Back Pain: Is Bed Rest the Only Solution?

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Back and neck pain is the most common reason for consulting a spine surgeon. Fortunately, majority of the pain subsides in two weeks time.
 
--By Dr Gaurav Raj Dhakal
 
After common cold, back pain is the most common ailment to affect an individual. Four out of five individuals will experience an episode of back pain once in their life time.  Hence, back and neck pain is the most common reason for consulting a spine surgeon. Fortunately, majority of the pain subsides in two weeks time.
 
Most people would want a period of bed rest when they have back pain. In the past, it was thought that bed rest for a prolonged period was beneficial for patients with back pain. To the contrary, recent evidence suggests otherwise! Bed rest longer than two days is of no benefit.
 
Many people recover without any bed rest and the sooner physical therapy is started, the faster the recovery is. A longer period of bed rest leads to slower recovery.  Staying in bed makes your spine stiff and increases the pain. The muscles become weaker and lose their strength. Bed rest for a week makes your muscle weaker by 30 per cent. Also, after a prolonged period of bed rest, resuming physical activity becomes more difficult.
 
People with spine injuries, infections and unstable spine may need longer periods of bed rest after consultation with the spine surgeon.
 
Staying in bed for many days also leads to loss of productive work. It has a direct bearing on the loss of work days and the financial status of the employer. Long periods of rest demand longer sessions of physical therapy which can prove to be costly. Some insurance schemes cover only limited sessions and you may have to pay out of your pocket.
 
It has also been observed that majority of patients with back pain use lumbar belts for an indefinite period. Lumbar belts when used improperly cause more harm than good. The spine muscles become weaker with the continuous usage of belts. Hence, it is advised not to wear the belts unless specifically indicated.
 
If you suffer from back pain, the best recommendation is to consult a spine surgeon immediately and take proper treatment. Remember, self-treatment with bed rest is definitely not the solution!
 
The author is a Spine Surgeon at Norvic International Hospital and is a Fellow of the Association of Spine Surgeons of India.

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