Relieve Your Back Pain by Staying Hydrated

Do you drink enough water? Ask your back. If you experience frequent back pain, upping your H2O might help. Here’s why.

You’ve heard it all your life: Drink water, at least eight glasses a day. Whether it was your mother, teacher, or doctor telling you this, turns out they were on to something. In fact, in addition to making you feel your best from head to toe, water can help relieve back pain.

Hydration back painUp your H20 intake and possibly spare your back.

Dana Cohen, MD, author of Quench, a book on the science and importance of water, believes that proper hydration is “the single most important thing we can do to treat and prevent chronic illness.” How’s that for a stamp of approval on something you can do every day?

Here, Dr. Cohen answers your burning questions on how to quench your thirst and alleviate back pain in the process.

What’s the Link Between Dehydration and Back Pain?

You may not be aware that back pain (or pain in other areas)can be directly connected to a lack of hydration.

Dr. Cohen says, “When we are dehydrated, fluid always goes to the brain first and gets transported from other areas of the body like joints. Our fascia, the connective tissue webbing that supports every cell and organ in the body, can become tangled and knotted, making movement painful, difficult, and stiff.”

There are certain chronic pain conditions that can be worsened by dehydration. Dr. Cohen lists headaches, migraines, arthritis, joint pain, fibromyalgia, and overall stiffness as conditions that can be affected by dehydration.

Not drinking enough water can certainly lead to back pain, according to Dr. Cohen. “The discs between our vertebra need fluid to cushion the bones,” she says. “They can become a little dry and brittle when not properly hydrated, exacerbating back pain.”

If you’re currently in physical therapy for your back pain, Dr. Cohen adds that good hydration is “imperative before any physical therapy” since it can improve the outcome.

How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?

This seems to be an age-old question in the medical world. The answer to that question, like so many similar medical questions that aren’t cut and dried, is “It depends,” Dr. Cohen suggests.

“Everyone is different—some sweat more than others,” she says. “You have to figure out for yourself what is optimal. A good rule of thumb is that we are meant to get up to pee every two to three hours while awake. Look at the color of your urine—it should be straw-colored. If I had to give you some kind of number, I would say half your weight in ounces of water a day.”

In other words, if you weigh 130 pounds, that equals 65 ounces (130 divided by 2) of water per day, or roughly two Nalgene bottles filled with water.

Does It Have to Be Water?

You might be pleased to know that you don’t have to guzzle straight water all day long. According to Dr. Cohen, other fluids, like juice and tea, do count.

“But even more important is our food counts,” she says. “There are very hydrating foods like vegetables that play a huge role in hydrating us optimally.”

And sorry—if you like to load up on your morning joe, coffee doesn’t count toward your daily hydration. “Over four cups of caffeinated coffee is a diuretic,” Dr. Cohen notes. She also says that alcohol is dehydrating and doesn’t recommend sodas and sugary drinks as you work toward optimal hydration.

How Can You Make Water a Daily Priority?

Let’s be honest—plenty of us forget to drink water regularly, unless you’re parched after a workout or using it to brush your teeth or take medications. This is why Dr. Cohen highly recommends “front-loading” your water, meaning that you should drink a big glass (ideally, 16 ounces) first thing in the morning.

She also shares these tips:

  • Add a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt for electrolytes
  • Drink a smoothie every day, one that includes lots of greens blended with water. You can add lemon, ginger, and apple for flavor.
  • Drink a glass of water before every meal.
  • Incorporate hydrating foods into your diet. This includes lots of veggies, chia seeds, and more “plant-centric,” less-processed foods. 

So, water. It covers about 71 percent of our planet, and makes up about 60 percent total of our bodies. Does that mean it’s important? We think so, and we think your back will thank you for staying properly hydrated.

Updated on: 10/19/20
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