When you start to develop chronic pain in your back, your first reaction is probably to start resting more. You’ll be more reluctant to stay active and spend more time lying on the sofa or in bed. However, back pain is a complicated beast, and some research shows that lying down all the time will not make things better.
Here’s what you need to know about how excessive rest affects back pain and what you can do instead.
Don’t Put Your Back in Bed
Most cases of back pain are not clinical, meaning they don’t require surgery or even extensive medication to correct. You may have pain from lifting something too heavy or from your office chair. With time and minor treatment, your tissues, joints, and muscles will heal and you’ll be on your way.
So why is bed rest a bad option? You might think that with plenty of rest and less stress, your body will heal faster and you’ll be back on your feet in no time. But research shows that bed rest actually slows the healing time for back pain from minor strain and injury. It takes longer to heal if you remain inactive, and sometimes, all that lying down will make the pain worse.
Muscles and other supporting tissues heal better when they are still in use. You will still need to take it easy to give yourself time to heal, but complete inactivity removes the entire workload from your back. The best solution is light load that mirrors your daily activities.
Give Your Back the Activity Advantage
Light activity that still works your back helps to speed recovery for a number of reasons. Rest can be detrimental to healing for the following reasons:
- Most beds and sofas are not supportive for your back. A bad mattress or couch cushion can create tension in uninjured areas of the body to experience tension. Since you typically lay in the same position each day, you’ll develop pain from the pressure points.
- You don’t keep a good posture while on bed rest. Many people “rest” while watching TV or reading a book, propping their bodies up at an angle. The angle causes upper and lower back strain and increases neck pain.
- Inactivity reduces blood flow. Blood deliveries oxygen and nutrients to healing tissues. With decreases circulation, the healing process is slowed.
- Too much rest leads to stiffness. When they are not being used, muscles become stiff and inflexible. When you get up, your pain will seem worse because your muscles have not been working. Not only will the tightness increase your pain level, but you are also create a higher risk of re-injury.
- Prolonged inactivity leads to muscle loss. For those who have chronic pain from arthritis, old back injuries, or fibromyalgia, laying down too much over a period of weeks and months can lead to muscle loss, furthering your loss of mobility and increasing the chances of experiencing more serious back injuries in the future from loss of muscle support.
These are just some of the reasons why excessive rest is not the answer to your back pain. Talk with your doctor about your pain levels and injury for a more comprehensive treatment plan.
You Can Bounce Back
So if resting is not the answer, what is? Consider these options, which are all more effective than lying down:
- Speak with a back and spine pain specialist about your pain levels and injury history. You may need a pain management regimen to help you as you heal. There are new pain management treatments, including steroid epidural injections, that can diagnose and reduce back pain.
- Get help from a physical therapist. If you can’t do many activities without pain, visit your physical therapist to learn stretches and exercises you can do that are safe for your back. They may still hurt, but at least you can do them with confidence knowing you are not going to make your injury worse.
- Try walking, swimming, or light cycling. You may not be lifting weights any time soon, but staying active doesn’t have to be a chore. Spend time each stay with a low-impact, gentle exercise. You might walk around the neighborhood or carefully tread water in the shallow end of your local pool.
- Speak with your doctor about therapeutic massage, electrical stimulation, or trigger point therapy. Doctors don’t only prescribe medication. They can also recommend alternative treatments to help loosen your muscles and improve circulation.
- After speaking with your doctor to make sure it is safe, join a yoga class taught by a certified instructor who is experience with back pain. Yoga can help back pain and muscle stability.
You should take care not to make a bad problem worse. While activity is important, you should not overdo it. Avoid strenuous activities, carrying heavy objects, or twisting your body in unnatural ways.
For more information about staying active with back pain, contact us at Southwest Florida Neurosurgical & Rehab Associates.