smoking and sciatica - it makes it worse

The Relationship Between Smoking and Sciatica and Why You NEED to Quit

With people who are suffering from pain related to a herniated disc, due to the relationship between smoking and sciatica, quitting can be a huge help in the recovery process.

Aims of this post:

  • To discuss why smoking and sciatica really don’t go well together
  • To talk about why you might feel instantly better if you cut down on the cigarettes

Before we dive in, please be aware that we are part of the Amazon Affiliate programme. This page may contain Amazon affiliate links, so if you choose to purchase a product for your sciatica that we recommend through a link on this page, we will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. This helps us keep Overcome Sciatica alive! Thank you for your support. Please be assured that we only ever recommend products that we truly believe can help. 

Smoking and Sciatica

While quitting smoking will certainly improve your overall health, there are specific benefits that you will feel if you can take this step. due to the direct relationship between smoking and sciatica.

Not taken lightly

I understand that quitting smoking is a difficult step to take for many people, and I don’t take this advice lightly – I would not have included this as a post on the Overcome Sciatica website unless I felt it had a profound effect.

To learn more about herniated discs, their symptoms and why they can cause you so much pain you can read this post HERE.

One of the common culprits that causes sciatica is a disc bulge or herniated disc. When someone suffers from a disc bulge or herniated disc, not only is there a physical effect from the disc touching a nerve root in the spine, there is also a chemical effect.

This chemical effect is almost like an allergic reaction, or the reaction we get when we are stung by a bee.

a Bee sting is a similar chemical effect to smoking and sciatica caused by inflammation around a nerve root

This reaction occurs all around the affected nerve root, irritating it immensely. It is because of this reaction that the pain lingers for so long, even when you get into a position where the herniated disc itself couldn’t possibly be touching the nerve.

Bulging disc recovery time illustrated through pictures of normal nerve root in spine. Illustrating how smoking and sciatica have a strong relationship

In the above picture, you can see the nerve roots we are talking about leaving the small spaces in the spine. The nerve roots are yellow.

Like a bee sting

You can think of this chemical effect like a bee sting. Even though the stinger isn’t in your skin anymore, the chemical causes pain for a significant length of time afterwards.

In fact, the chemicals that cause the pain from a bee sting are almost the same as the ones that cause the “chemical” pain from a herniated disc!

The reaction that occurs here is a type of inflammation. Therefore, we need to do absolutely everything we can to allow the body to reduce inflammation as effectively as it is able to.

What’s so bad about cigarettes when you have a herniated disc?

There are certain chemicals in cigarettes and alcohol that increase the inflammatory response within our body, which actually makes reactions, like the ones happening in your back right now from a herniated disc, much worse.

Therefore, by cutting down on smoking, you are helping your body out massively!

There will be less inflammation around the irritated nerve root and, consequently, your pain should reduce. This is why smoking causes increased pain with sciatica, and why cessation of smoking and sciatica improvements are often directly related.

smoking and sciatica have a direct relationship which is why stopping smoking can provide effective sciatica pain relief

Think of stopping smoking as almost the equivalent of taking an anti-histamine after that bee sting!

Smoking has also been shown to deteriorate the quality of the blood flow within our body.

We know that discs have a poor blood supply as it is, and blood is essential for the healing process after a herniated disc. This is another good reason for stopping smoking and sciatica pain reduction should follow as a result.

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What about drinking?

It is not only smoking and sciatica that have a close relationship, but also drinking and sciatica.

Alcohol slows down the positive processes in the body that are responsible for healing and may be an independent risk factor for arthritis – a reason to cut down those units no matter the cause of your sciatica.

This means that if your sciatica is caused by something like aging changes to the joints, osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis, you really need to watch your alcohol intake to avoid making it any worse.

Not only smoking and sciatica that have a close relationship, but drinking and sciatica also

If you don’t smoke or drink already then that’s perfect! You will be feeling a little better right now than if you did.

If you do, don’t panic! Make small commitments to change at first, like cutting down the cigarettes by one or two each day, then build on this every 2 weeks. It might be as simple as skipping that morning smoke for 2 weeks, then cutting out one smoking break at work, and so on.

In terms of drinking, low alcohol beers and wines can be great alternatives.

There is also a tonne of UK government resources out there online for you to turn to to help with stopping smoking and drinking. There are friendly support groups around that aren’t at all like the classic “AA” meetings that we all shudder to think about!


So that’s my case for stopping drinking and smoking when you have sciatica from a herniated disc. I hope you see where I’m coming from. Don’t forget all of the wider health benefits you will get, too, like better skin, losing weight, feeling fitter and more energy to name but a few.

As always, thanks so much for reading – I really appreciate it! If you know someone that you feel might benefit from reading this post, please do share it with them so they can read about how to recover from their sciatica problem, too.

The information on Overcome Sciatica should never be used as a substitute for medical advice from a doctor. Never put into action any tips or techniques from Overcome Sciatica without checking with your doctor first. Please see full terms of use here.

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