Doctors Putting The Bed Rest Prescription To Bed

2010-10-31 | |
Last updated: 2010-10-31

For much of the last two centuries, one of the very common prescriptions for those who were ill or recovering from injury was plenty of bed rest. The idea behind such treatment was to provide the body with time and energy to allow it heal or recover from sickness. For many different medical conditions and health issues, it was considered a standard part of recovery and generally accepted by patients and the public alike as a necessity while convalescing. Until the 1960’s, even the treatment of high blood pressure involved patients spending some time on their backs in bed.

In the past few decades, however, the perceived value of bed rest with patients laying on their back or relaxing comfortably leaning on their bed rest pillow has changed from being a positive to being a negative in many cases. While we will all need some time to rest in bed when knocked down by a flu, cold or infection, research continues to demonstrate that bed rest should be limited where possible to improve overall recovery time and limit other health risks.

How Does Bed Rest Affect The Body

To understand these risks that result from excessive bed rest, it is important to first understand the effects that spending long hours in bed can have on the body. In this situation, the old saying “if you don’t use it, you lose it” is quite appropriate because spending too many hours inactive in bed leads, among other problems, to loss of muscle mass, loss of body fluids and loss of bone density. The reductions in muscle subsequently result in muscle weakness and the loss of bone density means that bones are more brittle.

Reduction In Lung Volume From Bed Rest

In addition to these changes, bed rest also has significant effects on our bodies because it alters the operation of many systems in the body. One specific example is the small increase in lung volume that is seen following 10 to 12 days of bed rest. This change takes place to compensate for decreases in the rate of breathing and oxygen exchange that happen when we are lying down for so long.

Insulin Sensitivity Due To Bed Rest

Another example results from research out of Boston University where scientists found that only 5 days of bed rest led to a 67% increase in the amount of insulin required because of reduced insulin sensitivity otherwise known as insulin resistance. The same study also found that days spent in bed resulted in high blood pressure. In a different study of bed rest, this time conducted by Radboud University, researchers found that 8 weeks of bed rest resulted in a 20% increase in the thickness of the walls of specific arteries.

Quite clearly, so much inactivity and time spent resting significantly alters the way our bodies work.

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Category: Disease Prevention, Health Risks, Medical Research

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