Health experts often recommend a minimum of 2 litres of water a day. Only you know if you drink anywhere near this amount of water. If you don’t, have you ever considered what the consequences are and whether dehydration will cause back pain?
Back pain is often considered, and certainly felt, as a physical and mechanical problem. So it may seem odd to consider your water intake as an important factor in helping to ease your back pain.
In this blog we will discuss the many roles water has within the body. What happens when we do not drink enough. How drinking more water can help with your back and how you know when you are drinking enough water. So, go grab a glass of water and read on….
How important is water for your health?
A bit like planet Earth we should be made up mainly of water. In order to maintain overall health and well-being water should make up two thirds of your body weight. Unfortunately most people are dehydrated and as such don’t have the optimal water levels for bodily functions.
Water is a resource in high demand in our body it plays a part in every system. Cell activity cannot occur without the presence of water. This is why it is so vital to life.
To list just a few of waters many ‘talents’:
As you can imagine, if any of these functions or systems can’t operate effectively your body will be under strain. It will only be a matter of time before problems and symptoms start to appear.
For this reason your body has its own ‘Drought Management System‘ in place to try and prevent dehydration and maintain function. It will do all that it can to keep hydrated due to the importance of water for your body to function. This mechanism includes closing off some of the blood vessels around the lungs to reduce the water loss when breathing, making it more difficult for you to catch your breath. Yes, you may need to visit the bathroom less when you drink less water but this will cause a build up of toxins in your body. This causes acidity in the body. We covered this in a previous blog titled how acidity causes aches and pains and how you can counteract it.
So how can you tell if you are hydrated?
Dehydration – The signs and symptoms:
There are a wide range of signs and symptoms for dehydration. Obviously the longer you go without water, and the more dehydrated you will be and therefore the more severe the symptoms. Here is a list of some more common indications, starting with the initial signs progressing to the more severe results I’m sure you will have already experienced some of them:
The Initial Signs of Dehydration:
More Severe Signs of Dehydration:
So how water can help your back pain?
I hope by now, if you didn’t before, you realise how important it is to ensure you drink enough water. But what does all this have to do with back pain?
Water has an important part to play when it comes to reducing the risk of back pain, and improving your chance of healing from back pain.
Your discs in between the vertebrae contain gel sacs which should be 90% water. These gel sacs provide the cushioning, shock absorption and improved mobility of the spine. Water also lubricates the cartilage of the discs keeping them nice and plump. In addition, the blood supply (which is limited and narrow) that brings nutrition to the vertebra, ligaments, muscles and discs of the spine need water to keep it running fluidly to those areas.
When the body is dehydrated there will be less lubrication around the spine (and other joints of the body). Which will result in greater friction. This leads to wear and tear and will contribute to arthritic changes. Additionally, if the discs and fluid sacs inside are more withered and dried out, your body will be less able to cope with impact and the forces put on your back during daily tasks. This is even more important during more strenuous situations such as lifting or moving heavy objects or when participating in dynamic sport and exercise.
In summary, a dehydrated back is more at risk of injury because it is less flexible and less able to tolerate additional strain or loads put on it. Not just in the short term whilst doing strenuous tasks, but even in the long term as increased wear and tear takes its toll.
Water also plays an important role if you already suffer with back pain.
If the body is injured, the products it uses to heal are carried around within the blood. Your blood should be approximately 80% water. If it is less than this it simply means it will be thicker and less able to flow around your body. If you have injured your back it is important to keep well hydrated so that your body can get the crucial nutrition and healing resources to the structures of your back that need it most. When you have pain there is inflammation. You spine needs fluid to be able to carry away toxins that are irritating and so contribute to pain. Dehydration will not only prolong the healing and repair of back pain, it can also aggravate the problem through a continued lack of lubrication within the area.
Make sure you’re drinking enough water:
It’s all very well knowing you need to stay well hydrated for your health and wellness, but how do you know how much water to drink?
There are a lot of confusing messages out there about water and other drinks, so lets clarify things a little.
Every day you loose water, by breathing, sweating, urinating etc, so when it comes to how much to take in it will vary for each of us. This is based on your size, how active you are and how strenuous those activities are. The temperature of the environment/climate you are in also needs to be considered. You will naturally need more in the heat of summer (if we are lucky in the UK) to the winter. As a basic guideline you should look to consume 3 litres a day if you are a man and 2.2 litres as a women. A helpful way to keep a check during the day is you look at your urine colour, it should be a light straw colour. If it is dark then that shows the body is dehydrated and you need to drink more.
When it comes to what to drink, when we say water we really mean pure water (filtered if possible). There has been some thought that the water used to make tea, coffee, squash, juices can be included. In reality a lot of those drinks also have a diuretic effect. Meaning they cause you to loose water rather than absorb it.
Our best advice is to have a portable bottle with you and take regular sips throughout the day. Keep re-filling when you have finished it to be sure you are getting enough water, and keep an eye on how much you have had. Taking little sips gives your body time to absorb the water you drink and to use it properly. Meaning less trips to the loo!
Be proactive in making the change to drink more water
Sometimes people can go all day without feeling thirsty and so believe they must be drinking enough. It may seem strange, but many people have become so used to living in a state of mild dehydration that they no longer recognise when they are thirsty. Often our thirst reflex is mistaken for hunger so we reach for a snack instead of a glass of water. The area of our brain that detects dehydration will have been ignored too many times and have changed tactics to make you feel hungry instead. This will be in the hope of being able to utilise moisture from somewhere, anywhere in an attempt to stock up the water levels.
Next time you feel hungry, have a drink of water first and wait a few minutes. More often than not your hunger will disappear.
It can take time for your brain to recognise your thirst signal. By going for water ahead of a snack, and actively drinking more each day, you will wake up this signal and get a real sign when you are dehydrated.
I hope this has clarified how dehydration can cause back pain. By drinking more you should find you have better energy levels, and skin helping you to look and feel younger.