Fibromyalgia Patients Who Smoke Do So to Deal with Pain

Fibromyalgia Patients Who Smoke Do So to Deal with Pain

Female smokers with fibromyalgia report that cigarette smoking helps them to cope with the pain caused by their condition, though it doesn’t really ease their symptoms. These findings, published in the journal Pain Practice, are part of a study titled “The Perception of Female Smokers with Fibromyalgia on the Effects of Smoking on Fibromyalgia Symptoms.

To determine the relationship between tobacco use and fibromyalgia symptoms in patients who smoke, and to understand how patients perceive the interaction of the two, Toby Weingarten, MD, from the Department of Anesthesiology at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, New York, and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional survey of daily smokers enrolled in a fibromyalgia treatment program.

Forty-eight women with a diagnosis of fibromyalgia took part, completing a battery of self-reporting questionnaires like the General Anxiety Disorder-7  the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, the Fagerstrom Test for Nicotine Dependence, the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and a Fibromyalgia Symptoms and Smoking Survey that asked after smoking’s direct or indirect impact on fibromyalgia symptoms (e.g., fatigue, pain, stiffness, /anxiety, depression, concentration, irritability, and overall).

Results revealed that most of the smokers thought tobacco use had no direct effect on their physical symptoms, but directly improved their emotional state. Most used smoking to cope with pain symptoms (69%) via distraction (83%) and relaxation (77%), to lessen emotional distress resulting from a pain-induced sense of frustration (83%) or sadness (54%), and as a justification for resting vis-à-vis “smoke breaks” (69%).

The results also showed that 31 of the smokers were mildly dependent on tobacco while the remaining 17 were moderately to severely dependent. No differences in fibromyalgia impact score, or pain, depression, and anxiety scores were found, although more of the moderately/severely dependent smokers reported that smoking did improve pain (50% versus 17%).

“Smokers with fibromyalgia reported smoking helped to cope with fibromyalgia pain but generally did not directly ameliorate fibromyalgia physical symptoms,” the authors concluded. “Whether the development of tailored smoking cessation program that focuses on smoking-related coping mechanisms for fibromyalgia pain would help this subset of patients warrants study.”