While working with people over the past 9 years, I have seen many people with back issues. One commonality between all of them is that their quality of life has decreased substantially since their back problem has worsened. Their activities become limited, they have to be very careful in everything that they do, and many of them are in constant pain. That is not a situation that I want to see anybody go through if there is anything that I can do to help them.
Through a few newsletters, I cannot necessarily reverse the damage of many, many years of spinal degeneration but I can provide you with information that will empower you to make better decisions about what you do with your body- primarily your spine, which is going to positively affect its health in the long-term. This is going to be the first newsletter in a series where I will be discussing the most important factors relating to the health of your spine, and the most important strategies to implement to improve its health.
The Most Important Factor in Spinal Health
What I believe is the most important factor when it comes to spinal health is dehydration. Dehydration is a condition that most people would not think is associated with the health of our spine, but it truly is. Your spine can develop issues over time, and two highly common issues are: arthritis and disk related problems.
How Arthritis Is Related to Dehydration
Arthritis is a condition there is a significant amount of wear of the cartilage between the meeting points of two bones. As we move throughout our lives, all joints (spine, shoulder, hips, knees, etc.) are moving on top of one another, and when they do, there is friction. Friction is the force created when two things slide along each other. When you push your fingers together very forcefully, and then try to move them together, it becomes difficult because there is friction between them. How do you get rid of friction? One way is to introduce lubrication between those two surfaces. For instance, if I dipped my fingers into olive oil and pressed them together tightly, it would be significantly easier to move them because of the lubrication. This would enhance mobility.
In the spine, this becomes an issue at the facet joints between vertebrae bones, where movement takes place. Surrounding the cartilage of the facet joints is synovial fluid, which is your body’s natural lubricant. Synovial fluid is primarily made of water. If you are dehydrated, then the availability of the synovial fluid becomes limited. This limitation leads to a decline in the functional, sliding movement of the joints because it creates a dry environment of the joint where mobility is more difficult because of the increased friction. This is often described as a “stiff” feeling in the back: when people try to move their bodies in certain directions and they experience a lot of difficulty. Many times, this is because dehydration is playing a major role in the lack of synovial fluid.
The Water Rationing Process
The water in your body is something that has to be rationed when there is not enough. For example, if there is a water shortage in a city or town, the municipal government may allow only a specific amount of water to be used by each household. The goal is to preserve the total water supply and to do so they must give each household just enough to do the most important tasks.
The body has a similar rationing process. It will ration water to be sent to your brain, you heart, your liver, your kidneys, and several other organs absolutely essential for survival. Your joints and disks are not essential for survival and therefore they do not get the same level of priority as the vital organs do. Although this is an effective process in the short-term because it ensures that we stay alive, if it is prolonged those parts of our body that aren’t receiving water begin to breakdown.
What Happens to The Disks When You’re Dehydrated
Disks rest between vertebras, creating space between them. The canal is the area where the nerves extend and innervate throughout all the different tissues to provide electricity. If you lose disk-height, because of chronic dehydration, those canals begin to narrow. This creates a condition called spinal stenosis. This is perpetuates chronic pain, muscle spasms, chronic stiffness, etc. The reason that these disks shrink when they get dehydrated is because they are filled with a gel-like substance primarily made of water. This leads us back to the body rationing water, and if it does not have enough, it will not go to the areas below survival priority.
Another disk-related issue is disk integrity, or the strength of these disks. When the strength of the disks are decreased, it allows susceptibility to disk-bulging, disk-herniation, etc. This can cause compression of the spinal cord, of the nerves and of many different tissues, which can cause chronic pain throughout your life. This is something that you want to do everything possible to avoid. If you are already at that point, this is a step you can take to prevent the condition from worsening, and even reverse it slowly.
How Much Water Should You Drink?
How much is enough when it comes to water intake? Here is a key formula that is important to take note of (the main factor is your body weight). My weight is 190 pounds, for instance, so this will be my main factor. I take 190 and divide it by 2, which is 95. 95 is the number of ounces of water that I would need to drink each day in order to prevent any amount of dehydration. Essentially, the formula equates to: half of your body weight = ounces in water needed to consume each day.
Many people meet this with opposition because they don’t drink nearly that amount. They think it is too much, it is impossible, etc. However, it is important to realize that what is beneficial to your health rarely comes easily. If it were, everyone would engage in the activity and very few people would have back related problems. To achieve this requires self-discipline, which can take the form of written reminders, carrying a bottle of water with you when you go out, setting alarms on your phone, etc. This will help keep you on track with hydration.
Some examples of what I have done to help over the years are: I have carried water with me to places that I’ve gone, or if I have not had the chance to drink water in a few hours, I would drink a large amount of water when the opportunity presented itself. Try your best to implement some sort of strategy to give your body the amount of water that it needs, in order for it to be beneficial to your spine.
This isn’t the type of treatment you follow for two weeks and feel massive improvement, but over time you will notice that the health of your spine, the health of other parts of your body, and your overall health will improve. Adequate hydration positively affects your blood pressure, your energy level, your sleeping patterns, your joint health, and your athletic performance. This far-reaching affect is evident to hydration being such a key factor in overall health, and in our joints and related tissues.
Keep an eye out for the next newsletter where I will be discussing the four letter word that can make the difference between your spinal health building up or breaking down.
Have a great weekend!
P.S.- Have you gotten a copy of my new book yet? If you want more answers as to why your body is having the problems or limitations that it is and what you need to do about it, pick up your copy today.