How bed rest can be your low back’s worst nightmare!

Question: Why isn’t it ideal to spend all your time in bed if you are experiencing a sore low back?

I know that when you are in pain, the appeal of just bunkering down in bed, not moving, is sometimes too strong to ignore. In the past, ‘bed rest’ was the prescribed treatment for this type of pain, but we now know that prolonged bed rest will not only make your back pain feel worse, but can prolong recovery and leave you more susceptible to re-injury. Now, when we say that we don’t recommend bed rest for low back pain – this doesn’t mean you should be going at 100% and pushing through pain at every chance.

‘Relative rest’ is a term we use a lot in the Total Balance Healthcare clinic. Relative rest is when rest occurs to allow for healing, but it is not so restrictive that it will compromise, slow or impede our recovery. It should be ‘relative’ to what a normal day or week looks like for you. Unfortunately there is not a magic number for how long you need to rest for, but it is a case by case scenario. As an example, in the first two days after an acute episode of low back pain, you may want to reduce your movement by 30-40%. This is obviously going to mean different things for different people and this is why it is so important to get individualised care if you are experiencing low back pain.

Our bodies were designed to move, in fact they LOVE to move. When an injury occurs in our low back, the muscles around the structure affected will tighten and spasm. The body is very clever and it does this as a way of protecting us and to limit further damage from occurring. It is often this compensating muscle spasm that causes the most restriction and pain. We want to get these muscles doing what they love and moving in a safe way to help reduce the muscle spasm and tightness. Another reason why movement is important is because it allows for nutrients and oxygen to be delivered to our tissues. It allows for greater fluid exchange around the spine, helping reduce swelling and prevent inflammation. So what movements can you do to achieve this?

So I am sure you are asking “what movements can I do when my back is sore then?”

Click on the picture below to view a short video which demonstrates some of the things that can be done to help with low back pain.

Here are some tips to try of movement in the early stages (1-7 days) of an injury:

– Find ranges of motion in the low back which are pain free and continue to move through this range. This might be bending side to side, forward or back. The movement may only be very slight, it doesn’t have to be through a big range.

– Add small walks in to your day. A 5-10 minute walk around the block is perfect as long as it’s not aggravating your pain.

– Wear supportive footwear when you are walking.

– Normal everyday activities can continue if they are not causing too much pain.

– When you are in bed, use pillows underneath your knees (if you are on your back) or between your knees (if you are on your side) in order to find a comfortable position.

– Avoid exercises that flare up your back pain. This might include running, vigorous body strength exercise, and end of range movements.

– Avoid lying down/sitting down for long periods of time where possible. We recommend getting up at least every 30-45 minutes and moving your body, even if this just means a lap of the house! A trick for this is to drink plenty of water, this way you will be up needing to go to the toilet frequently through the day.

These tips are general advice and more detail is explored in The Low Back Pain Improvement Plan and it is important to remember that it is important to get assessed by a qulaified health practitioner in order to determine the extent of injury. As always reach out to us at the clinic if you have any questions at all and you can always book an appointment online or on 9773 8085.

Have a great week

Bec @ Total Balance Healthcare



This blog post is an educational tool only.  It is not a replacement for medical advice from a registered and qualified doctor or health professional.

Phone: (03) 9773 8085


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