We often call water the essence of life, and there’s a good reason for that too. Not only is our body made up of up to 60% water, but the water in our body performs a multitude of functions.
Proper hydration promotes optimal organ function, good digestion, healthier skin and even encourages a healthy weight, but did you know it’s also vital for good spinal health? Just as the rest of your body needs water to function properly, so does your spine.
Good spinal health starts with proper hydration. The spine is built in such a way that dehydration can lead to reduced mobility, limited range of motion, reduced flexibility and pain. This can cause the spine to age faster than it should, impacting the entire body.
How does water help your spine?
Water helps your spine by keeping your spinal discs hydrated. Although your spine is primarily made up of bone with 33 vertebrae, each vertebra is separated by a spinal disc.
This disc cushions each vertebra so that the bones do not rub against each other, especially when moving or bending. It also acts somewhat like a shock absorber so that the spine does not take the full impact of movement that could cause damage.
Each disc is composed of two parts. The center, called the nucleus pulposis, is filled with fluid. This is what protects the bones. The tough outer ring is flexible, but strong, protecting the disc. The annulus is filled with a kind of gel, but the disc itself is made of water.
If there is not enough water in the disc, it cannot cushion the bone properly and this can lead to spinal problems. This can be very painful. This is what makes hydration so important.
As a person ages, the discs don’t rehydrate as easily, so it’s especially important for older people to drink plenty of water. A sedentary lifestyle can also exacerbate the problem, making it more difficult to rehydrate the discs.
Water is the best way to hydrate the body. Drinking enough water is imperative. But if water just isn’t your thing, try coconut water, it has just enough minerals to replenish those lost during a long day of sweating or working out and has virtually no calories either. You can also flavor plain water with chopped lemon, lime or orange and let it steep in water. Mint is also nice, but you can also slice strawberries and put them in a pitcher of water for a refreshing, fruity drink.
It is important that you drink water rather than soda and juice. Aside from the sodium, sugars and unidentifiable chemicals you put into your body every time you drink one, sodas don’t provide your body with enough water to be useful. So drink your water. Your spine will thank you.