No Bed Rest for You!

Gone are the days of health practitioners recommending bed rest and immobilization after surgery or an acute injury. Today, doctors are encouraging early rehabilitation as the research suggests it is safe and leads to a speedier, better recovery.

Treatment has become more proactive and hands on than in the past.  Rather than waiting for your body to take its natural course, today’s physical therapists aim to create change and make corrections. We help guide the healing process. If left to it’s natural course, the body will take the path of least resistance. This often alters our movement patterns and develops compensations that wreak havoc on other areas of our body.

Even after surgery, such as a spinal disc laminectomy, patients are up and in physical therapy the next morning after surgery. For a shoulder surgery to fix a torn rotator cuff, patients used to be in a sling for 6-8 weeks. Now, practitioners are encouraging being out of the sling intermittently and starting physical therapy by the first week.  Simply, use it or lose it!

In the past, many practitioners relied mainly on modalities to help with pain. Muscle stimulation, ultrasound, heat and ice for example. While these modalities still play an assistive role in pain relief, physiotherapists utilize a more hands on approach called manual therapy. Our intimate knowledge of how joints move and function and where muscles attach and originate help us affect joint mechanics, muscle flexibility and pain relief.

When bed rest or long periods of immobilization have been prescribed in the past, musculoskeletal complications such as loss of muscle strength and endurance, contractures, disuse osteoporosis and degenerative joint disease have been shown to occur. Cardiovascular complications may include increased heart rate, decreased cardiac reserve, hypotension and thromboembolism (blood clots).  The side effects of staying in bed or being too sedentary when injured are also associated with an increased risk of stress and depression.  A 2004 study published in the Joint, Bone and Spine Journal found that patients with lower back pain, who were prescribed bed rest by doctors, came back with complaints of chronic pain 32% of the time.

A 2017 study in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that athletes with severe muscle injuries recovered quicker and returned to their sport faster when they initiated rehab earlier rather than later.  “Starting rehabilitation 2 days after injury rather than waiting for 9 days shortened the interval from injury to pain-free recovery and return to sports by 3 weeks without any significant increase in the risk of re-injury.”

Early rehab with regular and controlled exercises in combination with manual therapy has been shown to speed recovery and improve your overall function sooner than if left to time alone. Don’t take the “wait and see” approach to your recovery! It’s never too early to start the healing process and learn what you can do to facilitate movement and pain relief. Whether you are post-operative or have a mild injury, we have the knowledge and the tools to get you heading in the right direction.