Next Thursday—November 21st—is the American Cancer Society’s Great American Smokeout. It’s an annual event designed to encourage people to quit smoking. If you are ready to kick the habit, I encourage you to explore the information and supporting materials on their site and become a quitter.
Why does an orthopedic surgeon care about smoking? I realize that cancer gets all the glory when it comes to the risks of smoking—but believe it or not, smoking has an impact on bone and joint health. In fact, smoking has been shown to increase the risk of osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and osteoarthritis. In other words, the habit is associated with weakened bones and painful, inflamed joints.
There is a lot of science behind this, but put simply—the nicotine in tobacco constricts the blood vessels, thereby reducing the blood supply’s ability to carry nutrients, minerals and oxygen to the bones. It interferes with the absorption of calcium and the production of bone-building cells called osteoblasts.
The longer you smoke, the greater your risk of developing osteoporosis—which makes you more susceptible to fractures.
But, here’s the real kicker: many studies have shown that smoking prolongs post-surgery healing time—by a lot. In fact, smokers take an additional two months to heal compared to non-smokers. Two months! Do you want to spend an extra two months recovering from surgery or do you want to kick the habit, reduce your risk of cancer, and get back in the game faster?
This is one instance where I’ll tell you that it’s great to be a quitter. We’re a team. My job is to get you back in the game as quickly as possible—and your job is to do your part to optimize your recovery. Quitting smoking will take you one step closer to optimal health. Go for it!