Hydration & Your Spine
Back pain in many cases is either caused or exacerbated by dehydration. The structure of the human spinal discs makes them vulnerable to dehydration, with resulting pain and swelling. Read more to find out the connection between dehydration and back pain, and a simple, commonsense and healthy approach to reducing or eliminating your back pain.
The reason lies in the very structure of the human spine. Between every two vertebrae lies a disc, which functions as a shock absorber for all that we put our backs through everyday. This disc has two parts: an outer, flexible but very tough ring, which is filled with a gelatinous substance, called the nucleus pulposis. This inner substance is primarily water.
All day long, as gravity works on our upright spine, water is slowly squeezed out of the discs. Then at night, when we are lying down, the discs slowly rehydrate. This daily dehydration and nightly rehydration of the discs is the reason why most of us are generally about ¼ to ½ inch shorter when we go to bed than when we wake up in the morning! Regular movement during the day is also important to keep discs hydrated – as the spine moves forward and back, the discs will absorb what water is available.
Our discs will successfully rehydrate themselves during the night, and also during the day when possible, as long as there are adequate water levels within the body. When there is not enough water available to fully hydrate the gelatinous center, the whole disc becomes compromised. The disc is designed, when fully hydrated, so that the outer ring bears 25% of the weight load while the inner nucleus pulposis supports 75%. When the inner portion is dehydrated, it cannot support its share of the load, so more and more of your weight is borne by the outer ring, which simply was not designed for that purpose. This can cause pain, swelling, and even ruptures or herniations of the outer shell of the disc.
What this means is that one of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce back pain is to increase your daily intake of clean, healthy water, and to be sure to flex your back and neck front to back at times throughout the day. Simply stretching your spine forward and back periodically throughout the day will help to rehydrate your discs, provided that you have given your body enough water to work with!
To Your Health,
~ Dr. Kathleen Sherwood