Conventional wisdom says that back pain should be followed by rest to reduce undue strain on the injury. According to the National Institutes of Health and Dr. Michael S. Wilkes of the Western Journal of Medicine, “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.”
One study, according to the Daily Mail, found that 35% of people thought bed rest is the best way to handle such aches and pains. The study included 1,000 people from 25–65 years of age.
Certainly our minds are part of the feedback loop in any therapy, especially where intense pain is involved. Michael Vagg, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Deakin University School of Medicine, said, “It’s tempting to assume that chronic pain only occurs in the weak and petulant. But personality factors are one of the few things we’re sure of that doesn’t contribute to the risk of developing long-term pain.” Vagg further points out that the mind’s expectation of pain “can itself cause protective movements to persist for longer than necessary.” Thus, the tendency to use bed rest as a solution.
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 seemed to result in greater intensity of pain, greater disability and more work days lost. Exercise had the most favorable outcome. According to Wilkes, “14 of 18 controlled studies do report that active exercise can improve outcomes.”
When the patient is experiencing their most acute back pain, they may need to temporarily change their routine, but the majority of such patients should minimize bed rest and return to their normal routine as soon as possible. Exercise can help produce better results and quicken the healing process.
Bed rest can be helpful to reduce painful muscle spasms when such spasms are an attempt for the body to limit movement in an injured part of the body. However, bed rest restricts the spine’s motion and, unlike other body parts, spines require motion in order to get nutrients to stay healthy. Restricted movement can result in lost strength and can make it harder for the spine to recover.
Whenever there are problems with the back, getting chiropractic care is the most logical 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