When someone begins to experience back pain the number one question I get is, "should I rest until it feels better?
The short answer is “no.”
This can often be difficult to accept. It can be scary to move, or know what activities are best when your back hurts. Many people suffering with back pain have been told they should rest, ice, lie down, and use their back muscles as little as possible until they recover. They’ve been told they should limit their movement and activity until their pain goes away...
Well what if I told you that for 80% of all back problems – movement is actually the BEST medicine.
- Got Back Pain Questions? Text them to: (801) 691-7582
Most back pain falls into the category of what we call “mechanical low back pain” – the type of back pain that responds best to movement over anything else. One note: although movement is good when your back hurts, you want to pick the right type of movement.
Generally speaking, early movement like walking is considered one of the best things you can do for your back, along with very specific mobility exercises in a direction designed to relieve your pain quickly. But you’ll want to avoid things like lifting heavy weights at first, or bending/stretching excessively.
So what’s the big deal? Why is it so bad to rest until your back pain goes away?
Although most back pain will go away on its own with time, the problem with resting instead of moving is that it can prolong the time it takes to truly heal. In some cases, rest can make your back problem worse. Too much rest leads to deconditioning of your muscles and leave you much stiffer and weaker.
One of the biggest problems I see with back injuries is a lack of mobility, sometimes due to weakness and sometimes due to joint, muscle, or fascia restriction. A flexible spine is a healthy spine. That’s why choosing activities like walking and corrective stretching exercises over rest will not only relieve your back pain, but will give you a better chance at keeping the pain gone over time.
Remember that the absence of back pain does not mean the absence of a back problem.
Back problems can be complicated and they love to linger under the surface until one day, a certain movement causes your back to "go out." The best way to get ahead of a back problem – and heal a back problem quickly – is with movement.
As tempting as it is, don’t just rest to get rid of your back pain. Try walking, and even some easy stretching, and take note of what happens. You’ll either start to feel better the more you move or worse. If your pain is easing up with the movement you’ve chosen – you’re on the right track! If your pain is not responding or getting worse, then it’s a clue you need to see a professional.
Either way, movement is your friend, because it’s going to get you to a healthy back faster. Rest won’t do that for you and if anything, potentially prolong the issue when you could have been doing something about it.