Can Dehydration Cause Muscle Pain?

Can Dehydration Cause Muscle Pain?

Have you ever had that kind of cramp that simply won’t go away? You have stretched it, put a hot pad or an ice pack on it, lay down in every possible position, but the cramp will mysteriously return even if it goes away temporarily. Well, the answer to your relief may be a bit more complicated than you thought. 

It might have to do with how your body is feeling on the inside. To be more specific, your body might be needing water and the electrolytes it has lost during exercise. In this article, we will specifically dive into how dehydration causes muscular pain, what are the symptoms of muscle pain, and how do you finally treat it for good. 



Symptoms of Dehydration


drinking water - dehydration


Before we dive into how dehydration causes muscle pain, it is important to identify whether your body is low on water. The first step to any treatment is to diagnose the symptoms properly. Lack of water can be dangerous for your body to the extent that it can cause death! Chronic degradation means your body could lose 10% of water that can lead to cardiac arrhythmia, stroke or seizures [1]. It is imperative to be on the lookout for any sign that your body requires water. 

Thankfully, your body’s brain is extremely cautious and will send a “thirst signal” as soon as it determines that your body is low on water [2]. However, if you ignore or overlook this first symptom, your body will send you other signals. Below are a few indications that your body needs water urgently [3];


  • Headache leading to dizziness or fainting
  • Visibly dry skin
  • Fatigue or feeling tired
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Urinating less than usual
  • Dry throat and mouth


In healthy teenagers or adults, the chances of chronic dehydration are low. But they are not entirely free from the danger. People more prone to dehydration are either in the early age bracket, or are older adults [4]. Chronic illnesses such as type 1 or type 2 diabetes can also be a reason an individual feels excessively dehydrated [5]. Additionally, people who are highly active or do strenuous physical labor every day need to rehydrate themselves more often in comparison to people who have a desk job. 



How to know if dehydration is causing muscle pain?


muscle pain - cramps


Now that we’ve learned the symptoms for identifying dehydration, let's dive into how dehydration can cause muscle pain or cramps. Where hydration can boost your metabolism, dehydration can cause fatigue and weakness [6]. Below are some indications that your muscles are sore due to lack of water.


Your muscles cramp every time you exercise

When you perform a physical exercise, your muscles start requiring more and more oxygen. Lack of oxygen leads to lactic acid build-up, which causes cramp or muscular pain. If your body is adequately hydrated, there will be a larger flow of blood to your muscles, reducing the chances of lactic build-up [7]. However, even if the lactic acid builds up, proper hydration after the exercise can lead to increased blood flow which can transport the lactic acid to the liver to be converted back to sugar [8].


Your muscles feel weak

Additionally, when physical activity is performed, you don't just lose water. Certain electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and magnesium are also lost [9]. These electrolytes help the muscles perform properly and transport oxygen efficiently wherever required. Magnesium, especially, is related to muscular strength [10]. If you feel like your muscles aren't performing up to their regular potential, it might be a symptom of dehydration. 


Your muscles feel tight

Studies by the National Athletic Training Association have shown that dehydration worsens DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness). DOMS is the soreness your muscles experience a day or two after you exercise. If you feel like your muscles are extremely taught during a workout, and you get sore muscles after every session, dehydration is usually the cause. If your body water intake levels aren’t normalized, the intensity of DOMS can increase with the passage of time [11].

In short, muscle cramps are almost usually the result of lost sweat in the form of water and electrolytes. You need to make up for this by drinking water regularly.



How to treat muscle pain caused by dehydration


As explained above, hydrating yourself is extremely important for healing your muscles from soreness. We lose water from our bodies every day through sweat, breathing, and excretion. If neglected, water deficiency can even slow the rate of healing and increase the chance of getting injuries. The dry muscles and bones may cause friction against each other during any movement causing internal injury. The fluid between the skeletal muscles of your body needs to be refreshed to prevent your muscles from tightening or stiffening. 


Make a schedule

You can try to tackle dehydration by making a schedule. The 21-day challenge is an easy method to create any desired habit. You can also try following a curated timetable to track your water intake. The timetable can have a checklist you follow to ensure your body is hydrated. Starting your day with a glass of water is extremely helpful in putting yourself on track for the day. On average, as the U.S National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine suggests, a healthy water intake of 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters for men and women, respectively, is essential.


Keep a water bottle with you at all times

Just like you have your cell phone with you at all times, make it a habit to take a small water bottle everywhere you go. It is more likely that you will drink water if the bottle is in your eyesight more often, rather than making a conscious effort to get up and fetch yourself a glass of water. 


water bottle - hydration


Consume more “watery” foods

Cucumber is made up of 95% of water. Tomatoes, melons, and strawberries are other rich sources of water. Make sure your diet contains ample amounts of foods with a higher water content to prevent your muscles from drying.


Restore your electrolytes

It is essential to maintain a good electrolyte balance in your body. They strengthen your muscles, making them less likely to get tired quickly. To treat muscle pain, opt for an electrolyte-based solution such as DrinkHydrant. Made with real fruit juice powder, DrinkHydrant offers a variety of flavors and is an easy and effective way to replenish your body with its lost electrolytes. 



Last words


According to Forbes, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to many serious health problems if not addressed timely, and one of such problems can be the very commonly experienced back pain. There's no point in suffering when you can easily avoid such complications by making a habit of something as simple as drinking water. Make a vow that from today, you will keep yourself properly hydrated. Here’s to healthy living!





[1] Ahmed M. El-Sharkawy, Opinder Sahota, Dileep N. Lobo, Acute and chronic effects of hydration status on health, Nutrition Reviews, 1 September 2015, Pages 97–109
[2] Frank, M. The Neuroscience of Thirst: How your brain tells you to look for water. Available from:
[3] WebMD: What is Dehydration? What Causes It? 2021; Available from:
[4] Mayo Clinic: Dehydration. Available from:
[5] Dehydration and Diabetes. 2019; Available from:
[6] Carlton, A. and R.M. Orr, The effects of fluid loss on physical performance: A critical review. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 2015. 4(4): p. 357-363.
[7] Medical News Today: Barrell, T.R.a.A. The role of lactic acid in the body. 2022; Available from:
[8] Livescience: Whitcomb, I., What is lactic acid? (And where does it come from?). 2020.
[9] Baker, L.B., et al., Exercise intensity effects on total sweat electrolyte losses and regional vs. whole-body sweat [Na(+)], [Cl(-)], and [K(+)]. European journal of applied physiology, 2019. 119(2): p. 361-375.
[10] Zhang, Y., et al., Can Magnesium Enhance Exercise Performance? Nutrients, 2017. 9(9): p. 946.
[11] Cleary, M.A., M.R. Sitler, and Z.V. Kendrick, Dehydration and symptoms of delayed-onset muscle soreness in normothermic men. Journal of athletic training, 2006. 41(1): p. 36-45.

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