When you are experiencing back pain, your instinct could be to just take pills and not move. The fear of making the pain worse, coupled with spasms when we do move, often lead us to think we should stay keep immobile, but this will usually just prolong the pain, increase stiffness and delay the healing time.

Resting the back is NOT:

  • Staying in any one position or activity too long
  • Lying down
  • Sitting – especially slouching – on the sofa
  • Standing, in particular standing still or slightly bent forward

… even if any of the activities do not cause pain at the time!

So What Is Resting the Back? 

When I started to write ‘Resting your Back’ I felt I needed to ask the question “What does ‘rest’ mean?”  

There are many definitions, the most popular of which are ‘stopping’, ‘inactivity’ and ‘stillness’. However, none of these apply to our backs, which require movement with some lying down correctly to decompress the spine and relax the muscles. 

Other definitions which really do not apply to resting our backs are: 

  • Cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength 
  • Allow to be inactive in order to regain strength or health 
  • Be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position 
  • A motionless state 

In actual fact, most back pain comes from a muscle spasm, so when we “rest” the spine, we need to relax the back muscles and reduce the pressure on the spine. Movement is key to this relaxation. Sometimes at the onset of an acute injury the pain dictates that we need to rest in bed, but this should be for the minimum amount of time before we can introduce movement. 

Put simply – resting your back is a change of activity! Resting your back will depend on your work or on what you spend the most time doing. 

In light of this, we can reformulate the definition of “rest” as: ‘relief or freedom, especially from the wearisomeness of back pain!’ 

Other definitions that can help us are ‘refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labour, a period of repose, tranquillity or calmness’. 

“Put simply – resting your back is a change of activity!”

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