Categories: Orthopaedics

Dehydration and Back Pain

Our back has a network of muscles, tendons, ligaments, vertebrae, and vertebral discs, which work harmoniously to support our body and permit various movements.

Back pain is an ache anywhere in the back, and sometimes pain goes all the way down to the legs. It can also cause pain in the other body parts (shoulder, neck, head, and arms). Back pain can occur for various reasons, and drinking less water can be one of them.

Our body contains up to 60% of the water. When we don’t drink sufficient water to replenish our water content, our body shows signs of dehydration. These can be dizziness, dry mouth, less urination, headaches, and even loss of consciousness.

How does dehydration cause back pain?

Dehydration can be a cause of our back pain. Small vertebral discs connect our spinal vertebrae. These discs contain a jelly-like substance that predominantly contains water (almost 75%). The outer and inner rings of the disc also consist of a profuse amount of water.

The vertebral disc works as a cushion in-between the two vertebrae. They absorb most of the shock from our day-to-day movements and protect our spine.

Our vertebral discs release water slowly throughout the day and replenish themselves at night. We should stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water so that our discs stay hydrated and protect our spine.

Consequences of dehydration on back

During the intra-discal fluid exchange (replacing the old fluid with new) at night, tissues in our discs rehydrate themselves with the water we have consumed during the day. After rehydration, our discs become swollen again and regain their cushion quality.

When we don’t drink sufficient water, the repair rate of our spinal discs comes down, which can result in the wear and tear of our vertebrae.

If your work or lifestyle puts excessive pressure on your back, then dehydration may cause severe problems:

  • Immobility: Dehydration can cause shrinkage of vertebral discs. The contracted disc may cause a decrease in the distance between vertebrae, which leads to difficulty in the body’s bending and twisting actions.
  • Herniation in discs: Dehydrated discs cannot tolerate the impact of movements. Continuous dehydration causes reduced elasticity and can damage the outer layer of vertebrae discs. It causes immense pressure during the vertebrae movement leading to bulging and herniation in discs. Bulging or herniated discs cause severe back pain.
  • Back or spine pain: Gradual thinning or bulging of discs can pressurize and damage nerve roots. This slow deterioration of nerves leads to discomfort and pain in the lower back area. Sometimes, a person can feel numbness in the legs.

How can we detect dehydration?

Some indications that can show the beginning of dehydration in our body are:

  • The reduced quantity and dark color of urine
  • Malaise
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Dryness in the eyes and sometimes blurred vision
  • Fever
  • Dry mouth, lips, and throat
  • Dryness of skin
  • Muscle cramps
  • Confusion and irritability

What are the signs of a dehydrated disc?

If you are experiencing back problems frequently, watch your water intake.

The most common sign of dehydrated discs is extreme pain in the lower back and numbness in the legs. Some of the warning signs are:

  • Bulging in the spinal area
  • Shooting pain in the legs
  • Problems in pelvic area organs
  • Weakness and numbness in the legs
  • Diminished or absent reflexes in the legs

How to stay hydrated?

Remaining hydrated prevents us from many diseases. We should follow some basic practices to replenish our body and spinal discs so that our back remains healthy:

  • We should include raw vegetables and fruits in our diet because they are rich in water. We should eat plenty of seasonal fruits (watermelon, oranges, pineapple, honeydew, and many more) as they have a high amount of water.
  • Drink plenty of water gradually throughout the day.
  • We can add electrolytes in water when exercising or it’s hot outside.
  • We can set a reminder for drinking water
  • We can install a water tracking app on our phone

When our spinal discs are not hydrated, they lose the ability to protect and support our spine as they should, which may lead to further complications. If you are experiencing continuous severe pain in the back, immediately consult your doctor. Remember, stay hydrated to protect our spine as it is the central supporting structure of our body.

Dr. V. A. Senthil Kumar | HOD & Senior Consultant – Orthopaedics, Spine Surgery and Arthroscopy | Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital, Delhi

Narayana Health

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