Let us discuss water! Not coffee, not fizzy drink, and not that more than one standard glass of Mt Difficulty you’re pondering. Just plain, pure, good old-fashioned H2O!
You’ve probably heard the saying “water is the source of all life” and this is the truth!
The human body is comprised of over 60% water. That means if you weigh 70kg, then over 41 kg of you is water.
The reason you aren’t sloshing when you walk is because the water is not only held as a liquid within your blood and bodily fluids but is also in your cells or attached to molecules like proteins and carbohydrates.
Water has 7 main roles within our bodies
- Transportation – Water transports the likes of nutrients and oxygen, or important messages from hormones to the cells of your body, and removes cell waste products such as carbon dioxide
- Dissolving – It acts as an almost universal solvent. No, it cannot dissolve fats and lipids but the body has ways of transporting these insoluble molecules within water.
- Cleaning – Water acts as a flush for the body assisting filtering organs such as the kidneys and liver to detoxify the body.
- Reacting – Water is an important molecule of most of the body’s chemical reactions.
- Regulating temperature – Water helps cool you in a similar way to how a radiator keeps the engine of a car from overheating; Cooling fluid (blood; which is over 80% water) goes from the engine (major organs, active muscles, heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, etc.) to the radiator (skin) where heat can be dissipated.
- Lubricating – Water is THE major ingredient in all body fluid that is used to lubricate the body. Like a well oiled machine, we need our moving parts and tissue interfaces to be well lubricated for proper function and longevity.
- Padding – Water provides padding and shock absorption! Whether we are thinking about the fluid within the bursa (FYI bursa=fluid filled sacs that stop tendons grinding away against bone), or the discs of the spine which connect each vertebrae to form the spine. Water makes up the filling of these and in doing so allows you to bend, twist, jump and trim “THAT BLOODY HEDGE” without any agony.
These are all crucial functions of water, but it is the final two points I want to expand on. The relationship between hydration and the health of your joints and spine is what I am mainly interested in this week.
How Dehydration Causes Back Pain
Between the vertebrae (the irregular shaped bones that make up the spine) there are the intervertebral discs that we hear so much about when the topic of “back injury” comes up. The disc is an ingenious invention that allows for a perfect balance between movement and stability of the spine. It also works to absorb shock associated with impact which we encounter at various intensities each day (think walking, running, falling etc.)
I want you to imagine the disc as a sweet little jelly donut. It has a tough and flexible outer layer surrounding the squishy jelly centre. In this case, the jelly centre is the gel like substance that maintains the height of the disc and the space between the vertebra. This is called the nucleus pulposis and it is largely made up of, you know what, H2O.
Now with loss of disc height, or damage to the disc, the joints between the vertebrae above and below that disc have less room to move and have increased loading and compression on them. Not to mention the changes to ligament tensions and stability of these joints. Retaining height and quality of the disc is important to maintaining the relationship between all joints and structures that make up the function of the spine.
It is through the end plates of the vertebral bones above and below the disc that the nucleus pulposis (or jelly centre of your disc) is able to absorb water and nutrients to nourish the disc and retain its height and supple nature.
Now there is an obvious pre-requisite to your disc being able to absorb water from the bones above and below….there has to be water present! If you’re dehydrated your organs take priority over your discs.
If the disc loses hydration and does not get fed with the nutrients it needs, then the height of the disc will diminish and the stress on the outer layer of your jelly donut increases. It is once this outer layer is weakened, or worse, ruptured, that you hear the terms ‘disc herniation’ or ‘I slipped a disc’.
Any disturbances to the harmonious relationship between the joints of the spine have the potential to cause pain and influence wear and tear. Prevention is your best plan of attack but if you are suffering from back or joint pain of any kind, a very simple and inexpensive helping-hand lies in the fluid you maintain your body with each day.
How to Stay Hydrated
Below are a few keys to managing your hydration. It isn’t that hard of a task once you get into it…
- Drink enough water – How much is enough? Well, as a rule of thumb, we suggest 30ml per kg of bodyweight per day (0.033 x bodyweight = total amount in litres/day you need to drink). However this number should be even higher if you are exercising hard and losing fluid through sweating. Another variable to take into account are the amount of diuretics in the form of coffee and alcohol that you are consuming in the day.
- Don’t wait till you are dehydrated – When you are training, playing sport or getting amongst any physical activity, drink water before, during and after. Adapt the amount to your thirst, how hard you are working and how much you are heating up/sweating. Be intuitive!
- Look at your wees! – The colour of your urine provides an insight into your hydration status. Your pee should be pale yellow. If it’s dark yellow, cloudy or smelly then the chances are you are either dehydrated or you ate to much of that freakin asparagus. Eeeew!
- There is water in fruit and vegetables – You can increase your daily hydration and not to mention your overall nutrition and health by getting more of these into your diet. Whether it’s a fresh juice, smoothie, or meat and 3 veg for dinner. Do it!
To leave you on a lighter note, here’s a little water related gag I found pretty funny…ahh I mean immature and not funny at all :/
ELDOA LEVEL 1 & 2- Written by Scott Herrera (based upon the work of Guy VOYER, DO)