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.