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Dehydration and Back Pain- Is There a Connection?

Dehydration and Back Pain- Is There a Connection?

Most people know the importance of drinking water, yet 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated, which can lead to more than just thirst or fatigue. Dehydration can cause serious illness and complicate existing medical problems, especially in kids and older populations. Perhaps less well known, increasing the amount of water you drink could help alleviate, or even eliminate frequent back pain.

Dehydration directly affects the spine and pulls fluids from all parts of the body to support the brain, leaving joints, discs and other connective tissue in the body weak and unable to provide cushioning or support. This makes movement difficult, stiff, and often times painful.

Normal activities like running, bending and jumping are hard on the discs between the vertebra in the spine and wear them down over time. Lack of water causes them to thin which decreases the density of the tissue or the cushion. Rehydration of disc and connective tissue in the body happens at night when the body is at rest, but you need to have consume enough water that day for the process to happen correctly.

Age and overall health can play a part in how fast the body rehydrates and repairs itself. Over time, dehydration can cause bulging or herniated discs that make simple movements painful. Discs bulge when their outer tissue is weak or damaged and allows vertebrae to rub together. Dehydrated tissue doesn’t have enough moisture or elasticity to sustain movement or impact creating pain. Studies suggest that losing as little as 2% of your body weight in water can decrease focus and mental sharpness, as well as increasing your risk of injury. The use of certain medications can also increase the chance of becoming dehydrated, especially in older adults. Laxatives taken for constipation, diabetes medications, chemotherapy drugs, as well as medications used to treat high blood pressure, plaque psoriasis and heart failure increase the risk of dehydration.

Experts recommend drinking 4-6 cups of water a day or at least half of your body weight in ounces of water each day to stay hydrated. Certain chronic pain conditions including headaches, migraines, arthritis and fibromyalgia can be made worse with dehydration, so make sure to pay attention to your daily intake and even journal to keep track of the amount of water you consume a day. Signs of dehydration can include dark urine, fatigue, dizziness, dry mouth, rapid heartbeat or confusion and irritability.

It can hard to drink the recommended amount of water a day, but try a few of these tips to make drinking more enjoyable:

  • Add a squeeze of lemon, lime or orange juice for flavor or a pinch of sea salt for electrolytes.
  • Drink a glass of water with each meal.
  • Drink a smoothie each day that includes fresh fruits and vegetables blended with water to increase your water intake.
  • Try to incorporate hydrating, water dense foods into your diet. This includes chia seeds and plant based, non-processed fresh fruits and vegetables. Fruits like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes and oranges and vegetables including lettuce, celery, spinach, avocados, and carrots have high water contents.
  • Fill your favorite water bottle with water and take it with you in the car, while on the go and running errands.

Talk to your doctor about any back pain or if you have any of these signs of dehydration. Limit diuretics like coffee, tea, alcohol and sodas and be cautious when outdoors, and make sure to drink more water when exercising.