The Dangers of Prolonged Rest for People With Lower Back Pain

If you’re like most people, all you want to do is sit or lie down after the onset of lower back pain. In some cases, it may be a good idea to rest for a day or two—but read on to learn more about the dangers of prolonged rest for people with lower back pain.

See Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

spinal canal There are numerous structures in your spine that may be the cause of your lower back pain.
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Spinal Anatomy and Back Pain

Lower back muscles and prolonged rest

A number of large muscles work together around your lumbar spine (lower back) to provide support and assist with various types of movements. These include your extensor, flexor, and oblique muscles—and if you injure one of these lower back muscles a few days of rest can promote healing.

See Lumbar Spine Anatomy and Pain

However, prolonged rest past 48 hours can cause your lower back muscles to atrophy (at a rate of 1 to 1.5 percent per day). So if you rest for too long, your weakening muscles may not be able to adequately support your spine—which can cause lower back pain and lead to other kinds of lower back injuries.

See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain

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Weight gain and lower back pain

As you likely know, prolonged periods of inactivity can lead to weight gain. This is no trivial matter, as people who are overweight are more likely to experience back pain, joint strain, and muscle strain.

See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain

In part, your excessive weight can lead to added lower-back-related problems by pulling your pelvis forward, which places stress on your lower back. In addition, people who are overweight are more likely to suffer a herniated disc injury, which can cause lower back pain and sciatica symptoms.

See What You Need to Know About Sciatica

Another danger posed by weight gain is an increased risk for complications and infections following surgery. So if you are awaiting surgery for a lower back problem, it is best to remain active.

See Weight Loss for Back Pain Relief

Additional dangers of prolonged rest

In addition to dangers directly related to your lower back, prolonged rest may lead to any of the following complications:

  • Cardiopulmonary deconditioning (at a rate of up to a 15 percent loss in 10 days)
  • Decrease in bone density
  • Increased risk of blood clots

Of course, the above list is not exhaustive—but it provides more than enough reasons to avoid prolonged rest after the onset of your lower back pain.

See Myths about Treatment for Back Pain and Back Problems

It’s important to keep moving after the onset of your lower back pain. So if your pain is severe, talk with your doctor about creative solutions to help you stay active—such as water therapy.

See Water Therapy Exercise Program

Learn more:

Lower Back Pain Treatment

Exercise Walking for Better Back Health

Post written by Andrew Moeller