Its 2014 and pretty much everyone knows there are substantial links between tobacco use and many kinds of cancer. Throw in chronic bronchitis, heart disease, asthma, vascular disease and it seems like almost every part of our body, from the hair on our heads to our toes are affected.
Count our bones as just one more part of our body affected. Particularly our broken bones, as they try to recover from injury.
A recent article published in the major Orthopedic science journal, JBJS, examined all of the published medical reports over the past few decades looking at the effect of tobacco on our bone's ability to heal. The authors found 7,110 publicationns, and reviewed 237 of those (the best ones) and found that cigarettes and tobacco affect the way our body heals in many ways.
A broken bone in someone that smokes takes almost 2 months longer on average to heal, compared to a broken bone in someone that doesnt smoke.
Smokers who break their leg have a much higher risk of their bone (the tibia) failing to heal (nonunion), as compared to people that break a bone but dont smoke. Its about 10% more common in smokers. Another way to look at this is that out of every 10 smokers with a broken leg, an extra one of them will have a problem with healing.
Smokers that require surgery for a broken bone show treads that there is a higher risk for skin infections and deep bone infections (although this data was not statistically significant).
The overall message is that smoking is bad for healing. And people that smoke will be dealing with their injuries for longer than everyone else.
But why? Why do bones care about smoke, bones are just big pieces of calcium...right?
Bones are actually more than a brick of calcium. They are more like trees. Bones are made of calcium, yes, but they also contain living cells and they are constantly growing and repairing themselves from the daily stress they experience. Our blood (like the water of a tree) delivers nutrients and oxygen that is necessary for our bone cells to live and function. The chemicals in cigarettes as well all know prevent oxygen from getting to cells (its replaced by Carbon Monoxide) and the nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict, preventing blood supply. Our bones need nutrients more then ever when they are trying to heal from a fracture. Therefore, its not surprising that smoking gets in the way.