4 Reasons “Taking it Easy” Might Be Making Your Back Pain Worse
Updated: Jan 21, 2021
Everyone knows when you get sick, the best thing to do is to rest, let your body recover and then get back to your life once you feel better. The same is true for many injuries, like some ligament sprains or a common muscle strain. While a little bed rest can be good to calm down inflammation and begin the healing process, the problem with this advice for spinal pain is that many people never get back to their routine activities at all. Too often those that injure their backs opt to avoid any “potentially harming” activities in substitution for more bed rest and more passive approaches. They believe that they are doing this in the best interest of their injury to “stop it from happening again”, but they are likely delaying recovery time and, in some cases, even extending the length of recovery. Here are 4 reasons that you should get back on your feet and limit bed rest after a back injury:
1. Supporting Muscles Lose Strength
The first and most obvious problem is that when you delay an active lifestyle after a back injury, you are allowing your muscles and joints to decondition, which will actually make you more injury-prone in the future. When you get back to your active lifestyle, you get your muscles and joints back to doing what they are made to do and allow them to regain optimal function faster.
2. It Gets Nutrition to Your Injury Site
Getting yourself up-and-at-it may also help you heal faster! When you have the flu, it is important to get good nutrition in your body so it can effectively operate. Muscles, ligaments, and discs in your spine require this same nutrition to get back into shape, but instead of soup and
healthy fluids, these structures rely on blood flow, natural lubrication, oxygen, and other helpful ingredients that your body makes. The best way to get these essentials to your injured tissue is to move! This will encourage movement of these vital fluids in and out of your tissues. New blood will be exposed to areas that require its healing substances.
3. The Sensitization Phenomenon 
In the world of pain, there is a phenomenon known as “sensitization”. Simply put, pain sensitization is the process in which new pain receptors get “turned on” and a pain that was once a 2 out of 10 now feels like a 8 out of 10 even though the injured tissue itself is not any worse than it was before. The exact cause of sensitization is still not totally clear although researchers believe it involves changes in the way your nervous systems transmits pain in response to chemical mediators released at the time of an injury or even during recovery. Many scientists believe that sensitization is a major contributing factor in people suffering from chronic pain and fibromyalgia. One natural remedy that has shown to be effective in combatting this mysterious phenomenon is gradual and consistent exercise! Multiple studies have showcased the success of prescribing movement to patients with chronic painful conditions like fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and chronic low back pain. What is fascinating is that often pain perception decreases disproportionately to the actual changes in the tissue, meaning that the way we perceive pain can be more important than the actual tissue healing in some cases. Yet another reason to cut off your bed rest early!
4. Fear-Avoidance 
Our bodies instinctively learn from experiences whether we are aware of it or not. Just as a child learns not to touch a hot stove to avoid pain, sometimes our minds convince our bodies to avoid certain movements because they are associated with the injury itself. The mind can then instill a feeling of fear whenever the injured person attempts to replicate old movements. The fear is often misinterpreted by the brain and can simulate or heighten a sense of pain that otherwise would not be felt. This point may sound similar to the idea of sensitization introduced above, and the two are often closely related. The good news is that in the same way that exercise and movement can be helpful with sensitization, it can also be the solution to fee-avoidance. The sooner you can safely begin moving again and challenging yourself to revisit movements that you were previously afraid of, the sooner you can move past your pain.
To summarize, getting moving again after a back injury is better sooner than later! Just remember to gradually expose yourself to movement again. If something causes a little bit of pain, it IS okay to continue. If something causes a LOT of pain, that is a sign to back off. I hope that this information is useful the next time you need to tackle a bout of back pain!
Dr. Michael Hozan is a licensed chiropractic physician and the founder of Movement Clinic: Spine & Sports Injury Center, located in Amherst, Ohio. Dr. Hozan practices using a functional approach aimed at not only decreasing pain from injuries and other conditions, but also restoring full function so that people are able to feel better and move better than ever before. If you are in the Northeast Ohio area and are looking for pain and/or injury solutions for nerve, muscle, and/or joint conditions call (440) 984-7176 or visit mymovementclinic.com.
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