Running out of the house without having breakfast can mean going hours without drinking anything. Now, researchers at New Zealand's Massey University have found another reason to grab more than a quick coffee to start the day, as not drinking enough fluids can increase sensitivity to pain.
This new study lends further support to the positive effects of staying hydrated, both for people in good health and for those suffering from illness.
Dr. Toby Mündel and his team at Massey University in New Zealand have found a link between dehydration and pain perception.
The study asked a group of people to take part in two tests. For the first, they drank the same quantity of fluids as usual while going about their normal daily activities. For the second, they were asked not to drink anything for 24 hours.
At each stage, participants' feet were plunged into ice-cold water (between 0 and 3°C) for four minutes. "It's a great way to create pain, which was the focus of one of our studies, and it's a standard way of challenging the body and observing how it responds.... Plus it's a commonly used clinical test to measure how 'normally' a person's cardiovascular system is working," explains Dr. Mündel.
The results, published in the journal Psychophysiology, show that the more the participants were dehydrated, the more intense the feeling of pain. Heart-rate and blood-pressure monitors also showed that their brain blood flow response was reduced due to hyperventilation.
For the study's authors, the results highlight the importance of taking into account a patient's level of hydration. In particular, common treatments like analgesics (pain killers) and cognitive behavioral therapy could be less effective in dehydrated patients.
Scientists could also explore whether hydration can be used as a strategy to help relieve the chronic pain associated with conditions like arthritis, cancer, musculoskeletal disorders or migraines.
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