Why Water?

Feel better between massage appointments.
The single best thing you can do.

You just had a massage and you’re feeling great!
Then a few days later that ache is back, the tightness, the soreness…
Why doesn’t it stay “fixed”?
Are you drinking enough?
Ok, let me rephrase that, are you drinking enough water?

Even though we all know that water is important, most of us only drink when we are thirsty, and probably don’t really know how much we actually consume, or, more importantly, how much is enough. Research shows that most of us are dehydrated to some degree every day.

We’ve all heard that our bodies are mostly water. The exact overall percentage varies based on what source you use, but all the experts agree that we are generally pretty aqueous. Soft tissue cells, (your muscles and connective tissue) are about 75% water and the cells in your brain (that control center that never shuts down) are happily hydrated at about 85% water. So, the fact that being dehydrated can present as headaches and muscle aches shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

Every function of the body is dependent on water. It makes up about 96% of your blood, the medium by which nutrients, oxygen, hormones, and enzymes are circulated and delivered to all of the cells in the body, and the means by which waste is carried away. When this system gets low on water, delivery of everything that needs be carried in or out gets sluggish and bogged down. It’s similar to highway lanes getting shut down at rush hour.

Even though the body is entirely dependent on water, it does not store it the way it does fat, (too bad we can’t flip that one around, huh?) it must be supplied continually. Different organs and systems have different water needs and there is a hierarchy of how the available water supply is distributed. This prioritizing of water in the body is based on the priority for life. The brain and nervous system first, then the heart and lungs, followed by the stomach and intestines and last (but certainly not least), muscles, joints and connective tissue (fascia, ligaments and tendons).

Did you catch that? Muscles get the water they need last, after all other demands on the system are satisfied.

More-over, water must be supplied before it is needed. The system the body uses to shunt water where it is needed works amazingly well when there is adequate water. However, when there is not enough to satisfy all systems, water is diverted from lower priority systems to higher priority ones. So, not only will your musculoskeletal system not receive the water it needs, it might have to give up some of what it has to keep the big guys (brain, heart, lungs) happy, thus suffering with spasms, tension, tenderness and pain.

Are you dehydrated? As mentioned above, most of us are dehydrated to some degree. A dry mouth is not the only sign of thirst. In fact, it’s often the last! Some signs of dehydration are quite subtle and as well as muscle and joint pain and headaches can include, but are not limited to, fatigue in the morning (before any strenuous activity), sleep disorders, cravings of soda, alcohol or sweets, constipation, allergies, heartburn, gas, hypertension and even asthma type symptoms.

How much water? Your body weight in pounds, divided by 2, is about the number of ounces you need each day. Eight 8 oz glasses (64 ounces) will satisfy the needs of a 128 pound body.  

Want a quick test? Check your urine, the closer to clear, the better your hydration. Even small children can be taught to use this test and recognize a need for more water. (Ask me about my grandchildren!)

When you drink water is also important. Drink before you need it. Drinking water first thing in the morning will begin the replenishment to all systems that have continued working while you slept. Some experts recommend 16 ounces thirty minutes before each meal, 8 ounces as often as you feel thirsty between meals and 8 ounces before exercise or any prolonged activity or stress such as work, long drives, or airplane rides.

And oh yea, sorry, but nothing substitutes for water. Coffee, juice, tea, alcohol, soft drinks, and soda actually increase the demand for water in our bodies. Even though they “have water in them”, the body uses 12 ounces of water to process and digest 8 ounces of these drinks. Habitually reaching for these instead of water is a major contributor to dehydration.

The best way to get consistent with your hydration is to have a plan for your water. There are lots of great tracking systems out there, apps as well as water bottles with prominent ounce measurement marking. Drink a couple of glasses within the first half-hour or so of your day then don’t run out! Carry water with you. If you know you’ll be someplace you cannot refill, bring two.

Measuring water out ahead of time and having mini goals throughout the day so that you’re not trying to chug it all before bed can be helpful. (Trust me on this one.) Although increasing your water can be a bit of training for your bladder, especially if you’re not used to drinking much, it’s worth it!

The more severe and long lasting the state of dehydration the more serious and debilitating the symptoms and dysfunction in the body become, but there is good news! Most major physical complaints can be improved, if not resolved by consistent, adequate hydration.

The truth is, most of us could be better hydrated. A myriad of irritating symptoms you may not even be all that aware of (until they’re gone) resolve with proper hydration. Here’s another bonus. That great way you feel after your massage will last longer when you and your muscles are well hydrated.

So, if that headache, back ache or shoulder tension is creeping back in. If you’re having trouble focusing, feel hungry even though you just ate, or feel irritable enough to participate in some road rage type behavior, basically, if you’re feeling “off”, try a glass of water. You might even make it two. It’s cheap, it won’t hurt, and it might really help.

-         Pamela Zaikowski-Noyes, LMT