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Pain Research and Management
Volume 13 (2008), Issue 3, Pages 231-235
Original Article

Effects of Smoke Exposure and Other Lifestyle Factors on Pain Response to Electrical Stimulation in Women

Joy Yenn May Wee1 and Wilma M Hopman2

1Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Queen’s University, and Providence Care, St Mary’s of the Lake Hospital Site, Kingston, Ontario, Canada
2Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Queen’s University, and the Clinical Research Centre, Kingston General Hospital, Kingston, Ontario, Canada

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


BACKGROUND: A relationship between smoking and development of pain syndromes has been suggested in the literature. The present study examined associations between smoke exposure and other related variables, and pain response to suprathreshold electrical stimulation.

METHODS: Subjects were prospectively recruited from a population referred to an electrodiagnostic clinic. Information about age, smoke exposure, caffeine and alcohol consumption was obtained, as well as documented objective signs of stress through physical assessment. One investigator applied two standardized 0.1 ms electrical stimulations (50 mA followed by 100 mA) to asymptomatic extremities at the beginning of each electrodiagnostic session, using consistent technique. Subjects used a visual analogue scale to indicate the level of pain felt after each stimulation.

RESULTS: Two hundred fifteen women were included. Current smokers and those currently exposed to second-hand smoke had significantly higher pain ratings (P=0.003 for 50 mA, P=0.005 for 100 mA) than those not currently exposed to smoke. Time since exposure was negatively associated with pain ratings. Those with objective signs of stress reported higher levels of pain, which was significant for the 100 mA stimulation (P=0.046). Linear regression modelling indicated that current smoke exposure and alcohol use were associated with higher pain ratings at both 50 mA and 100 mA, while stress was associated with higher pain ratings and older age was associated with lower pain ratings at 100 mA only.

INTERPRETATION: Exposure to cigarette smoke is significantly related to higher reported levels of pain experienced in response to electrical stimulation in this study population. Exposure to smoke can add 10 points to the 100-point visual analogue scale compared with subjects without exposure, with alcohol use adding another eight points. Reported pain decreases as length of time since previous exposure to smoke increases.