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Back pain – are you drinking enough water?

We all know how important it is for our general health to remain hydrated but if most of us were asked why we would probably say for our kidneys, gut, temperature control and avoiding headaches. I expect very few people would think of their spine and back pain.

Why is water important for the spine?

Water is essential for every cell and organ in our body. The discs in our spine are no exception. They are made up of an outer layer of fibrous cartilage and an inner layer of a jelly like substance, comprised mainly of water. The discs are found between each vertebrae and act as a shock absorber. During the day, we are constantly putting pressure on our discs, in normal everyday activities but particularly when sitting and bending. So our spine is healthier when standing and moving.

The ageing spine

As we age we generally dry out and again the spine is no exception. This is because we are less able to retain water as efficiently and our body is less good at telling us we are dehydrated. In addition, there is a tendency to drink less as we grow older.

So what happens to the discs when the water is not replenished enough? They can start to crack and narrow, reducing the space between each vertebrae. Although this process can start in our early 20’s, it is a very slow and progressive process and often symptoms do not appear until much later in life. The symptoms can range from back or neck pain, stiffness and loss of flexibility to pain radiating into buttocks/legs or arms in more extreme cases. Other contributors to the ageing disc are our activity levels, injuries, family history, spinal disease and smoking.

Tips to keep your spine healthy

  • Aim to drink about 2 litres of fluid a day. Alcohol does not count! You can count tea and coffee although water is the preference. If you do not like plain water, try adding citrus fruit for flavour. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Check the colour of your urine – it should be a pale straw colour. Other signs of dehydration are dark urine, not passing urine often, lack of concentration, tiredness, dizziness or headache.
  • You should drink regularly through the day to avoid dehyration. The aim is to not get to the point where you feel thirsty!
  • Take regular exercise to improve flexibility and build strength.
  • Do not smoke.

I hope the one thing you will take from this is that our discs start to age early so it’s worth taking measures now to help slow the process down.

However, if you find yourself suffering back pain or any of the symptoms described above, the most important thing is to keep moving – it won’t harm you, even if it is painful!

Remember our team of Osteopaths treat ageing spines every day and would be happy to help you lead a less painful and more active life.