Is Rest The Answer For Healing Back Pain? - Custom Fit Physical Therapy

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Is Rest The Answer For Healing Back Pain?

Back Pain

Many of the patients I work with suffer from chronic back pain, stenosis, sciatica and disc pathology.

I get asked this question quite often: "Martha should I rest my back until I'm feeling more mobile and I'm out of pain to start exercising again?"

The answer is "NO". Let me explain .......

If you are experiencing lower back pain you maybe confused and scared to move. I totally get it!

Perhaps your doctor or health care practitioner told you to rest it, take pain medication or ant-inflammatories and don't stretch or exercise till the pain subsides.

Sadly, If you have been told this, you have been mislead and given poor guidance.

I totally understand if you are afraid to move when you are experiencing back pain. I have tweaked my back several times over the years.

My first instinct was to lie in bed with an icepack on my back. However I ended up getting stiffer and less mobile. It actually impeded my progress and my rehab was longer than expected! My mistake was prolonged rest.

One of my patients recently told me that she was told to avoid any movement or activity until the pain subsided.

This is not conducive to healing!

Prolonged Rest can lead to more stiffness, immobility and decreased strength!

Research does demonstrate that prolonged lying down longer than a few days isn't helpful for relieving back pain any faster.

It has been my experience and found in the research that people can recover more quickly with minimal bed rest. The sooner you start moving and return to activities such as walking and proper exercises, the faster you are likely to improve.

In addition, I do advise my patients to try to rest in the side-lying position with a pillow between their knees for 5-8 minutes a day. This helps to decompress the spine and allows nutrients to flow to the discs.

It is important to note that although movement is good, the proper exercise and corrective strategies need to be performed specific to your back problem or injury.

These correct exercises will help promote blood flow to the body, decrease inflammation, nourish your spinal discs and help increase flexibility.

Honor your body and don't force it into a position that will cause further stress or strain.

I have had many patients share with me that they tried some exercises they found on YouTube that they thought might be beneficial for their back pain and it actually made their pain worse.

Keep in mind the exercises you find on Dr. Google and YouTube are not specific for your back problem. This is where it is advisable to get a thorough evaluation from an experienced physical therapist or spine specialist.

When should I see a healthcare practitioner?

  1. 1
    If you have severe back pain and it has lasted more than 3 days or even seems to be getting worse.
  2. 2
    If you are experiencing numbness or shooting pain down one or both legs or changes in bowel /bladder function. In this instance, I would advise seeing your healthcare practitioner immediately.

When we strain or tweak our back or experience pain our body goes into that "fight or flight pattern". This is our sympathetic nervous system kicking in. I explain this to my patients as "the deer in the headlights".

Our central nervous system kicks in and our body can go into spasm, fear, and our muscles start to guard and tighten.

The sympathetic system is designed for short term survival. It is an important part of our nervous system.

For example, if you are in a stressful situation like in a burning building or being pursued by an attack dog your first instinct is to run and seek safety.

Short term stress is necessary and helps us survive. However if we are in this sympathetic stress pattern("Fight or Flight mode) for a prolonged period of time it can cause chronic pain and have serious effects on our overall health.

What Happens During Stress Activation?

Proper movement and corrective strategies for your specific problem is the key to healing along with manual techniques to help decrease spinal compression and decrease the activation of the sympathetic nervous system.

Here at Custom Fit Physical Therapy we Perform a Full Body Assessment.

We firmly believe that where you are having your symptoms is not always where the core problem is.

Our body moves in patterns and it is important to assess how all parts are moving together and to identify where there are compensation patterns.

We want all our patients to experience lasting results, not just temporary relief of symptoms.

If you are looking for a real solution to decrease your pain and stiffness, and get back to the things you love to do contact us now for a Discovery Session to see how we can help you start enjoying your life!

Martha Tassinari

Martha Tassinari

Martha graduated from Northeastern University, in Boston Massachusetts, with a degree in Physical Therapy in 1994 and later studied Craniosacral Therapy, Myofascial release and Neurokinetic Therapy. She is a lung cancer survivor and is passionate about helping women heal physically, emotionally, and energetically. In addition, she is a life coach and empowers others to take charge of their health and self-care so they can have more energy, decrease stress, implement healthy boundaries, and live life with more freedom, peace, and joy. Feel free to check out her life coaching services at
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