Is Dehydration Impairing Your Recovery?

Is Dehydration Impairing Your Recovery?

Most of you will be familiar with the advice many health professionals give about making sure we drink enough water to stay hydrated. But do you know the scientific reasons behind such advice? Why does being in a state of dehydration have such an impact on our body? 

We take a look at why drinking enough is crucial to recovery from injury, extreme physical exertion and illness. We also reveal why water is so crucial to your spine, and how not drinking enough can restrict mobility and inhibit repair.

Water’s Importance in the Body

As you may already know water is an integral part of every single cell within our body. Without it, the body can’t perform basic tasks such as digestion of food or circulation of blood to the best of its ability. In fact, water accounts for roughly 60 – 65% of our body’s make up. 

Water also has perhaps a lesser known (but just as important) role in the removal of toxins and the transfer of nutrients. It is this aspect of water that has such an effect on our spine when we are dehydrated. 

Hydration and the Spine 

Your intervertebral discs which form the cushion between your spinal bones (vertebrae) are vital to the proper functioning of your spine. 

They have 3 main functions: facilitating your spine’s range of motion, ensuring your vertebrae don’t rub against each other and finally they act as a shock absorber against the impacts of daily life on your spine. 

These discs are filled with a gel-like substance which is made up predominantly of water, therefore the amount of water in these discs has a direct impact on its ability to function optimally. 

Dehydration of the spine can cause issues with these discs by inhibiting the imbibition process.

What is Imbibition and Why Does It Matter?

Although the spinal discs we have just mentioned are mostly made up of water, they are unable absorb it by themselves like cells in the rest of the body. They have to absorb water via a process called imbibition. 

Imbibition is only possible when there is a full range of motion between the spinal joints both above and below the disc in question. The motion between these joints acts like a pump which pushes nutrients in and out of the discs.

Without adequate hydration this process is not possible and can lead to restrictions on the spine’s movement.

When hydration levels are low in the spinal discs their ability to absorb shock declines significantly. This creates extra stress on the joints which is borne primarily by other parts of the back including ligaments, joints and back muscles.

The degeneration of discs in this manner leads to misaligned spinal bones and restricts spinal movement. This misalignment and restricted movement of the spine is where that locked feeling comes from and often presents as pain. 

This pain can be treated by a chiropractor by performing chiropractic adjustments, however staying hydrated is crucial is regaining the mobility within your spine throughout the recovery process. 

Other Spinal Risks Resulting from Dehydration

Spinal dehydration issues don’t end at the impairment of the imbibition process. 

As one of the main functions of the spine is to the protect the spinal cord and the nervous system within it, spinal degeneration can lead to issues with the circulatory and respiratory system, major organ functions and other important tissues and cells. 

Dehydration has also been linked to chronic back pain. Disc degeneration can increase the chances of developing Osteoarthritis, which is a potentially debilitating condition in which both the bone and cartilage degrade causing continued pain and stiffness of the back. 

Effects of Dehydration on Other Areas of the Body

When the body is dehydrated the effects are not just felt in the spine you can also suffer with issues such as:

• Pain when urinating (Urinary Tract Infection)

• Kidney Stones

• Dizziness/Feeling Nauseous 

• Headaches

• Tiredness

• Difficulty in Concentrating

Therefore, it is important that you stay well hydrated to make sure all aspects of the body are functioning optimally, not merely your spine.

Hydration Before and After Treatment is Key

When receiving Chiropractic treatment for an injury or other back complaint is it very important to stay hydrated for the reasons stated above. Water adds lubrication to the spine and increased mobility making the work of a Chiropractor easier to achieve and less painful for the patient. 

If you receive treatment and don’t drink enough water afterwards, recovery will take much longer to achieve since your body won’t be able to repair properly whilst dehydrated. 

How Much Water Should I Drink?

Your body loses water almost constantly, whether that’s through respiration, perspiration or through excretion. By taking in an amount of water equal to or greater than you lose, you can regain a state of optimum hydration.

There are multiple studies on what the optimal volume of water is for hydration. The most commonly suggested figure is around two litres a day. This equates to roughly 70 fluid ounces. This can usually be accomplished by drinking around 8 glasses of water spread evenly throughout the day. 

If you have a labour intensive job you may want to take on more as you will lose more than the average office worker through sweat loss. It is always a good idea to make a mental note of the colour of your urine when you go the toilet. 

If the urine is very light or see through in colour then you are well hydrated, however if it dark and/or is strong smelling it is a clear indication that you need to drink more water to return to a state of complete hydration. 


So there you have it, staying hydrated can both aid prevention and the repair of any spinal issues you may have. If you have any questions about any of the subjects covered in this article, don’t be afraid to get in touch and a member of our team will respond as soon as possible.