To Rest or Not to Rest?
Hey everyone, Mike here!
Today we will be exploring an age old question;
To rest or not to rest when you’ve experienced lower back pain?
Let’s use our good friend Adam as an example.
Adam works at the local bakery where his tasks involve making delectable delights but also transferring heavy trays for food preparation and baking.
6 hours into his weekend shift, Adam loses his balance while removing a tray from the oven, twisting him into an awkward position.
Adam feels some discomfort within his lower back but shakes it off as a minor niggle. Later that night he realizes it’s anything but!
What is Adam to do?
Here we are faced with a few options –
- Return to work as normal
- Return to work with modifications
- Use some of his annual leave and rest
Below we will explore all 3 options –
1. Return to work as normal
You might be thinking, do we need to spell this one out – surely he will hurt himself even more? You are exactly right. Before returning to work with his normal duties, Adam should consult a relevant health professional, whether that be his doctor or directly to a physiotherapist to determine his graded return to activity plan.
This should be applied to sport or any activity that may reaggravate the initial injury.
2. Return to work with modifications
Depending on the extent of the injury, Adam may be able to return to work with some modifications, whether that be his hours or duties. Again, advice from a relevant health professional is highly indicated to determine the extent of the injury.
This will paint a clear picture on which modified activities are suitable for Adam, ensuring he can continue baking bread in a safe manner.
It is important that Adam remains active. But why?
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, staying active is the cornerstone of both treatment and prevention of lower back pain. A study published by the ACSM revealed that those who continued with work/activity despite low levels of pain saw faster recoveries (Roy & Vanichkachorn, 2013).
3. Use some of his annual leave and rest
You may be thinking – but there’s no harm in resting, is there?
On the contrary, a systematic review by Dahm et al. (2010) deemed bed rest as an ineffective treatment for low back pain and may even delay recovery!
Unfortunately, the tendency to avoid physical activity is often caused by fear of exacerbating symptoms and causing permanent damage. However, prolonged inactivity can lead to muscle atrophy, depression and more days off work (Roy & Vanichkachorn, 2013).
Although some forms of low back pain, such as pain after trauma may require more activity restriction, such episodes are rare compared with the common lower back pain experienced in everyday life.
In conclusion, the likely course for lower back pain has very positive outcomes. This can be enhanced by avoiding the temptation for prolonged rest. Instead, next time back pain strikes, consult your relevant health professional and consider staying active for a faster return to work and recovery.
Dahm, K., Brurberg, K., Jamtvedt, G., & Hagen, K. (2010). Advice to rest in bed versus advice to stay active for acute low-back pain and sciatica. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.cd007612.pub2
Roy, B., & Vanichkachorn, G. (2013). Low Back Pain. ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal, 17(2), 5. doi: 10.1249/fit.0b013e3182829609