Monthly Archives: November 2014

Why Bed Rest Isn’t the Best Medicine When It Comes to Back Pain

Back Pain Bethlehem PAIf you find yourself struggling with back pain, you likely want to recover quickly and regain your strength.

It’s natural to feel that you need to take it easy and get lots of bed rest to reduce the strain on your back and muscles.

But beware; bed rest is not the best medicine for fast recovery and lasting back strength. Many medical professionals prescribe it too frequently. Both the National Institute of Health and Dr. Michael S. Wilkes of the Western Journal of Medicine claim that “Despite a plethora of research intended to guide physicians in their management of back pain, physicians still hold strong non-evidence based beliefs dating back to the 19th century.”

The idea of bed rest for back pain is one that has ingrained itself deep into society. Despite evidence otherwise, the idea pervades.  According to the Daily Mail, one study surveying a thousand people from the ages 25–65 years of age, found that 35% believe that bed rest is the best way to handle aches and pains such as back pain.

Where is all of this information originating?

Chiropractors have long understood the need for early introduction of motion into the injured back and have found that patients have a phenomenal success rates when this is done. This has everything to do with the skills chiropractors use to administer pain-free amounts of motion back into a very tight and guarded back. Success and recovery has little to do with lying in bed, in pain for an extended period of time.

Here is why bed rest is not the best medicine:

Bed rest produces a mentality of being in a weakened state. Michael Vagg, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Deakin University School of Medicine says, “The mind’s expectation of pain can itself cause protective movements to persist for longer than necessary”.

Certainly our minds are part of an important feedback loop in the effort to heal from intense pain.  Often what our minds are feeling: guarded, tired, scared, our bodies are being. It’s a strong connection. Thus, the tendency to use bed rest as a solution puts us in a state of being weak and petulant which keeps the body in a state of guarding itself, tightening up, and in protection-mode which can extend the time we have painful muscle spasms. This also ensures our bodies are not open to new movement patterns that we actually need to free us from pain quickly.

Evidence shows that extended bed rest does not help. For most types of back pain, there is powerful evidence that extended bed rest does not help. One study showed that when comparing routine care, bed rest, and exercise, bed rest resulted in greater intensity of pain, greater disability and more work days lost.

Exercise had the most favorable outcome. According to Dr. Wilkes, “14 of 18 controlled studies report that active exercise can improve outcomes.”
In order to feel ready to get some exercise in your day, light chiropractic adjustments will help you feel better quicker and your back will move well so it heals properly. These light and specific, motion-inducing adjustments to your back can help produce better results in the long run.

When you are experiencing your most acute back pain, you may need to temporarily change your routine…that’s okay. But the majority of the time you should consider the fact that you need to minimize bed rest for your back to heal like it needs to. It’s better to get moving so your back has the opportunity to get stronger. This is best when the joints fit and move together well as chiropractic adjustments help.

Extended Bed rest restricts the spine’s ability to stay healthy and be strong. Bed rest can be helpful to reduce painful muscle spasms which are usually right after an injury. Such spasms are an attempt for the body to limit movement in an injured part of the body. However, for an extended period of time, this is not good. Bed rest restricts the spine’s motion and unlike other body parts, spines require motion in order to get nutrients so it stays healthy. Restricted movement can result in lost strength and can make it harder for the spine to recover.

Whenever there are problems with your back, chiropractic care is the most logical and proven effective first step. Studies have shown that chiropractic care is more effective than conventional medical care in cases of low back pain. In some cases, significant relief from back pain can be immediate. Contact us if you feel your back is talking to you; it’s in pain or feeling weak. When you do this, you have a strong chance of getting stronger and back into your day-to-day routine soon.

The 7 Step Plan to Sleep Well, Wake Up Refreshed and Get your Energy Back

How-to-get-better-sleep-Bethlehem-PAWhat are you like when you wake up in the morning?

Do you wake up refreshed, ready to hop out of bed and start a productive day? Or do you wake up groggy, still feeling tired and disoriented and not ready for the day until after your morning coffee?

If you fall into the latter category, you may be feeling the effects of something called sleep inertia.

Sleep inertia is a temporary physiological state that is characterized by feelings of disorientation, reluctance or inability to get up, and a deficit experienced in your motor skills and decision-making ability. This means, you wake up feeling like your legs and arms are heavy and clumsy and you are in a mental state where you certainly shouldn’t be making any major decisions or operating any heavy equipment.

These symptoms usually last from 1 to 30 minutes but can persist for as long as four hours.

While we all experience some amount of sleep inertia immediately after waking up, it is considered more debilitating in people who regularly experience these types of circumstances:

  1. Among those of us who are chronically under-rested and who NEED loud alarm clocks to wake up in the mornings.

A study at the University of Colorado at Boulder found that people who suffer from sleep inertia have more impaired thinking and memory skills than people deprived of sleep for 24 hours.

  1. Sleep inertia can also affect those who take regular naps, often leaving people feeling more tired after the nap than before it.

In many cases, sleep inertia may actually become dangerous, particularly when an individual doesn’t recognize the symptoms or realize that he or she is not functioning well.  While it can lead to being chronically late to school or work and may result in lower productivity once you get there, there are even worse possibilities. Coping with sleep inertia while going about your daily activities can raise the risk of accidents and injuries, including auto accidents (a growing number of which are related to “drowsy driving”).

  1. Those who regularly self-treat with coffee in the morning.

The cause of sleep inertia is still unknown, but researchers can pinpoint when it happens. It occurs when a person is awakened suddenly from a period of slow-wave sleep, the deepest phase of the normal human sleep cycle. It has been theorized that sleep inertia may be caused by a buildup in the brain of adenosine, a chemical that is strongly linked to feelings of tiredness. This may explain why many people “self-treat” their feelings of grogginess and disorientation after waking with coffee. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors in the brain. Another “self-treatment” that is common is resorting to the use of extremely loud alarm clocks, which shock the body and causes it to release adrenaline, thus speeding the wakening process.

Unfortunately, both of these “treatments” can have negative effects on your health, especially if you have to resort to them for years.

Among the more effective methods of reducing the symptoms of sleep inertia and to prevent it are the following suggestions from sleep experts:

  • Step 1 Maintain a regular schedule, both during the work week and on weekends; your circadian rhythms are sensitive, and disrupting them can lead to sleep inertia.
  • Step 2 Open your blinds or curtains before you go to bed; gradual morning light fights sleep inertia.
  • Step 3 Consider a “smart” alarm clock that tracks your sleep cycles and wakes you at the “right” time during the sleep cycle to avoid sleep inertia.
  • Step 4 Get up immediately after waking; if you need to hit the “snooze” button, do it for only 5 minutes and then force yourself to get up.
  • Step 5 Avoid caffeine in the evenings, and work at cutting it out of your diet completely. Instead opt for more nutritious beverages and meals like fresh juices and blended healthy protein or fruit smoothies.
  • Step 6 Get moving by planning to get sufficient exercise. Morning exercise is best. Night exercise may harm your ability to move smoothly into your sleep cycle.
  • Step 7 Get your joints and muscles moving better so you feel comfortable in your bed and on your pillow. When your body feels good while at rest you will benefit additionally by having improved energy levels during the day. You can improve the way you feel, heal and rest through regularly scheduled chiropractic adjustments.

The best general advice may be to get to sleep at an appropriate hour and then to ignore any promptings from your own body to go back to sleep after you first wake up in the morning. Instead, get up and get active. The sooner you do that, the sooner the symptoms of sleep inertia will go away.