Dehydration and Back Pain

Dehydration and Back PainUpwards of 70% of your body is composed of good old H2O. Some claim as little as a 2% drop in fluids can leave you itchy, groggy, constipated, and feeling generally rotten all around.

It certainly makes sense to stay hydrated. Drinking enough water helps ensure our bladder and kidneys flush toxins out of our bodies. It helps our bodies digest food. And it can even prevent headaches, joint aches and muscle pain.

So what does this have to do with your spine? Quite a bit it turns out. Not only is over 70% of your body made up of water, but a similar ratio exists in the discs that cushion the vertebrae in your spine. It turns out dehydration is a little talked about but significant factor contributing herniated and bulging discs.

A decrease in disc water content is associated with spinal disc degeneration. As the discs break down, cracks form in the fibrous outer ring of the disc leading to fluid loss. The inner core becomes weaker as it shrinks and comes under more stress until conditions become ripe for the disc to bulge or herniated.

Exactly how much water is enough can be a matter of significant debate. The most commonly given “rule” is to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. It’s really more of a “rule of thumb” though as the amount your body really needs largely depends on your gender (males tend to require more water), weight (larger mass requires more water), activity level, and environment among other factors.

Allow me to make drinking water simple for you. If you’re thirsty, drink a glass of water. Seriously. If you’re not thirsty but are experiencing some of the symptoms of mild dehydration, try drinking a glass of water anyways. Normally if you’re drinking enough water your urine will be clear or pale yellow. Be aware that it’ll typically be darker first thing in the morning, after a meal, or when taking water soluble vitamins like riboflavin.

When your body is properly hydrated, your spinal discs are able to reabsorb fluids at night while you sleep. Many individuals with back pain have gotten fast relief by using inversion therapy tables which release pressure on the discs through gentle gravity-based traction. This allows fluid to soak back into the spongy interior of the disc so that it can heal and properly support your vertebrae.

So yes, water is the stuff of life. And the stuff that’ll help your spine stay healthy too.

Related references:
H2O: Hydration; Marketing Health Promotion, Wellness, and Risk Information for Spinal Cord Injury Survivors in the Community. Craig Hospital. Englewood, CO.

Wognum S, Huyghe JM, Baaijens FP. Influence of osmotic pressure changes on the opening of existing cracks in 2 intervertebral disc models. Spine. 2006;31:1783—8.

Zhao F, et al. Discogenic origins of spinal instability. Spine. 2005 Dec 1;30(23):2621-30.

Nosse, L.: Inverted Spinal Traction. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 59: 367-370, Aug 78.

Filed Under: Back Pain
Written By:  Updated:
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Jesse Cannone, CFT, CPRS, MFT

Jesse is the co-founder and visionary CEO of The Healthy Back Institute®, the world-leading source of natural back pain solutions. His mission as a former back pain sufferer is to help others live pain free without surgery and pharmaceuticals.

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12 thoughts on “Dehydration and Back Pain”

  1. paul j. bacidore says:

    Good info. Jesse,thanks.I need to drink more purified water.pjb

  2. K Port says:

    I cannot use inversion therapy because of heart condition.

    I have serious lumbar spinal stenosis and am in almost constant pain. My only relief comes from electric heat pads, which I have in all my chairs.

    Can you suggest any other help?

    I am 86.


    Ken Port

  3. Gary Starkey says:

    May I humbly suggest that you try Msm. Google Msm and read about. Some people say it is a miracle cure although it has not cured me. However, since taking it for about 5 years now my back pain has been reduced a lot. I also have lumbar spinal stenosis and bulging discs. My research on Msm has shown it to be a safe supplement. My wife has also been taking it for about 4 years for hip pain and now swears by it. I have never observed any side effects. They sell it at Wal Mart and Sams.

    I hope this helps you,
    God Bless

  4. S Sea says:

    I have arthritis in my back and knees. My back doesn’t hurt when I sleep or sit;but, after sitting I have a hard time getting up and walking. My knees only hurt after going to bed. Before my hip replacement in September of 2004 I had no problems.
    Before I tried Inversion Therapy I called my doctor.
    His nurse said it should be OK using the table. The Inversion Therapy makes me feel good ;but,I still have trouble walking. Also the replaced hip has become sore. My question is should I continue using the table? Nothing hurts when I am vertical
    and I am hoping I can work through this soreness.

  5. Admin says:

    Hi Ken and S Sea,

    Thank you for your questions. While they do read and review ths blog you would be best to please submit your query to the helpdesk using the following link, where personal questions are answered.

    Our Customer Support

    They will then be able to discuss your specific questions and discuss any more personal information, with more privacy than is available on a public blog.

