Back strain is a pain, let’s face it, but resting in bed for long periods is no longer the treatment of choice, according to Harvard Medical School.

Of course bed rest is helpful especially if you’ve got severe pain while standing or sitting. But the advice is to limit bed rest during the day to a few hours at a time. For no more than a few days.

The internationally renowned medical school says if you need to be horizontal, you’re better off lying down on a day bed or on the couch. In any position that’s comfortable. And to ease the strain on your back, use pillows under your head, or between your knees when you’re on your side. Or under your knees if you’re on your back, and under your hips when you lay on your stomach.

While bed rest can minimise the stress on your lower spine, too much time in bed weakens muscles.

Why? Because these positions reduce the forces that standing or sitting impose on the back – especially on your muscles, ligaments and disks. While bed rest can minimise the stress on your lower spine, too much time in bed weakens muscles, especially those you need to support your back. Some people develop gastrointestinal problems like constipation through inactivity, which won’t make you feel any better either.

Without getting too ‘doom and gloom’, Harvard says lying still for too long also increases your chances of developing a blood clot in the veins in your legs or pelvis. These clots can damage your veins or make their way to your lungs and end up as a pulmonary embolism. This can be deadly if not detected.

Back Pain
Physical activity is preferable to extended bed rest

Research trials have shown that an early return to physical activity or work – with some restrictions – is preferable to extended bed rest or staying at home, according to Harvard Medical School.

So, what kind of mattress is best? We spend about a third of our lives in bed so it’s worth taking the time to consider whether your mattress is supporting your back properly. It appears a medium to firm mattress is the go rather than putting yourself on the rack with a firm mattress or one that’s so soft you’re swallowed up and never seen again. A soft mattress might comfort you initially, but if it’s got a lot of give, it will twist you in ways your body won’t thank you for.

According to Harvard, a study involving 313 people reported they had less pain sleeping on a firm to medium mattress over a three-month period and also less pain-related disability.

Goldilocks knew how to pick a good mattress, do you? It’s best if you can try different ones out -sleep in a hotel or at friends’ houses and make a note of good brands you like. Your back will thank you for it. And the three bears can then enjoy their own beds in peace and you’ll feel better too.

Thanks to Harvard Medical School for information in this article http://www.health.harvard.edu

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