Many people believe that prolonged bed rest is a “quick fix” for low back pain. This could not be further from the truth.
Complete immobilization from bed rest during a low back pain episode does the following:
- Decreases blood flow to damaged tissues which delays the healing process. Blood flow helps flourish tissues with nutrients to promote recovery. Increased blood flow also helps remove metabolic waste,
- Muscles atrophy due to lack of forceful muscle contractions. This is problematic because it delays the time it takes to make a complete recovery because the muscles become even weaker and smaller.
According to Craig Libenson, one of the world’s experts in spine rehabilitation, 1-2 days of bed rest may be suitable for acute bouts of severe low back pain.1 Back pain during the first couple of days is mostly due to the inflammatory markers that trigger the pain response. This is an effective mechanism of healing because the pain serves as protective splint to prevent any motions that may further damage the tissues.
However, after a few days, excessive rest and overprotection may cause more harm than good.
In a randomized trial of 203 patients with low back pain, one group was assigned 2 days of bed rest and the other group was assigned 7 days of bed rest. The 2 days of bed rest was shown to be just as effective as 7 days of bed rest but without the consequences of immobilization listed above.2
Remember if you don’t use it, you lose it.
Low back injuries tend to have better outcomes from finding the balance between rest and movement. This helps expedite the process of helping you returning to your pain free self.
If you need help guiding along this process, do not hesitate to schedule a chiropractic appointment at Move Better Doc.
- Liebenson, C. (2020). Self Care: Providing Reassurance and Reactivation Advice for Spine Pain Patient . In Rehabilitation of the spine: A patient-centered approach (pp. 393–394). Wolters Kluwer.
2. Deyo RA, Diehl AK, Rosenthal M. How many days of bed rest for acute low back pain? N Engl J Med. 1986;315(17):1064-1070.