people, some joints don’t receive robust blood flow. It’s common for injuries in these areas to have trouble completing the healing process. Instead, they’ll linger at a low level of inflammation, causing chronic pain and stiffness.

Cold laser therapy is a non-invasive treatment that works at the cellular level to increase circulation and encourage collagen release. It can jumpstart the healing process and help it finish. After just a few treatments, most patients notice a decrease in pain and an improved range of motion.

Chronic Pain Relief in Kentucky

At All Star Chiropractic, we provide real solutions for chronic pain. We can help you optimize your diet and exercise routine to keep a healthy weight, reduce stress, and balance your hormones. We also provide chiropractic care, cold laser therapy, and other treatments for chronic back and joint pain. Schedule a consultation today to find out how you can get out of pain and back to life.