The Association Between Smoking and Back Pain

A new study published in The American Journal of Medicine highlights another reason not to light up that cigarette — smokers (current and former) are more likely to suffer from low back pain than people who have never smoked [1]. Although the association is moderate, it is strongest for chronic back pain and for adolescents.

Low back pain

By now, the vast majority of us know that smoking is bad for you. A number of health risks are associated with smoking. Indeed, many women are not aware that smoking is a risk factor for breast cancer [2]. However, there are other conditions associated with smoking besides the key conditions of cancer and heart disease. Previous research has looked at the link between the experience of low back pain and the potential risk factor of smoking [3-6]. The experience of back pain is widespread [7]. “Chronic” back pain is often of particular interest as it is associated with days lost from work and healthcare costs, in addition to the impact on the patient’s quality of life. In the UK, “persistent” back pain is that which has lasted more than 6 weeks [8]. In the US, “chronic” back pain is pain lasting more than 3 months [9]. The causes of back pain are often complex and unclear. In the present study, the association between back pain and smoking was assessed.

Rehabilitation at Home Just as Good as Day Hospital Care

As you or perhaps your parents get older, would you want to be at home when recovering from an illness? Would the choice between home rehabilitation or visits to a day hospital make a difference to your recovery and health? Which is cheaper for the healthcare services? A recent study published in the journal Health Technology Assessment (HTA) shows that home-based care in the United Kingdom is no worse than attendance at a day hospital for older adults [1].

Tackling Heart Disease Together or Alone: The Behavioural Science of Self-Management

Heart disease is the leading killer in the U.S. and throughout most of Europe. People’s behaviour can protect and reduce risk of heart disease, and interventions to help people “self-manage” exist. But what is the best way to “self-manage”? A recent study shows that group programmes and self-directed programmes have remarkably different effects [1].


Self-management interventions exist for many health problems. They are notoriously difficult to define. One thorough definition is that it relates to activities undertaken by the person who has a “chronic” or “long-term” condition such as asthma, multiple sclerosis or arthritis. These activities include problem solving, decision making, resource utilization, the formation of a patient-provider partnership, action planning and self tailoring [2]. Interventions or programmes are designed around these activities to help support people to manage their own illness. The idea is that following attendance at a programme of some sort, the activities and skills learned will be continued to be used, thus improving health, maintaining fitness and/or quality of life and reducing the risk of future acute episodes of ill health. These interventions are popular for many reasons, including the relatively low cost to health service providers as interventions can be delivered by health-care professionals or by people with the relevant condition who have been trained, or a mixture of both. Self-management interventions also allow people with long-term conditions to be meet in a group with people with similar conditions. The experience of being in a group, knowing one is not alone and sharing stories is thought to play some part in the effectiveness of self-management interventions. But to what extent is this true?