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Dehydration: How it Can Affect the Health of Your Spine

Dehydration - Norwich, ConnecticutIt’s officially summertime, and the hot weather is just getting started! One of the major risks during this time of year is not staying properly hydrated. Dehydration can certainly be harmful to your health in a multitude of ways and can especially affect your ability to think and focus. But did you know that dehydration can also impact your spinal health? It may come as a surprise to most, but insufficient water intake can wreak havoc on the strength and well-being of your spinal discs as well as the surrounding muscles. So allow us to further elaborate on the reason for this and ways you can prevent being hunched over all summer long.


There’s a link between dehydration and the health of my spine? How so?

A lack of water can affect your spine significantly. The discs in between your vertebrae (intervertebral discs) need proper hydration otherwise they can’t support the weight of your spinal column and body. Dehydration causes vertebrae to touch each other, and the wear and tear over time can make the discs less firm and prone to rupture. It also greatly increases the chances of fairly significant back pain, and you can even have a loss of height! When you’re young, your spine and discs absorb nutrients from the bloodstream, but that process diminishes in your older years. As an adult, those nutrients must come from the water in your body.

Could my back pain be caused by dehydration?

Cartilage on the spinal joints wears down from insufficient water intake. You won’t feel it at first, but over time, your thin and dehydrated discs will start to be affected. There is added pressure on the discs, which can sometimes rupture, meaning the inner material leaks out and presses on nearby nerves. And that is when the pain starts. Simply by lifting something heavy or twisting the wrong way, you may feel the wrath of dehydration in your spine or in the surrounding muscles. Being overweight or living a sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate these symptoms even further.

Once you’ve reached the point where you’re dehydrated, your body will look for any source of water it can find, and that includes finding it in the space around your intervertebral discs. That means you have less cushioning, which leads to joint breakdown. Because the water has been withdrawn, there is less space for nerves and that greatly increases your chances of experiencing pain. When your body is taking water from your spinal discs, it means you are in a fairly serious state of prolonged dehydration and are likely experiencing significant back pain. If this problem persists, your discs may degrade to the point of needing a surgery to place an artificial disc.

Precautionary measures:

Try to have a daily routine that will ensure your spine absorbs enough water to maintain a healthy structure. First, drinking 64 ounces of water per day is a good general rule. This amount should increase significantly for those who may be of a larger stature or highly athletic individuals. Profuse sweating is the sure sign that your body requires more water. There are ways you can monitor whether or not you have enough water in your body as well.

Indications that you may already be dehydrated and must immediately take action include, but are not limited to:

  • Dry mouth
  • Profuse sweating
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Muscle cramps and/or spasms
  • Disorientation/confusion
  • Darkened urine

Pedialyte formulas and low-sugar sports drinks can help replace the essential electrolytes that your body loses in hot temperatures. You should also avoid over-consumption of the following, as they can speed up the dehydration process:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Sugar
  • Salty foods and drinks
  • Tobacco products

There are many occasions to celebrate all throughout the summer and Access to Health simply wishes to help make your season as happy and healthy as possible. One way we keep our patients and followers informed is through our monthly newsletter, so sign up today for additional tips and information to maintain a high quality of life!

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