How Dehydration Could Be Negatively Affecting Your Back Pain

March 03, 2023

4 min read

If you’re suffering from back pain, the culprit might be hiding in plain sight. According to old wisdom and new research, the reason your neck, back, and legs hurt might be simpler than you think – your spine is not getting enough water. Dehydration might be affecting your back pain.

Read on to see how your spine health and hydration habits are connected.

Why Your Back Pain Might Be Worse in The Summer

For most people, chronic back problems and joint stiffness return with the first cold winds and stay with them throughout winter. The sun’s warmth brings relief to these people but worsens the aches for others. If your back pain worsens in the summer heat, it could be due to dehydration.

You probably know that your body is 65% water. The hotter it gets outside, the harder it is to retain water because of perspiration. If you don’t drink enough to replenish the water you’ve lost throughout the day, your body can easily get dehydrated. You can feel dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and – back pain.

The Connection Between The Spine and Hydration

People seldom talk about the connection between the spine and hydration.

However, most don’t realize that the spine is not only made of bones. In between those bones are tiny discs that are not hard but gelatinous. The purpose of these discs is to absorb shock, ensure correct movement, and prevent spine bones from rubbing against each other.

Between every two vertebrae in the spine, these discs perform their crucial function thanks to a soft inner part called the nucleus pulposus, which needs plenty of water.

Without water, spine discs tend to dry up or swell. That can put a lot of pressure on your spine bones and leave nerves exposed. The nerves along the spine are super-delicate – if they suffer pressure or get pinched between spinal bones, they trigger pain throughout the body.

The nucleus pulposus is a small structure in the human body, so most people never hear of it. Still, a dehydrated disc is one of the leading reasons behind back pain. In worst-case scenarios, the disc loses its ability to hold the weight of the spine, leading to a herniated disc.

How to Tell If You’re Properly Hydrated (or Not)

Unfortunately, dehydration is not the only cause of back pain. Before you blame it all on poor hydration and discard other possible reasons, you should determine whether or not your body is dehydrated in the first place. Dehydration doesn’t only happen in summer but all year long.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, your body isn’t getting enough water:

  • Fatigue
  • Frequent illness
  • Poor skin health
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Constipation
  • Decreased urination

The color of urine is generally a reliable tell-tale sign of your body’s water levels. If it’s yellow or darker even after you’ve had a glass of water, that means it contains more toxins than water. You should keep drinking more and more water until your urine is pale yellow or clear.

What Constitutes a Healthy Hydration Habit?

The general rule is – if you’re thirsty, your body is already dehydrated.

If you’re trying to develop healthy hydration habits, the best way to start is by reminding yourself to drink water before you get thirsty. But you must be wondering – how much? Years ago, scientists concluded that 64 ounces of water per day is just the right amount.

Of course, our hydration needs are never the same. Not only do they vary from one individual to the next, but they also change with the conditions and over a lifetime. If you’re breaking a sweat – due to heavy lifting, exercising, or heat – you need more than 64 ounces a day.


Drinking ample amounts of water is crucial for your well-being – keeping your spine healthy and pain-free is only one of the positive effects. However, if your back pain continues or worsens despite your healthy hydration habits, its important to see a healthcare professional.

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