Back pain may not seem to be a severe matter for those who have not experienced it. However, it is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor. The pain usually goes on its own. Many individuals recover within a week or two.
Bed rest is the first thing that comes into people’s minds when attacked by back pain. In the past, ample bed rest was the standard advice for those suffering from back pain. However, the present studies recommend ‘NO’ bed rest at all. Medical professionals believe staying in bed for more than 48 hours will delay recovery.
Bed rest may be harmful to the recovery of low back pain. Per a research report by the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Pain Society (APS), patients suffering from low back pain should remain active. Doctors believe that activity works better than inactivity for promoting healing. The human body needs activity from bones to soft tissues to stay in its best condition.
There are several negative effects of lack of activity on the body. Some of these include:
- Stiffness of muscles
- Weakness in muscles
- Loss of flexibility in soft tissues such as tendons and ligaments, making them vulnerable to injury
- Loss of nutrients in intervertebral discs (that hold fluid like a sponge) resulting in drying out and losing flexibility
Lack of exercise will intensify and prolong back pain. Additionally, bed rest may take a psychological toll on people while increasing the chances of overall suffering and depression. These problems may be avoided by staying active. Doctors may advise rest for a day or two under severe pain. However, inactivity for more than this period should be avoided.
Ways to Stay Active Despite Back Pain
- Indulge in activities that strengthen your core
- Do stretches that maintain high flexibility
- Practice very low-impact aerobic exercises
Make sure you consult your doctor prior to starting off with an exercise program. This is especially important if you are having acute back pain. In case you experience any pain (sharp or sudden) while working out, stop immediately and speak to your doctor.
Staying in bed is no solution. Experts recommend that lying down longer than a day or two days can be worst for back pain. Most people can recover more quickly without any bed rest. You need to move sooner and return to daily activities such as walking and handling daily chores.
Longer bed rest can result in slower recovery. Staying in bed for a prolonged period will make the back stiff and increase pain. Lack of movement and bending will make you lose muscle strength and flexibility. More bed rest means the patient loses around 1% of her muscle strength daily. You may lose around 20-30% every week. This will make it more challenging to return to activity later.
Best Candidate for Bed Rest
No one! Only those suffering from unstable spinal fractures and looking forward to getting surgery are the best candidates for bed rest.
Usually, hot or cold packs help. Non-prescription analgesics may also work. Some patients find relief by taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as naproxen (Aleve), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), etc.
Contacting a Professional
- You need to contact a professional under the following conditions:
- Severe persistent back pain that lasts more than 48 hours
- Persistent back pain and fever
- Back pain with weakness, pain, or numbness in one or both legs or feet
- Symptoms in the leg become more disabling than back symptoms
- Back pain accompanied by the onset of numbness in the private/genital region
- Decreased ability to control bowel and bladder function
- Manage back pain with regular exercise and professional help as required
Doctors may suggest you start off with back pain relief exercises designed specifically for your condition.