Is your back pain caused by dehydration?

Water affects every organ and cell within your body. You may not have known this, but water even plays an enormous role in the health of your back and spine. The lack of proper hydration could affect your back and could be a cause of back pain. Here's how... Between every two vertebrae lies a disk, which functions as a shock absorber for all that we put our backs through every day. This disk has two parts: an outer, flexible but very tough ring, which is filled with a gelatinous substance, called the nucleus pulposis. This inner substance is primarily water. All day long, as gravity works on our upright spine, water is slowly squeezed out of the disks.

back pain

Then at night, when we are lying down, the disks slowly rehydrate. This daily dehydration and nightly rehydration of the disks is the reason why most of us are generally about ¼ to ½ inch shorter when we go to bed than when we wake up in the morning! Regular movement during the day is also important to keep disks hydrated - as the spine moves forward and back, the disks will absorb what water is available.

Our disks will successfully rehydrate themselves during the night, and also during the day when possible, as long as there are adequate water levels within the body. When there is not enough water available to fully hydrate the gelatinous center, the whole disk becomes compromised. The disk is designed to have a stronger outer ring of fiber with a softer, more gelatinous substance in the ceter. When fully hydrated, so that the outer ring bears 25% of the weight load while the inner nucleus pulposis supports 75%.

When the inner portion is dehydrated, it cannot support its share of the load, so more and more of your weight is borne by the outer ring, which simply was not designed for that purpose. This can cause pain, swelling, and even ruptures or herniations of the outer shell of the disk. What this means is that one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce back pain is to increase your daily intake of clean, healthy water, and to be sure to flex your back and neck front to back at times throughout the day. Light exercise is also beneficial; however if you want to avoid back spasms, it is suggested to consume water before, during, and after you begin any physical activities. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water, this means your body is already dehydrated.

How much water should you drink?

It is often said to drink about 8 cups a day. However, this may not be true because drinking levels usually depend on the different needs of each individual. For example, an athlete will need to drink lots more water than someone who is not an athlete. The athlete loses more water while exercising so will have lots more to replenish. Another example is that two individuals of the same lifestyle but with different weights will also need a different amounts of drinking water. The heavier individual will need more water to stay hydrated. So, to make it more simple drink one cup for every 20 pounds of body weight. For example, a 150-pound person who does not exercise or work in hot climates needs 7.5 cups of pure water. Drinking soda, tea, and coffee do not count even though they have water in it! These drinks are filled with artificial sweeteners and caffeine that will dehydrate you. Try to limit the number of beverages you drink other than water. Treat them as a dessert and not something you drink on a regular basis.

  • Drink twice as much as it takes to quench your thirst
  • Drink frequently throughout the day to prevent dehydration
  • Drink one cup for every 20 pounds of body weight
  • If you exercise or work in hot climates you will need to drink extra amounts of water
  • Keep an eye on urine, yellow or amber color means you need to drink more

After a strenuous workout, you have to replace the fluids you have lost. Otherwise, you will suffer chronic dehydration. Water reduces body temperature which is beneficial for those working in hot climates. Water will replenish the fluids your body has lost and help cool your body down.

Drinking more water is a simple preventative measure to protect against developing back pain and can even help reduce existing back pain. Simply stretching your spine forward and back periodically throughout the day will help to rehydrate your disks, provided that you have given your body enough water to work with. So don’t be a pain in the back and drink up today!

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