The weather is warming the days are longer and we want to get out and do as much as we can during this time of year. It’s prime time for working and playing outdoors. It’s also an excellent time to talk about the importance of staying hydrated while playing, exercising or working.
Everyone knows that our bodies are made up mostly of water. Water is necessary for digestion, balancing the electrolytes in the body, flushing toxins and maintaining our body temperature. What most don’t realize is that the disks between our vertebra, from the base of the skull to the tailbone are filled with water. When we injure our back, the disks in our spine become misshaped and compress pinching the nerves that radiate out from the spinal cord to the other parts of the body and cause back pain. When you are dehydrated, the disk has less water in it and compresses more resulting in more pain. Even if we haven’t injured our back, dehydration can cause the disk to compress and give us that nagging feeling in our back that we usually just write off as daily fatigue.
Other common side effects of dehydration are muscle cramps in the arms and legs, fatigue, trouble concentrating and feeling hungry even though you just ate not that long ago. Dehydration can also lead to other serious medical concerns. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are all too common on the playing fields and job sites and can result in death if not treated immediately and correctly.
Preventing dehydration is easy. Drink your water! Most adults will process three (3) quarts of water a day through perspiration and activity. And if you are working or playing hard, that amount will be more. Most of the information published will recommend 8-10, 8 ounce glasses of water a day for proper hydration. For those working and playing hard that amount is closer to 12-16, 8 ounce glasses of water a day.
It is also important to note that drinks such as soft drinks, drinks containing caffeine such as coffee and tea, alcohol and many energy drinks will not give your body the hydration it needs and can even make your dehydration worse. Many of the sports and energy drinks available today are more sugar or high fructose corn syrup than useful electrolytes and therefore should be avoided also. To know if the drink you are about to consume is going to help or hurt you, read the label. If the first or second ingredient is sugar or high fructose corn syrup, don’t drink it. They will only increase your dehydration and discomfort. And don’t think that the “diet” drinks are better because they don’t have sugar of high fructose corn syrup. The chemicals used to “sweeten” diet drinks are known to cause an unhealthy retention of water which doesn’t allow the body to use the water for hydration.
So to help prevent back pain during this prime time of year, stay hydrated. This will help you have a safe, healthy and happy year.