With Back Pain, Getting Out of Bed Can Help

By 9  am on

If you have back pain, bed rest can be useful, especially if you are in severe pain while sitting and standing. But it’s best to limit bed rest during the day to a few hours at a time, for no more than a couple of days. That’s because too much time in bed can do more harm than good.

If you need to be horizontal, lie down on a bed or sofa, in any comfortable position. To ease the strain on your back, try putting pillows under your head and between your knees when lying on your side, under your knees when lying on your back, or under your hips when lying on your stomach. These positions reduce the forces that sitting or standing impose on the back — especially on the disks, ligaments, and muscles.

Bed rest is no longer the go-to treatment for moderate back strain. Although it does minimize stress on the lower spine, it can also create other problems. Too much time in bed weakens muscles, including those needed to support the back. Some people develop gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation. Inactivity also boosts the chances of developing a blood clot in the veins of your pelvis and legs. This can hurt, and damage the affected vein. If a piece of the clot breaks away, it can lodge in the lungs. This condition, called pulmonary embolism, can be deadly.

But there’s another good reason to limit bed rest: well-designed research trials show that an early return to physical activity or work — with some restrictions or light duty, if necessary — is preferable to bed rest and staying home from work for an extended period.

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