June 28, 2020 3 min read

LOW BACK PAIN: DOES RESTING HELP AN ACHING BACK?


Low back pain (LBP) is one of the major health conditions that affects older adults aged 60 years or older, resulting in pain and disability and since the early days, bed rest has been one of the usual remedies until its recommendations were questioned in the 1980s. Issues on whether bed rest is advisable or not in the management of low back pain continues up until today..


To Rest or Not to Rest?

A common misconception is to completely rest to help resolve the symptoms. This is not to say that resting will not help but completely resting it is not going to help and in fact will only be prolonging and aggravating your pain. Numerous studies on people with low back pain found that better outcomes were seen in those recommended fewer days of best rest (Deyo, et al., 1986) and engaged in usual physical activities than in those that completely rested (Gilbert et al., 1985).

Bed rest has been since a recommended treatment of low back pain based mainly on the judgement of the doctor and on the notion that disk pressures are minimized in this position. However, numerous evidences have tested the effect of progressively less bed rest and the continuance of physical activity with no bed rest at all demonstrated better outcomes. So although you may need to modify your activity during the acute attacks of back pain, you have to avoid bed rest and resume normal activity as soon as possible to speed up recovery.

TREATING YOUR LOWER BACK PAIN: How much bed rest is too much?

Most back pain is uncomplicated and self-limited, so it goes away on its own and recovery is expected in a few days or more. Many people would want to stay in bed when their back hurts, but evidence shows that prolonged bed rest does not improve outcome in terms of pain, disability or functional ability.

Rest for a brief period. Lying down longer isn’t helpful for relieving back pain. You can recover more quickly without any bed rest.

Current studies suggest no bed rest at all or if needed, only brief rest periods of no more than 48 hours to relieve spasm. If you’re really in a terrible pain, lying down may ease off the ache, but staying active is way more effective. Staying in bed for a prolonged period can make your back stiff making your recovery longer.

The sooner you start moving, the faster you are likely to improve.

While it is important to rest the sore back muscles, it is just as important to not allow them to rest for too long. Once spasm has subsided, some simple exercises may be performed to facilitate your quickest return to normal.

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REFERENCES

Deyo RA, Diehl AK, Rosenthal M. How many days of bed rest for acute low back pain? N Engl J Med. 1986;315:1064–70. [PubMed] [Google Scholar] [Ref list]

Gilbert JR, Taylor SW, Hildebrand A, Evans C. Clinical trial of common treatments for low back pain in family practice. Br Med J (Clin Res Ed) 1985;291:791–4. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Google Scholar] [Ref list]

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