Staying hydrated is incredibly important, no matter who you are. Whether you spend all day doing squats in the gym or sitting at a computer desk, your body needs to get enough fluids throughout the day to maintain physical and mental function.
Because hydration is essential for every single one of us, most of us are aware of the potential consequences of dehydration.
Being dehydrated can make you feel thirsty, dizzy, or tired. It can also cause brain fog and lead to decreased urine output, which may result in a urinary tract infection.
However, there are some lesser-known side effects of dehydration that can be alarming. One of these side effects is muscle pain.
Today, we will be explaining how and why dehydration can cause muscle pain and how to manage this pain if it arises.
Does Dehydration Cause Muscle Pain?
Believe it or not, being dehydrated can cause aches and pains in your muscles.
The reason dehydration can cause muscle pain is that our muscles, like every part of our body, are mostly made up of water.
When water is sucked out of the muscles through dehydration, they not only become less functional but can actually start to hurt.
Another way in which dehydration can lead to muscle pain is by making your muscles slower to recover after stress or injury.
If you allow your body to get dehydrated during a workout, for example, your muscles are likely to take longer to recover from their exertion.
That familiar post-workout muscle pain will probably last longer than usual, or you may experience muscle cramps that force you to stop in the middle of your set.
Because dehydration means that your brain doesn’t have enough water to keep it functioning optimally, your cognitive function may be impaired as a result of dehydration.
If you’re working out or doing anything that involves physical exertion at this time, you might be more likely to injure yourself through lack of focus, which may result in muscle injuries and pain.
How To Manage Dehydration-Induced Muscle Pain
Prevention is always better than a cure, so our best advice for managing dehydration-induced muscle pain would be to minimize your risk of dehydration in the first place.
Most health-related sources recommend drinking between 6 and 8 glasses of water daily, or roughly 2 liters every day.
Therefore, consuming this much water on a regular basis is a good place to start when trying to prevent muscle pain due to dehydration.
If you work out often, you might need to increase the amount of water that you drink.
However, you should be careful not to drink too much because it is possible to experience something called water intoxication (also known as water poisoning) from diluting the electrolytes in your blood too much.
Bringing an extra bottle of water to the gym is a good idea, but it’s best to sip rather than gulp the water and listen to your body.
Try to avoid working out in hot environments. Heat is a big contributor to dehydration, so exerting yourself in a humid gym is a recipe for disaster.
Try to do your daily exercise in open, airy spaces or at least somewhere with good air conditioning, if you can.
By the time you feel thirsty, you will have already lost a significant amount of your body’s water content.
Therefore, you shouldn’t rely on symptoms of dehydration such as thirst to tell you when to rehydrate.
Nonetheless, the next best step, if you haven’t managed to hydrate yourself throughout the day, is to listen to your body’s warning signs so that you can remedy the damage as quickly as possible.
Signs and symptoms of mild dehydration include:
- Dark or odorous urine
- Reduced urine output
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Dry skin
If you notice any of these symptoms, especially during a workout, you should stop what you’re doing and drink a glass of water. Hopefully, you should notice the dehydration symptoms begin to ease.
Signs of more severe dehydration include:
- Severe headaches
- Fatigue or lethargy
- Intense muscle cramps
- Reduced appetite
- Low blood pressure
- Racing heart
- Reddening skin
- Swollen extremities
- Dysregulated body temperature
- Confusion or delirium
These symptoms indicate a more serious problem, and if consuming water does not alleviate them, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Assuming that your only symptom resulting from dehydration is muscle cramps, then your first attempt to manage the pain should be to drink water. Again, don’t overdo it – just sit down and sip some water.
Drinking clean water is the best way to alleviate muscle pain from dehydration, but you could also try drinking fluids that contain electrolytes.
Electrolytes are present in many sports supplements, and they can help to rehydrate the body by replacing lost nutrients that help you to absorb water.
Taking an electrolyte supplement in addition to a glass of water can help to relieve your muscle pain faster.
In addition to drinking water and getting more electrolytes, it can be helpful to consume foods with high water content. Such foods include cucumber, tomatoes, celery, spinach, and strawberries.
These will contribute to your rehydration and also provide your body with essential vitamins and minerals, which will benefit your muscles and organs.
If you have damaged your muscles by working out while dehydrated, we also recommend making an effort to consume more protein.
Protein encourages growth and repair in the body, including the muscles, so if you’ve pulled a muscle due to dehydration, try to incorporate lean chicken, beans, or tofu into your diet more often.
It may surprise you to learn that dehydration is one of the most common causes of muscle pain, but knowing how fluid loss can contribute to cramps will help you to avoid this pain in the future.
Drinking enough water every day will improve your muscle performance as well as your cognitive function, reducing your risk of injury and muscle soreness in general.
It may also help to consume watery fruits and vegetables, electrolyte supplements, and lots of protein.
At the first sign of dehydration, you should sip a tall glass of water and eat something to replenish your nutrients. In the future, monitor your fluid intake throughout the day to keep dehydration and muscle strain at bay.