“I pulled my back and can’t move” is a phrase many of us have said at some point in our lives. It happens. Lifting heavy boxes during a move, doing yard work, or cleaning your floor are common ways. It can be scary when it happens, seemingly every movement and position hurts. The first instinct most people have is to just lie down, ice, or take pain killers and try to move as little as possible. Ice and pain killers can help take the edge off, but contrary to popular belief, lying down and doing nothing is the worst thing you can do. Bed rest will actually make things worse and the recovery period longer.
When we injure ourselves, the body reacts by bringing in inflammation and fluid to the area to help heal and repair the site of injury, which can clog up the area and press on nerves and nerve roots, leading to severe pain. Our bodies respond well to movement and are meant to move. So when we lie down and do nothing we are not flushing out the fluid and inflammation and actually slowing down the healing process. It’s understandable that movement can be painful and scary to attempt. However, movement doesn’t mean exercising and doing complex motions and stretches that will cause severe pain. There may be some pain, but as long as it isn’t that 8-9 out of 10 pain, the back will not be aggravated more. Something gentle will help increase circulation and flush out that inflammation and fluid to help decrease the pain. This can be something as simple as some gentle walking or doing some back extensions or flexion. Any motions that are not overly painful can be performed. These gentle motions will help increase circulation to calm everything down.
It is very important that we remember that bed rest and doing nothing is the worst thing to do for a low back strain. It cannot be stressed and reiterated enough how important it is to stay as active as possible. Too long has lying down and bed rest been recommended, and all the research has shown that it is not the right thing to do. Our bodies were designed to move, and movement is what will help our bodies heal.
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