Notice: Users may be experiencing issues with displaying some pages on stanfordhealthcare.org. We are working closely with our technical teams to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Smoking takes a significant toll on your musculoskeletal system. Tobacco and nicotine increase the risk of bone fractures and interfere with the healing process, according to a growing body of research. Nicotine can slow fracture healing, estrogen effectiveness, and can counter the antioxidant properties of vitamins C and E.
At a 2002 meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, research on the topic of smoking and its effect on the musculoskeletal system was reviewed. Some of the orthopedic problems caused by smoking include:
More severe disc degeneration
Weakened spinal ligaments
Reduced production of bone cells
Faster bone loss in postmenopausal women
Fractures take longer to heal
Rotator cuff surgery is less successful
Longer healing time for surgical incisions
More post-surgery complications
Delayed spinal fusion
However, quitting smoking seems to improve the healing process in most cases, except for long-term, heavy smokers who have permanent artery damage, according to the researchers. Those with permanent artery damage due to smoking may not heal easily when a peripheral part of the body is involved, since blood supply may be poor there.