It’s not unusual to assume resting for a day or two in bed is all that’s needed to manage spine-related discomfort. While this can be the case at times, the list of back injuries that can heal well with bed rest alone is shorter than you may realize. Here’s a closer look at spine-related injuries that tend to respond well to bed rest as well as a discussion of instances when other treatments are typically needed.
Acute back pain is more likely to respond well to bed rest. This is what you may experience with a spinal muscle tear, which can happen when you twist or turn too far or lift something improperly. With a spinal muscle tear, bed rest for a few days can give your spine-supporting muscles time to heal and recover.
Additionally, it can be helpful to:
• Apply cold to the affected area to reduce inflammation
• Take pain medication
• Use compression
• Apply heat to promote tissue healing
Spine-supporting muscles can also be affected in a way that causes sudden involuntary contractions that are instantly painful. Muscle cramps affecting muscles near the spine often develop from some type of excessive stress or pressure that triggers inflammation or irritates tissues. Temporary rest combined with the self-treatments mentioned above are often recommended for muscle cramps. Gentle stretching once you’ve rested for a few days can be beneficial as well.
Excessive stress can also cause soft tissues around the spine to develop very small tears known as microtears. Again, what bed rest can do here is give the affected tissues time to heal. However, if complete bed rest isn’t possible, modifying your activities and taking it easy for 2–3 days or so could be equally effective.
Roughly half of all athletic injuries are repetitive motion injuries. RMIs can also affect your spine if your preferred activities overstrain the spine-supporting muscle groups enough to trigger inflammation and pain. If your discomfort is primarily related to a repetitive motion injury, bed rest can give the affected tissues time to heal. Just remember to be cautious as you get back to your normal activities so you don’t irritate the same muscles again.
If the source of your back pain is a herniated disc or a pinched spinal nerve, you may very well get some degree of relief from bed rest. However, the discomfort will likely return if the actual source of your pain isn’t being treated in a more meaningful way. Because some injuries ultimately require surgical intervention such as lumbar disc replacement, Santa Monica patients are much more likely to have positive outcomes if they seek medical advice as soon as possible after their injuries.
When there’s a structural problem causing discomfort, bed rest or modified activity is more effective when it’s complemented by active treatments like physical therapy. In fact, a big chunk of the common issues that can affect the spine often heal well by mixing 24–48 hours of initial bed rest with:
• Gentle exercise
• Therapeutic stretches
• Anti-inflammatory medications
• Heat/ice therapy
• Improvements in posture and lifestyle adjustments (e.g., getting more exercise, eating healthier foods)
Additionally, keep in mind that tissue healing alone doesn’t always solve the problem. If you’re not strengthening the affected area, your discomfort may return.
For more personalized advice specific to your situation, check in with your doctor or a Santa Monica spine surgeon. It’s only when the source of your back pain is determined with a fair degree of certainty that treatments likely to be effective can be recommended.
If you’ve injured your back or you’re experiencing severe or prolonged back pain, call on the spinal health pioneers at The Spine Institute. Our experienced physicians lead the industry in using the most innovative methods to diagnose and treat back pain so patients can get back to enjoying life to the fullest. To schedule a consultation, give us a call today at 310-828-7757.