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What Your Doctor really means when he says “Rest Up”- The truth about bed rest.



Hi everyone, I wanted to share a question I received in an email this week.


Ryan, I’ve heard you talk about bed rest being bad for long periods of time but recently, during a routine appointment with my doctor -I asked him about my back pain and the first thing he told me to do was “rest” up for a while. Take it easy.  I’ve had my back pain now for about 15 months and it’s really beginning to slow me down now – the last thing I needed was to be told to rest though as I have my 3 grand kids to chase around most days…and my back pain is making that increasingly difficult.

Is there anything else I can do? , I’m confused by the conflicting advice – please help”.


-Mary, 65,- Austin, Tx (sorry Mary I know the pic doesn’t look like you! haha)


Let me try and clear this one up for you.


I think what the doctor is advising is this:

“Resting” from things that make back pain WORSE.

And lying in bed all day can definitely one of them.


Other things, like “leaning forwards” with bad body mechanics, standing for too long in the kitchen or in line at the shops, even lifting heavy objects, are all things that make back pain worse.


I hear way to often from friends, family and other clients at Natural Fit Therapy that they were frustrated that their doctor told them to rest.  It is fairly common knowledge in the medical community that bed rest is not an effective treatment for low back pain, but the advice people often get is to “rest up”.  Actually, bed rest can make your back pain worse in the long run. When your Doctor tells you to rest that doesn’t mean you should sit around all day or worse lie down in bed all day.


Clinical practice guidelines from the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the American Pain Society (APS) and American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) say that patients with low back pain should be advised to remain active. This is categorized by the ACP and APS as a “strong” recommendation.


Bed Rest Can make things worse!


Lack of activity can have several negative effects:

  • Muscles can grow stiff and weaken
  • Soft tissues like ligaments and tendons can lose their flexibility and become more vulnerable to injury
  • The intervertebral discs, which hold fluid like a sponge, can lose nutrients and become dried out and inflexible

And that’s just talking about your back.  Not to mention that prolong bed rest can cause you legs to get weaker, you heart and lungs to become less efficient and even you digestive system slow down.  Almost every system in your body becomes weaker and less efficient the longer you lie around.


So, how do you “rest” correctly?


Well, A good rule of thumb is… Don’t do anything that hurts.  Sounds simple but a lot of people continue their workouts, play with kids, and push themselves to clean the house as usual…even when their back is hurting.


I recommend stay active but avoid specific activities that hurt.  Go for a short walk or spend some time stretching or find ways to meditate and relieve stress…


Did you know that “stress” adds hugely to back pain too?

Well it does.

It’s because muscles tighten, and joints stiffen when you are stressed, so things like breathing DEEPLY, maybe when you’re lying down in bed “relaxing”, will help.

Admittedly, reducing stress alone won’t cure your back pain, but it usually will help in the short term.

For long term improvement with your back pain it is important to do the exact opposite of rest.  A regular exercise program, stress reduction and manual therapy have been shown to be the most effective ways to manage and eliminate back pain.


If you would like more information about how to rest correctly, start and exercise program or learn how manual therapy will help you to be able to play with grand-kids, be supermom or just be able to keep up with your younger friends then schedule your FREE PHONE CONSULT with a back pain expert at Natural Fit Therapy.





Ryan e1657920030149

Dr. Ryan Seifert

Natural Fit Physical Therapy

"We Help Adults 50+ Become More Active, Stay Healthy, And Avoid Slowing Down Without Pain Pills, Injections, Or Surgery."



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