The researchers analyzed the MRI scans of 160 subjects and focused on two regions of the brain most affected by smoking addiction. While they don’t directly affect the spine, these two brain regions (the nucleus accumbens and medial prefrontal cortex), which deal with addiction and motivated learning, have too much “communication” going on, drastically affecting pain threshold and making individuals less pain tolerant.
As a result, researchers say, lower back aches in smokers tend to last longer than in non-smokers. What this means is that as long as smokers continue with their habit, they can expect to suffer pain longer than others. For those who have spinal problems like bulging or herniated discs—both conditions already painful in their own right—and who smoke, relief may just come in more belatedly.