Low back pain is one of the most common complaints that I experience in my practice with patients and I often have my own version of back pain that occurs from time to time. Low back pain is also one of the most common complaints that cause people to reach out and seek help from Chiropractors, Massage Therapists, Acupuncturists, and Yoga Studios.
The questions is, “What does our hydration have to do with my low back pain?”. The answer can be very complicated and I’ll try to explain one simple and common link. Based on my experiences with people from all walks of life I find that nearly 80% of the people I work with are chronically dehydrated. From a huge variety of cultures to an enormous selection of body types chronic dehydration seems fairly consistent among them all. Now, there are levels of dehydration from mild to severe and what I’m talking about is a very “functional level” of dehydration which means that it doesn’t seem to cause the typical direct symptoms that dehydration causes. Simple, people are dehydrated and they don’t really realize it because they can function without extremely visible symptoms.
The problem with this is that it goes on for months, years, decades, or even an entire lifetime. This makes is even more difficult to identify because the longer period that it occurs for the less clear perspective exists. It’s like putting on weight very slowly over a long period of time. The body weight increases and because it does so slowly it goes unnoticed until it’s too late.
Here’s one way how low back pain and dehydration are linked. 90% of water absorption in our bodies occurs in the large intestine. This is our major organ of elimination. It’s where fecal matter is collected and formed for excretion. Water is what makes it all go round and round. It works in the large intestine to dilute the toxins that are being collected and formed for removal. Water works to clean the tiny folds that exist within the intestine and help mobilize waste matter. If there was not enough water flowing through the system a person could experience and higher than normal toxicity level as well as multiple irritations in the wall of the intestine due to the lack of cleansing. The body would also have a more difficult time forming matter properly and would have to work harder at it.
The large intestines neurological control comes from the nerves that exit the lower back. These same nerves also innervate and control local muscles of the lower back and those same muscles have nerve connections with the large intestine. Your body is a giant loop of nerves and information. Also the large intestine is located directly in front of the lower back. Like neighbors if one neighbor is really unhappy and irritated then chances are that neighbor will irritate the other one. The irritated information is then processed by the brain and shared with the muscles as well as the organ. Now everyone in the loop is unhappy and instead of feeling pain in the organ (large intestine) we feel pain in the muscles and structures associated with that organ.
Of course those muscles are connected to your spinal bones and those bones connected to discs and on and on goes the connections of the body. Called a “closed kinematic chain” when one thing moves it effects all the other things that are connected to it. So, how do we help ourselves? The simple answer would be start drinking more water. Yet this may not solve your issues and or it may take a bit of time to see a big difference. I suggest a multi-faceted approach.
Start with Hot Yoga. Hot Yoga will help you improve your hydration and it will help you stretch out as well as strengthen your spine and body. Because you sweat so much in a hot yoga class you’ll be very interested in re-hydrating after class. Re-hydrating with pure clean water will begin the exchanging process sweating out the old fluid and filling it with fresh new fluid. Plus, people often finding themselves drinking much more water than ever before. It’s funny how that new demand on the body causes the new desire to drink water more often and in larger quantities.
Next see a Doctor of Chiropractic. By using a Chiropractor to identify strengths and weaknesses in your spine you’ll be able to take proactive measures to improve your body’s function and neurological communication. This will decrease nervous stress and improve healing by dramatically improving function and speeding recovery. Your Chiropractor will also be able to provide tips and advice on how to continue to improve your body. In the worst case scenario your Doctor of Chiropractic is qualified to and be able to identify and diagnose real injuries that require a more structured and systemized approach.
Finally, bring more professionals onto your team. Ask your network to refer you to a trusted massage therapist and if you’re interested in Acupuncture find yourself a qualified Acupuncturist. Is you condition severe and not improving? Perhaps you need to consult your primary care physician and recruit their help to diagnose and treat your condition. There are many other types of healing as well. From alternative methods to main stream methods there will always be someone else you can consult with and treat with to see if you can create the changes you desire.
For now, get drinking and remember, alcohol, coffee, tea, and sugar tend to lead to more dehydration. Keep it real, real water that is. Add fresh lemon or lime for a bit of a taste kick and refrain from sports drinks as the high fructose corn syrups and other sugar like, sweet like substances cause additional problems. Lastly, you cannot sufficiently hydrate with carbonated water. Carbonated water will lead to more dehydration and instead just use that for a “drink treat”.
Stay hydrated my friends
-Dr John Surie