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Bed Rest for Back Pain? This Study Puts the Issue to Rest

Patients who seek medical help for low back pain often get mixed advice on how the problem should be treated. Some treatments help; others don't. Which ones are best, and which of them are potentially harmful for patients? 

Some doctors recommend bed rest for acute low back pain and sciatic pain in the leg. But is this the best advice? A recent review of scientific studies on bed rest may put this heated issue to rest.

Two independent researchers did a complete review of scientific studies dealing with bed rest for patients with acute low back pain. Only high-quality studies were included for the final analysis. In this way, health experts could know whether bed rest is helpful--or harmful.

Nine studies were included in the final review. Four studies showed a comparison between patients who were told to stay in bed and those who were advised to stay active. Four other studies matched up how well people did on bed rest compared to other treatments like exercise, joint stretching, spine education, and medication. Two additional studies measured the difference between staying in bed for up to three days versus seven days.

Pain, function, and sick leave were used as bench marks to test whether bed rest was more helpful than staying active. No differences were found. Staying in bed seven days was no better than resting for three days. And no differences were seen between people who were advised to rest in bed and those who stayed active with other types of treatment.

According to the authors, "Bed rest is not effective in the treatment of low back pain." 

Patients treated with bed rest didn't show any side effects. But the authors caution those who recommend bed rest to consider the harmful effects that are known to happen as a result of limiting movement and activity.

In conclusion, the authors put the issue to rest by stating: "No further research on the role of bed rest in the treatment of low back pain is needed."


Kare B. Hagen, PhD, et al. The Cochrane Review of Bed Rest for Acute Low Back Pain. In Spine. November 15, 2000. Vol. 25. No. 22. Pp. 2932-2939.

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*Disclaimer:* The information contained herein is compiled from a variety of sources. It may not be complete or timely. It does not cover all diseases, physical conditions, ailments or treatments. The information should NOT be used in place of visit with your healthcare provider, nor should you disregard the advice of your health care provider because of any information you read in this topic.
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