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Dehydration and Joint Pain: How Hydration Impacts Joint Health

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Joints are essential to our body. They’re where two or more bones meet and make movement possible and the skeleton flexible. With over 360 joints in the human body, one cannot underestimate their importance. One key area of having good health is to drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated is vital to our overall health as well as our joint health. Yet, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. In this article, we’ll go in-depth into the importance of hydration, what happens when your joints don’t have enough water, and tips for staying hydrated.

The Role Hydration Plays in Your Body

Staying hydrated is one of the essential facets of keeping one’s body healthy. Water plays multiple roles in keeping the human body able and active. When properly hydrated, our body can deliver nutrients to the cells, protect vital organs and tissues, have adequate blood volume and circulation, and flush out waste to prevent disease.

Your body constantly uses water to perform bodily functions, which means your internal water supply is consistently being depleted. Therefore, it’s essential to stay on top of your water consumption to prevent your internal water levels from draining.

Hydration and Joints

The primary roles of our joints are to allow for good motion and provide a cushion between our bones. Synovial fluid is the thick fluid that sits between the joints. Proteins form synovial fluid by using water. Not only does it provide a cushion between bones, but it also gives lubrication, shock absorption, and nutrition to the joint cartilage. And given that about 70-80% of joint cartilage is made up of water, staying hydrated is necessary for healthy joints.

What Happens When You’re Dehydrated?

Dehydration occurs when more fluids leave the body than enter it. This leaves the body unable to perform necessary functions. Moderate dehydration symptoms include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • And dizziness

When the body loses 10-15% of its water, severe dehydration occurs. Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • A lack of sweat
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled/dry skin
  • Low blood pressure
  • An increase in heart rate
  • Fever
  • Delirium
  • And unconsciousness.

The Effects of Joint Dehydration?

Can Dehydration Cause Joint Pain?

Water is one of the key ingredients to healthy joints. Joints rely heavily on synovial fluid, which needs water to form. When the body becomes dehydrated, there isn’t a proper amount of synovial fluid to allow joints to function correctly. This leaves less cushion in the joints, doesn’t let them move fluidly, and leads to joint pain. This is how dehydration affects joints:

  • Reduced joint lubrication: Synovial fluid aids in preventing friction between bones for smooth and painless movement. Without adequate water, joints are not able to move smoothly and painlessly.
  • Less shock absorption: 70% of cartilage tissue is made up of water. This acts as a shock-absorbing aid for high-impact activities such as jumping and running. Without proper amounts of water, less shock is absorbed by the joints.
  • Increased levels of muscle cramping: Muscles rely heavily on hydration as well. When dehydrated, muscle spasms and cramping occurs, which contributes to joint pain.
  • Degenerated joints: An essential area hydration contributes to is blood volume. When chronically dehydrated, blood volume becomes depleted. This creates a domino effect of reactions which causes joints to lose function and degenerate.

Dehydration and Arthritis

Did you know there are over 100 types of arthritis? Most of which share common symptoms, including joint swelling, pain, stiffness, and decreased motion range. Because arthritis significantly affects joints, it’s vital to recognize the importance of hydration and how dehydration affects those with arthritis.

Research in regards to hydration and arthritis is limited. However, it is thought that staying hydrated aids in reducing arthritis symptoms and flareups. There are many types of arthritis:

  • Degenerative arthritis: Commonly called osteoarthritis, it is the most common arthritis type. It occurs when cartilage deteriorates, and the bones start rubbing against each other.
  • Inflammatory arthritis: The most common type of inflammatory arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. This occurs when the body’s immune system stops working correctly and starts to attack the joint. Thus, causing the joint and surrounding areas to become uncontrollably inflamed and swollen. This can destroy cartilage and bone, causing joint erosion.
  • Infectious arthritis: This type of arthritis is caused by viral, bacterial, or fungal infection entering the joint and causing inflammation.
  • Metabolic arthritis: This is caused by high levels of uric acid in the body. Uric acid builds up, forms needle-like crystals on the joint, and causes extreme joint pain.

Can Drinking Water Help Arthritis?

The benefits of drinking water for arthritis cannot be emphasized enough. Those with arthritis may experience deteriorated cartilage, inflamed joints, infections, and high uric acid levels. Staying hydrated can help reduce these symptoms as it aids in the production of synovial fluid, encourages cartilage tissue growth, flushes toxins and waste from the body, minimizes inflammation, and aids in weight loss to relieve joint stress. Conversely, by becoming dehydrated, the body loses the benefits of water, thus intensifying the effects of arthritis.

Hydration Best Practices

How Much Water Should I Drink?

Staying hydrated is an everyday knowledge necessity. However, the amount may not be. The amount of daily water intake varies based on age, sex, level of activity, outside temperatures, pregnancy, and breastfeeding status. The best way to know how much water to drink is by keeping an eye on any symptoms of dehydration:

  • Physical symptoms: Look for signs such as dry mouth, headache, or thirst.
  • Thirst vs. hunger: Acquire the ability to recognize the difference between these two. A common mistake is thinking your hungry when you’re thirsty. A good practice is to drink a glass of water when you feel hungry and wait 30 minutes to see if the “hunger” goes away.
  • The color of your urine: Your urine color is a crucial indicator of dehydration. When hydrated, your urine will be light yellow. Dark urine colors are a sign that you’re not consuming enough water.
  • Urine output: How much urine you’re producing is another sign of hydration. If you’re not peeing much, then you most likely should drink more water.

How Can I Drink More Water?

Hydration is vital to leading a healthy life. Yet, it can be challenging to make it a priority when other obligations continually pile up. Consider these tips and tricks to ensure you stay on top of your water intake:

  • Start every day with a glass of water: Adding this to your morning routine will ensure you stay hydrated. You can even add a glass or bottle next to your bed, so it’s ready when you wake up. Keep one in your car if you have a morning commute.
  • Invest in a reusable water bottle: Keeping a bottle filled with water can promote regular intake throughout the day. It even adds an excuse for moving around throughout your day to get water.
  • Set a reminder on your phone: Setting reminders on your phone throughout the day can help keep you on top of your water intake.
  • Add flavoring to your water: If you’re not fond of the taste of water, try adding flavoring via squeezed fruits or water enhancers.
  • Replace other drinks with water: Drinks such as tea and coffee can contribute to dehydration.
  • Create a goal: Create a water intake goal for added motivation. Keep tabs on your intake to gamify it.
  • Snack on water-rich foods: Add high-water content fruits and veggies to your diet. Foods such as cucumbers, celery, watermelon, and strawberries contain a lot of water.
  • Invest in a smartwatch: Smartwatches are excellent health aids as they can remind you throughout the day to drink plenty of water. Many have apps that keep track of water intake, weight, steps taken, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Dehydration Make Your Joints Hurt?

Yes, your joint cartilage is made up of 70-80% of water. When you're dehydrated, your body can't make an adequate amount of synovial fluid which creates a cushion between your bones and prevents them from rubbing together. This can cause your joints to be in pain and have difficulty moving.

Does Water Lubricate Joints? Is Water Good for Your Joints?

Yes, your joint cartilage is made up of 70-80% of water. Water aids in the production of synovial fluid which allows your joints to move and pivot effectively. Not consuming enough water can cause your joints to not be lubricated and hurt.

Joint hydration is a vital component to keeping your body in healthy condition. Be sure to take the proper steps and keep track of your hydration levels to prevent dehydration and maintain healthy joints. If you’re experiencing chronic joint pain, it might be best to consult your doctor so they can take a closer look and offer professional advice.

Helpful Pain Management REsources

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About the Author

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands

Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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