What to Know About Low Back Pain And Summer Heatwaves
Global warming is wreaking havoc with our weather patterns with record breaking temperatures and an increase in major weather events. With major heatwaves occurring throughout the US, you might be surprised to know that the rising temperatures can actually have an impact on your low back pain. How does that happen? Read on to see how the weather might be affecting you.
Fact: Summer months and extended heatwaves across the country can cause dehydration. Common signs of dehydration, such as headaches and thirst, are easily recognized, but did you know that low back pain can also be a sign of dehydration?
Why Do Our Bodies Need Water?
Our bodies require water for a number of functions, ranging from the creation of tears and saliva, to sweat production and blood pressure regulation. Our bodies use water in amazing ways to keep us going throughout the day - which is why it is so important for us to stay properly hydrated.
Dehydration can occur in many different (and sometimes surprising) ways. Intense air conditioning in a building or office, certain medications, outside activities in the heat, and underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, can all lead to dehydration.
How Dehydration Can Cause Back Pain
Your spine is a column composed of discs, vertebrae, and cartilage. These discs protect your spine from all the jarring motions that it experiences each day, with the fluid inside these discs acting as a protective cushion.
Throughout the day each motion we make causes a small amount of fluid to leak from the disc and causes the discs to scrape against each other. Re-hydrating at the end of each day is crucial in order to replace this fluid and prevent this friction between discs.
Fun fact: Did you know that daily loss of loss of water can make you up to a half inch shorter when you go to bed than when you wake up?
Some of the ways that this loss of fluid can affect your spine
1. Stiff Muscles
A lack of hydration throughout the body can cause the muscles in your back to become stiff and sore. Stiff muscles can lead to painful muscle spasms.
2. Spinal disc degeneration
The discs in your spine are made of more than 75% of water. Throughout the day water is slowly released from the spine and this loss of water can affect the discs and reduce their ability to cushion movements like running, walking and bending.
The more the discs shrink, the more difficult movement becomes. At night, intradiscal fluid exchange replaces the old fluid with fresh new fluid and restores the cushioning capabilities of your spine.
3. Bulging or Herniated Discs
A lack of hydration can cause your discs to bulge. Bulging discs tend to point outwards, which causes the vertebrae to scrape against each other and can even cause a herniated disc. Hydration is essential for discs to restore their outer layer and protect the vertebrae from further damage and friction.
Exercise And Dehydration
If you are starting to work out more to help your low back pain then paying attention to your hydration is a must, especially during the summer. Studies have shown that often when we exercise, many people don't drink enough water.
Most people don't drink enough water after they exercise to replace the fluid that was lost through sweat and their intense physical efforts and they can actually stay in a state of dehydration for several hours even after their are finished working out.
It is especially important to pay attention to this information if summer is just beginning as research has shown that this is a peak time when people are at risk for dehydration since they are just getting used to the hot temperatures and their bodies haven't quite adjusted to the heat yet, or to their increase in activity after a more sedentary winter season.
In situations like this, people are often at high risk for health concerns like:
decreased blood pressure
reduced blood flow to muscles (and more back pain)
The Benefits Of A Beverage
Knowing what we know about hydration now, it is good to keep the benefits of water in mind for managing low back pain. Perhaps the next time your back flares up and you are tempted to reach for a heating pad or an anti-inflammatory, it might be an idea to reach for a glass of water, instead, and see if that helps?
While water may not be an immediate fix, consuming more water as part of your daily routine may have the additional benefit of helping to reduce your low back pain in the long run.
4 easy ways to drink more water
Drink more water before you workout or take a walk.
Monitor your hydration levels (dark yellow, or cloudy urine, indicates dehydration).
Drink water even before you get thirsty — by the time you are thirsty you are already dehydrated.
Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces every day. If you weigh 150 lbs then your goal would be to drink 75 ounces of water
It is strange to think of hydration as a treatment for low back pain, but it should be part of your daily healthcare regimen. This summer, one of the best things you can do to combat low back pain is to reach for a refreshing glass of water and make sure you stay properly hydrated.
You will be amazed at how great it will make you feel!