By Michelle Steege PT, DPT
The recommendations given to someone experiencing low back pain have changed drastically over the years. Previously bed rest was often encouraged, which is much different than today. Parameters vary, however “active rest” is encouraged for a large number of musculoskeletal injuries and musculoskeletal pain.
So what does “active rest” mean? Respect the healing process and pain while maintaining a reasonable level of activity. Acute injuries will often require more caution to avoid overdoing an activity compared to chronic conditions. Additionally, the severity and irritability of a condition will help to determine how much one can push with activity. If this is an injury that has predictable responses to activity, understanding what type of exercise can be performed without increasing pain is very important to maintaining an active recovery.
As a simple guide:
- If there is a mild increase in symptoms during an activity, these symptoms should subside shortly after completing the chosen activity
- Avoid or modify activities that increase symptoms
- If injury occurs to a weight bearing area of the body (lower extremity, low back), choosing a non-weight bearing or low impact activity such as aquatic exercise, swimming, or biking can be a good option during recovery
- If you haven’t been able to perform your typical exercise for more than 2-3 weeks, you will likely need to modify the intensity, frequency and/or duration of exercise and gradually increase back to previous activity level.
Maintaining mobility and strength after injury is an important part of the healing process, however this must be done with consideration of symptoms and activity tolerance. A physical therapist can help determine which activities can be performed without exacerbating symptoms and provide individualized interventions to promote recovery.
About Dr. Michelle Steege, PT, DPT:
Michelle is passionate about the profession of physical therapy, which allows her to help people return to the activities they love. Her experience in a hospital-based
outpatient orthopedic setting has given her the opportunity to treat a variety of orthopedic conditions and sports injuries. Michelle began her orthopedic residency at Motion in 2017, further advancing her knowledge in the world of physical therapy. She also has training in instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) and running analysis.
Michelle earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire in exercise science. She then attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas where she earned her doctorate in physical therapy.
In her free time, Michelle enjoys being outdoors—running, biking, hiking, kayaking, and spending time at the cabin in northern Wisconsin.