A common question we hear after a pain flare up or acute injury is “so, should I rest for a while?”. The exact answer will depend on the injury but usually it’s either “no” or “yes, but only for a few days”.
Using a back flare up as an example – we’ll recommend to our clients to take it easy for a few days, resting in comfortable positions (but changing positions every 45-60 mins), using anti-inflammatories and heat as appropriate, and to stick with gentle and short walks around the house. This does not mean to lie on the couch 24/7! The main goal is to let the body calm down a bit, ideally this also includes a few physio sessions close together.
Once this acute episode has settled somewhat then we want to slowly reintroduce movement. This is done in a graduated way so your body can recognise this movement as non-threatening, therefore not triggering the protective response. Our brain and body is super clever and will go into protective responses (such as bracing with all movement) that are useful in the short term, but end up being detrimental longer term. Your physio will work with you to determine the amount or type of activity, with variations of your favourites the first to be added back in!
What we want to avoid is the “boom/bust cycle” which cycles us between lots of activity, flare up and drastic reduction of activity, symptom decrease then straight back into lots of activity…. The reintroduction of movement is a great opportunity to include a variety of movement options. Sticking with the example of a back flare up – we’ll start with gentle walks, glute releases then retrain glute activation, pelvic tilts to encourage segmental lumbar movement etc. While ideally we get back to our usual activities without any hiccups along the way, it’s important to remember that even if we do have up’s and down’s it doesn’t mean that we are back to square one or that things will never improve. It just means we may need to dial activity or load back a little, have more regular physio, stay at the current level of activity for a bit longer, or maybe have a few days again at near total rest.
If the injury involves tissue damage, such as a ligament sprain or bone fracture, then the timeframe looks a little bit different and will often require a slightly longer period of rest than the example above, but it’s a similar process.
Any questions reach out
If you’ve got any questions about how to manage an injury with rest and return to activity, or to stop it from happening again – give us a call at 1300 842 850 or Click here to book an appointment with one of Brisbane’s best physio’s.