Staying hydrated helps combat fatigue and helps improve muscle and joint performance by cleansing the body of toxins. A new study published this year found that hydrating may have yet another advantage: reducing pain perception.
The study, led by Dr. Toby Mündel and his team at Massey University in New Zealand, sought to determine the correlation between dehydration and pain, as well as further demonstrate the positive effects of staying hydrated.
The study asked participants to take part in two stages. For the first stage, the participants consumed their usual amount of fluids while going about their daily activities. For the second, participants were not allowed to drink any fluids for 24 hours.
Following each stage, the researchers performed a test that challenged their bodies’ responses to pain. Known as a cold pressor test, the participants’ feet were plunged into freezing water (between 32-37°F) for four minutes, while set up to heart rate and blood pressure monitors. According to Dr. Mündel, the cold pressor test is a “commonly used clinical test to measure how ‘normally’ a person’s cardiovascular system is working.”
Dr. Mündel’s study found that the more dehydrated the participant, the more intense his/her sensitivity to pain. The results also showed that the dehydrated patients, the ones not allowed to consume fluids for one day, hyperventilated or breathed more during the cold pressor test due to the amplified pain, which reduced the blood flow to their brains.
According to Dr. Mündel, the study demonstrates how important it is for medical professionals to take into account a patient’s level of hydration when considering the source of their pain. It also presents the opportunity for the medical community to explore whether hydration can be used as a strategy to help relieve chronic pain and pain related to conditions such as arthritis, cancer, musculoskeletal disorders and/or migraines.
Has dehydration ever led to heightened feelings of pain for you? Or, reversely, has hydrating ever helped you relieve pain? Tell us about your experiences on Facebook.