Bed rest for spinal stenosis is a common conservative treatment strategy employed by many patients, both out of necessity and sometimes due to a doctor’s prescription. Bed rest is fine for dealing with acute health issues like back pain, but can become quite counterproductive when used as a long-term solution.
Why does bed rest provide benefits for some patients and some diagnoses? Why does resting in bed cause more problems than it solves when used for an extended time frame? What cautions should you exercise if you are currently using bed rest as a means of coping with spinal stenosis?
This post delves into the use of bed rest as a dedicated spinal stenosis therapy option. If you are wondering about the efficacy of bed rest, then this is the right dialog for your research needs.
Bed Rest for Spinal Stenosis Benefits
Bed rest allows the body to fully relax and dedicate its resources to healing and recovery. This is super important in times of disease or injury to promote a return to full health. Bed rest removes the effects of gravity on an upright posture, which can immediately help relieve some symptoms of spinal and foraminal stenosis.
Bed rest also comes with the benefit of avoiding other stressful situations in life, like work and personal responsibilities. Simply taking a break from the stresses of life is proven to be beneficial to overall health and wellness.
Finally, bed rest prevents patients from worsening pain due to activity-related causations, likes standing, walking and exercise. In some cases, a person truly does need to rest and use the time to allow their body to recuperate from traumatic circumstances.
Bed Rest Risks
Bed rest is fine when used to treat various health issues short-term and is even recommended for many conditions and diagnoses. However, it is not a good solution for any long-term health problem, such as spinal stenosis, since it will not take long for the potential benefits to turn into dramatic downsides:
Extended duration bed rest will actually retard the healing process for disease and injury. The body tends to go into a reduced activity state when subjected to a horizontal posture for a long time.
Bed rest will cause muscular atrophy within several weeks in most people. This atrophy can be painful itself and will cause a cascade of negative effects in the body when a return to functionality is attempted in the future.
Bed rest can cause ulcers of the skin and underlying soft tissues. Poor circulation, obesity and diabetes will compound this problem. All of these compounding risk factors are epidemic conditions in the modern world and are frequently found in people who suffer from symptomatic spinal stenosis, as well.
Bed rest does not provide much positive distraction from the pain. In fact, studies show that patients who are confined to bed, instead of being sensibly active, tend to focus more on the pain and complain of more significant symptoms. Not surprisingly, bed ridden patients tend to use more pharmacological pain management than sensibly active patients. Ongoing use of pharmaceutical therapy is already a horrific risk unto itself…
Bed Rest for Spinal Stenosis Strategies
Using bed rest to treat spinal stenosis should be limited to the following circumstances:
In otherwise able-bodied people who are not fragile geriatric, bed rest should only be used for short term acute flare-ups of pain. Limit bed rest to several hours at a time and only a few days in total for best results.
For older and more fragile patients, some effort should be made to help them to move about as much as possible. Seniors still benefit from activity, both mind and body. Allowing an elderly spinal stenosis patient to live in bed is not helping them in any way.
Try alternating time in bed with time seated, but moving the upper body, or time standing and moving about gently. If the patient can walk, then this is a good thing and should be encouraged.
Even if a person is largely confined to bed, there are physical therapy programs that can be implemented to assist them in moving more often. For more information, be sure to contact your physical therapist for specific details of what activities should be used and how often.