Back pain is very common in the UK. Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is particularly common, although it can be felt anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips. Many people place needless stress on the back by failing to sit with the correct posture or lifting something awkwardly. There is another cause that may come as a surprise.
According to Dr Robbyn Keating of the Arrowhead Clinic, dehydration can also cause back pain. As she pointed out, staying hydrated helps your body to perform its vital functions. “When you become dehydrated, your body reacts negatively causing you to be crabby, faint, and completely shocks your organs, muscles, and bones,” she said.
The link between backache and dehydration is the small disks in your spine, she explained: “These little discs are jelly-like material that is close to 75 per cent water. The outer ring is called the Nucleus Pulposus, and the inner ring is mainly water.
“By the end of the day you are a quarter of an inch to half an inch shorter than when you woke up in the morning. You are shorter because of the water slowing releasing from the spinal discs. You return to your normal height in the morning because while you are sleeping the discs rehydrate fully.
“The discs try to hydrate throughout the day, but in the upright position, it is not as easy. Movement helps hydrate the discs during the day.
“When people ask, ‘Can drinking water help with my back pain?’ The answer is yes. You need the water in your body for the spinal discs to rehydrate.
“Not only do these little discs impact a very small part of your height but more importantly they affect your body’s daily function.
“The jelly-like discs are between every two vertebrae and absorb the shock of your everyday movement protecting your spine from wear and tear.
“If the discs are not adequately hydrated you not only shrink but they cannot protect or support your spine. This causes more stress on the spine and eventually, it will swell, become painful and possible bulge the nucleus pilposis, which is extremely uncomfortable.”
According to the NHS, symptoms of dehydration include:
- Feeling thirsty
- Dark yellow and strong smelling pee
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Feeling tired
- Dry mouth, lips and eyes
- Peeing little, and fewer than four times a day
- Dehydration can happen more easily if you have:
- Vomiting or diarrhoea
- Been in the sun too long (heatstroke)
- Drunk too much alcohol
- Sweated too much after exercising
- A high temperature of 38C or more
- Been taking medicines that make you pee more (diuretics)
To avoid the risk of dehydration, the health body recommends drinking fluids when you feel any dehydration symptoms. Keep taking small sips and gradually drink more if you can.
It added: “You can use a spoon to make it easier for your child to swallow the fluids.
“You should drink enough during the day so that your pee is a pale clear colour.
“Drink when there is a higher risk of dehydrating. For example, if you’re vomiting, sweating or you have diarrhoea.”
A pharmacist can help with dehydration too, explained the health site: “If you’re being sick or have diarrhoea and are losing too much fluid, you need to put back the sugar, salts and minerals that your body has lost.
“Your pharmacist can recommend oral rehydration sachets. These are powders that you mix with water and then drink.”
According to Bupa, back pain is usually caused by straining, twisting or lifting something heavy. “In some people, it’s linked to repetitive tasks at work or sitting in one position for a long time,” said the body.
Typical causes include:
- Poor posture sitting at a desk or on the sofa to work from a laptop
- Dragging a suitcase
- Doing some household chores such as loading or unloading the washing machine or bending over the sink or ironing
- Playing with the kids or picking them up
- Pulling or straining a muscle while exercising
- Working long hours on your feet, such as standing behind a bar for a long time
- Waking up with back pain which might be caused by an unsupportive mattress
- Being overweight
It can also be a sign of underlying condition, such as arthritis, the health site points out.
“It affects your joints, making them painful and stiff. In your back, it’s commonly the joints in your neck or the lower back that are affected,” it added.