Family doctors used to sometimes prescribe bed rest for patients with lower back pain (LBP). Today the recovery process recommends staying more active throughout the recovery stages. So what’s made this change?
In the back there are two types of muscles: the superficial muscles and the deep muscles. The superficial muscles perform movements like bending and turning. These muscles are strengthened by motion that places stress on the muscles, like rowing or push ups. The deep muscles help stabilise the spine and maintain posture. Physical activity helps keep them in shape.
Bed rest actually weakens back muscles and they begin to deteriorate. As motion stress is restarted the body will engage the superficial muscles to stabilise the back. Due to the fact these muscle are not normally used, they tire quicker and normal stamina and movement is restricted. This can put additional stress on the spine structure and other areas of the body, increasing the risk for additional musculoskeletal injuries.
Bed rest can also affect the discs that act as “shock absorbers” in the spine. In one study, researchers recruited 72 middle-aged adults and tracked their physical activity levels in the preceding years based on how many days they engaged in strenuous activity every two weeks: active (9 to 14 days), moderately active (1-8 days), or inactive (0 days). 21% were classified as active, 53% were described as moderately active, and the remainder 26% were inactive. The researchers also performed an MRI on each participant and gathered information on low back pain-related pain and disability.
The results stated that physically inactive individuals were more likely to have back pain, reduced function, loss of disc height, and fat build-up in their back muscles. The conclusion was that regular activity significantly improved function in later life and reduced lower back pain significantly.
There are very specific exercises that help strengthen the deep, low back stabilising muscles. Osteopaths frequently recommend physical activity and exercise to address an acute flair-up of LBP and to aid prevention of future episodes.
Adapted Article: credit https://www.drmatthewdunnonline.com/1607/staying-active-helps-the-lower-back/