Drink up: How Dehydration Fuels Back Pain

Water is essential to our being. It sustains us, and we can only live a few days without it. Our bodies, which are made up of 60 percent water, rely on hydration to maintain their temperature, support joints and muscles, remove waste, and nourish cells. The more active you are, the more water you need to drink to ensure the health of your body, particularly your spine and the joints and muscles that support it.

The discs between your vertebrae are 75 percent water. As you sleep, your discs rehydrate, and you wake up in the morning at your normal height. During the day, your spinal discs slowly release water, creating more compression in your spine as the discs dry up. This reduced moisture in your spine can cause your back to feel stiff and display a noticeable change in mobility. Not only that, but dehydration also affected the supporting muscles around the spine. Over time, insufficient hydration can lead to damaged discs and facet joints. These small discs have the big job of protecting your spine. They serve as a cushion between the vertebrae and help to absorb the shock placed on the spine when you run and jump and twist. If they can’t do their job because of dehydration, you could end up with bulging discs.


How to know if you’re dehydrated

Your body dehydrates when it’s not receiving enough fluids throughout the day or it’s expelling too much fluid during the day. One of the easiest ways to tell if your body needs hydrating is to check your urine color. Dark-colored urine (burnt orange) is a telltale sign that your body needs water. On the flip side, you may notice your bowels are looser than normal. This too is an indicator of dehydration. A properly hydrated body displays urine that’s a lemonade color or lighter. If your urine is crystal clear, you’re over-hydrated.

Other ways to spot dehydration are:

  • Dry and itch skin
  • Dry eyes
  • Bad breath
  • Dry mouth
  • Cramping
  • Fatigue
  • Mental fog or inability to concentrate
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Abnormal weight loss (if chronic)
Tips for Staying Hydrated

A hydrated back and spine not only function better, but a hydrated body is a healthier body. Drinking bottled and tap water (e.g., half your body weight in ounces; 140 pounds equals 70 ounces) can help your body quickly replenish. One thing to consider is to add electrolytes to give you a bigger boost. Drinks like Gatorade and powder add-ins, like Propel, restore the electrolyte balance your body needs for optimal functioning. Here are some easy ways to stay hydrated.

  • Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables
  • Keep diuretics like coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks to a minimum (you’ll need equal amounts of water to restore balance)
  • Drink more water if you’re active
  • Use a water tracking app to remind you to hydrate
  • Keep a reusable water bottle on your desk

If you find water to be flavorless and boring, add fruit to your water, like lemon, or an herb, like mint. The aforementioned add-in powders also come in a variety of flavors.


A stiff back or aching spine can be a less than ideal start to your day or can delay some of the summer fun you have planned with friends and family. Keep in mind that your health, and the health of your spine, depend on hydration.