Sea changes in the treatment of back pain have occurred as experts reach a new understanding of the central role exercise plays in healing and maintaining a healthy back.
Bed rest can be helpful if back pain causes severe pain while sitting or standing. But it’s best to limit bed rest to no more than a few hours at a time and for no more than a couple of days—because too much time in bed may do more harm than good.
Too much bed rest weakens muscles, including those needed to support the back.
Some persons develop problems such as constipation.
Prolonged bed rest boosts the chances of developing blood clots in the pelvic veins and legs. The clots are painful and could damage the affected vein. And if a piece of the clot breaks loose, it may lodge in the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism, a potentially deadly condition.
If you need to be horizontal to relieve sitting or standing pain, put pillows under your head and between your knees if you’re lying on your side, under your knees if on your back, or under your hips if on your stomach.
Reputable research trials show that returning early to physical activity or to work—with some restrictions, if necessary—is more conducive to healing than is bed rest and staying home from work for extended periods.
Other recent, well-directed studies have found that people with back pain who slept on a medium-firm or firm mattress for three months experienced less pain and better sleep quality than those sleeping on firm or very firm (orthopedic) mattresses.
Source: Harvard Medical School Healthbeat, October 11, 2012