    Thank you.

  6. Girl Gone Healthy says:

    Just one more reason to add to a full list of why drinking water is such a pertinent habit to keep!

  7. Danielle Li says:

    That’s so good to know! But then again, drinking water’s supposed to be good for you all around right? (That’s what my mother told me). Perhaps drinking some extra H20 can be the cherry on top!

    Thanks for the great info!

  8. Paul Hagen | VacuPractor says:

    Jesse: I had no idea dehydration could cause additional back pain. I try to drink 2 tall glasses of water a day (tall as in 32 oz) and that probably is not enough. I have back pain daily and I will now be curious to see if drinking more water helps. Thanks for the idea!

  9. Mary says:

    What superb written report! I have no clue how you were able to say this’d take me weeks. Well worth it though, I’d assume. Have you considered selling ads on your website?

  10. Carol Ann Vorpahl says:

    When I was in grade school my hands always hurt holding pencils .It continued all through school, and early adulthood. I worked as a CNA in nursing homes for years. Most the time, we didn’t have enough Hoyer lifts for the number of patients we cared for each shift. Always understaffed, and pressure of time schedules , we often did heavy lifting on transfers. Back then, we weren’t required to wear any back support belts, for our protection. I got asthma which ran occasionally in our family, which turned into COPD because of smoking. I also went into congestive heart failure after a severe bout of pneumonia. They then found out I had Cardiomyopathy , in my 40s. When I was in my late 30s I was in so much back, and leg pain that the doctors insisted I retire from all working. When I was 50 yrs. old my spine was severely worn causing me to have spinal fusion in two large areas of my back. Mid back, then very lower portion of my back. I still have all the hardware in my back. They fill my heart could not hold up through another surgery. They said the area where they did the bone graft would stop hurting in a few months. Well, its been seven years ,and that’s one of the portions of my back that hurts the most. They have taken tons of picture, and they say the hardware is where it’s suppose to be. So, I take my 45mg. morphine twice a day, and my acetamenaphine, along with my celebrex . I can’t get any straight answers as to why the graft area has poking type pain,and hurts so bad. It’s bad enough my back hurts.(Which I manage well with the pain meds- but, the graft area is unmanageable. I don’t like to hassle anyone. Please advice me what to do on my own to help. I do my back exercises regularly . Thank you ever so much . Carol Ann

  11. Brenda R Floyd says:

    For myself I take drinking 64-128 ounces of water daily seriously because it’s important that my medications are flushed thoughout my system giving me optimum benefits of the meds. I find they work better when I take my meds at the same time daily with the water intake. Sometimes my stomach may feel queezy from the meds so I squirt lemon or lime juice in my water and then my stomach feels refreshed.

    I have had two back surgeries and my back is as good as it’s ever going to get from a surgical standpoint. Therefore I have learned and created many ways to help me get some comfortability along with the medications. Firstly, I know that sometimes my back is going to hurt (which is most of the time) badly because it is an acute and chronic condition. I excepted that fact in February 1990 when my surgeon explained everything to me before the April 1990 surgery.

    Without surgery I would have been bound to a wheelchair, my biggest fear. I can walk, sit and stand up straight. I do not look like anything is wrong with me. However, I carry a cane to keep my balance and to keep me from falling.

    I have lost a total of 85 pounds and still losing. The weight loss has helped the mobility and comfortability. However, my back still hurts. It’s the nature of my condition.

    I haven’t taken narcotic medications in years and I’m so glad not to be dumbed out anymore! A bit of advice: Flush fluids when on NSAIDS, antiflammatories and all other meds. You don’t want that stuff lingering in your liver because the meds that help you can give you liver dysfunction. Water is vital!

    I walk four miles daily, 4-6 days a week. I excercise daily. I am frequently in physical therapy learning new ways to make myself stronger which helps with back pain. I receive ultrasound treatments and deep muscle massages as well. I also do things like: listen to music, take hots baths, ice packs, stretching, yoga, pranayama, meditation, walk, low impact aerobic dancing, pray, creative writing and send cards to lift up other people. These activities take me out of myself. All of these activities help decrease my pain. I never do anything in a rush because that causes anxiety and sharp pains in my back. So I plan everything I do not rush.

    It’s very important to stay regular. Straining can cause terrible back pains that seem to never quiet down. I suggests you use stool softeners (CVS brand is good) rather than laxatives. Diarrhea causes sharp back pains too.

    I hope I have been of some help to you fellow survivors of the big, bad back. Later.

  12. Admin says:

    Hi Carol Ann,

    Thank you for your query. I have sent you an e mail please look for it. I have included the link to our free back pain book.

    Thank you

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