Bed rest is ineffective for back pain

Q: Is bed rest recommended for back pain?

A: Bed rest used to be a routine medical treatment for back pain despite little evidence to prove its effectiveness. But the facts from several research studies indicate that prolonged bed rest serves no useful purpose and may delay healing.

Patients with back pain may need to rest temporarily and modify their activities during an acute, inflammatory stage. For that reason, bed rest may be regarded as a short-term result of back pain. However, prescribed bed rest as a method of treating back pain has been found to be worthless and should be avoided.

Healing involves activity rather than rest. Action should be taken to restore proper function to the back and repair damaged tissue. Exercises targeting problem areas are often required to stretch tight, irritated muscles and strengthen supportive muscles. Bed rest only weakens the back, sometimes causing further debilitation and pain.

A recent report from the International Paris Task Force on Back Pain emphasizes the value of staying active rather than resting in the treatment of back pain. Among their recommendations is to seek a back pain evaluation by an expert. Chiropractors are such experts who manage and resolve back pain. In some cases, chiropractors may combine chiropractic treatment with physical therapy. Patients who require additional care may be referred to other specialists such as orthopedists or neurologists.