The Effects of Smoking on Bone Healing

Scientists have long suspected a link between smoking and delayed bone healing. Still, we now know that quitting smoking may mean the difference between a speedy recovery from a bone fracture and months of getting better.

At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we emphasize the significance of quitting smoking for individuals recovering from broken bones or orthopedic surgery. By doing so, it can enhance bone healing and minimize the risk of complications.

Smokers recovering from broken bones face a higher risk of reinjury, emphasizing the importance of understanding smoking's impact on bone health, especially after bone fractures or orthopedic surgery. Our experts  at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists have compiled essential insights and advice for those in the healing process, emphasizing the critical role of preoperative smoking cessation in ensuring a stronger, more resilient recovery.

Smoking Is Bad News For The Body

Despite what’s currently known about the negative impact of smoking cigarettes on people’s health, an estimated 28.3 million American adults still smoke cigarettes. Smokers are more likely to develop certain chronic diseases, including heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Smoking tobacco also lowers good cholesterol and raises the dangerous form of cholesterol, as well as increasing the chances of erectile dysfunction. Now, it’s clear that it slows bone healing as well.

Benefits of Quitting Smoking

  • Enhanced Bone Healing: Smoking impairs blood flow, reducing nutrients and oxygen for bone healing. Quitting can enhance these processes, leading to faster bone repair after fractures or surgeries.
  • Reduced Risk of Complications: Smoking increases risks during and after orthopedic surgeries, like infections or poor wound healing. Quitting reduces these risks, promoting a smoother recovery.
  • Lower Risk of Reinjury: Studies show that bones heal less effectively in smokers, making them more vulnerable to re-injury. Quitting smoking is a proactive step towards stronger, healthier bones that are less prone to future injuries.
  • Improved Surgical Outcomes: For surgeries that require bone fusion (like spinal fusion), smoking can increase the risk of failure. Quitting smoking prior to surgery can enhance the success rate of these procedures.
  • Better Overall Health: Quitting smoking has numerous benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, lung function, and reduced risk of chronic diseases like COPD, heart disease, and lung cancer. These improvements in health can lead to better recovery and rehabilitation outcomes.
  • Increased Effectiveness of Treatments: Smoking can hinder the effectiveness of medications and treatments. Quitting ensures you receive full treatment benefits without any hindrance.
  • Psychological and Emotional Benefits: Quitting smoking is also associated with improvements in mental health, reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, which can be particularly beneficial during the recovery process.
  • Financial Savings: The decision to quit smoking leads to significant financial savings, which can be particularly advantageous when managing the costs associated with orthopedic care and recovery.
  • Community and Family Health: Quitting smoking also benefits those around the smoker, reducing their exposure to secondhand smoke, which can be harmful, especially to children and vulnerable individuals

Smoking Slows Bone Healing

Rehabilitation from an injury or surgery requires the utmost care. Your body needs the right circumstances to replace damaged cells and tissues with new ones; bones are no exception. If you smoke, quitting is the most important step you can take toward building strong bones and recovering as quickly and as safely as possible.

Simply stated, smokers take longer to heal from fractures. In recent research, smokers who broke their legs took 62% more time to heal than non-smokers. That’s a major difference when you’re sidelined from your regular activities.

What’s more, smoking increases the risk of failure in surgeries that require bones to heal, like spinal fusion. Surgeons typically recommend that patients quit smoking at least six weeks prior to surgery.

Understanding The Normal Bone Healing Process

Bones typically heal themselves in anywhere from a few weeks to about three months, depending on the severity of the fracture. Other factors, such as your age, affect fracture healing.

Under normal circumstances, when you break a bone, stem cells turn into cartilage-forming cells to bridge the break. Bone-building cells called osteoblasts contribute minerals that change the bone, and the new bone fills in the break, strengthening with time.

Nicotine from cigarettes interferes with this process, causing smokers’ bones to take longer to heal.

Smoking Increases The Risk Of Complications

Not only does smoking delay bone healing, but it also raises the chance that you may experience complications during your recovery. Proper bone healing requires adequate blood flow, and the reduced blood flow caused by smoking may contribute to a higher complication risk. Complications include pain and the risk that your bones may heal improperly.

Further, smoking may increase the chance that the new bone won’t harden as it should over time. This can leave you with replacement bone that is softer and more prone to reinjury down the line.

Smoke-Free Life with Our Support

Smoking can significantly delay bone healing, but quitting can lead to a faster recovery from fractures and orthopedic surgery. At Barrington Orthopedic Specialists, we encourage patients to quit smoking. We recognize that nicotine dependence is often powerful and difficult to break, but there are many resources available to help you quit.

Speak with your primary care provider if you need help stopping smoking. Your doctor can prescribe medication to make it easier to quit.

Serving the Chicagoland area, the providers at Barrington Orthopedic Specialists provide the highest level of orthopedic care. Call the office nearest you for all of your orthopedic care needs or use our convenient online booking form to schedule online.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why might smoking negatively impact physical appearance?

Smoking damages eye blood vessels, leading to a bloodshot appearance and eye irritation. It also causes premature aging, wrinkles, and a dull complexion due to reduced blood flow and chemical exposure. Additionally, tobacco smoke can stain teeth and fingers.

What are the reasons people start smoking?

People often start smoking due to social influences. The presence of cigarette-smoking friends or parents significantly increases the likelihood. The desire to fit in, peer pressure, curiosity, and perceiving smoking as 'cool' are common motivators. Some also start smoking as a stress-coping mechanism.

Why is quitting smoking important for proper bone healing?

Smoking can delay the bone healing process and increase the risk of complications, such as improper bone remodeling and a higher chance of re-injury. This can ultimately hinder rehabilitation and physical therapy progress. Quitting smoking aids adequate blood flow and improves overall health, allowing for a faster and more successful recovery.

How does smoking affect the body's ability to heal from broken bones or orthopedic surgery?

Smoking interferes with normal bone healing by reducing blood flow and delaying cell regeneration. This can lead to longer healing times, increased risk of complications, and potentially result in weaker bones that are more prone to future injury. Quitting smoking can improve the body's ability to heal properly and reduce these risks.

Is smoking a risk factor for other diseases besides orthopedic issues?

Yes, smoking is a known risk factor for many diseases, such as lung cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory illnesses. It can also impact the body's ability to fight off infections and heal from injuries or surgeries. Quitting smoking not only benefits bone healing but overall health and disease control as well.