Rest: Overview

Alternative names: (Bed) Rest therapy.

Our bodies require periods of rest during which to carry out essential repairs and replenish stores of energy.  Although one can have too much of a good thing (rest), we should all make sure that we give our bodies enough time to renew themselves, especially during times of illness.

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Why it is Recommended

Hepatitis patients should take a bed rest during the acute phase.  If clinical symptoms are serious enough, a doctor will usually suggest that the patient stay at a hospital.  Hepatitis disease sufferers must reduce their daily activity.  The objective of this bed rest therapy is to give cells a chance at regeneration.

One to two mid-day naps (approx.  30 min.)  are extremely important to Rheumatoid Arthritis patients to aid with relaxing and regenerating the energy needed for the rest of the day.  This also allows the joints to rest and helps reduce pain and swelling.

Counter-Indicators and Warnings

More and more professional care givers (physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, and others) are rethinking the age old strategy of bed rest and inactivity for musculoskeletal injuries.  Much research shows that prolonged bed rest and inactivity immediately after an injury has a potential negative impact on your pursuit of an optimal recovery.

Movement is Needed for Normal Repair and Tissue Health.  Tissues healed with movement and mechanical stress will have properties matching mechanical requirements of daily physical activity, whereas tissues healed while immobile or under reduced or abnormal movement may fail to meet imposed structural and functional demands of daily activities.

Bed rest for more than a few days is not recommended, as this can reduce your muscle strength.  When the condition lessens, activity levels must be increased gradually and carefully.

In 1999 a review of 39 trials of bed rest for 15 different conditions (total patients 5777) was performed.  In 24 trials investigating bed rest following a medical procedure, no outcomes improved significantly and eight worsened significantly in some procedures (lumbar puncture, spinal anaesthesia, radiculography, and cardiac catheterisation).  In 15 trials investigating bed rest as a primary treatment, no outcomes improved significantly and nine worsened significantly for some conditions (acute low back pain, labor, proteinuric hypertension during pregnancy, myocardial infarction, and acute infectious hepatitis).  The interpretation was that we should not assume any efficacy for bed rest.  Further studies need to be done to establish evidence for the benefit or harm of bed rest as a treatment. [Lancet; 1999 Oct 9;354 (9186):pp.1229-33]

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Rest can help with the following:


Myasthenia Gravis

Sufferers should get plenty of rest and adjust their activities to avoid unnecessary fatigue.  This may include resting frequently as necessary during the day.



Rest in bed until you are fully recovered.  While in bed, flex your legs often to prevent clots from forming in deep veins.  Resume your normal activities, including sexual relations when strength allows.

Rheumatic Heart Disease

As well as possible drug therapy, treatment may involve avoidance of overexertion.

Megaloblastic Anemia / Pernicious Anemia

A person with folic acid deficiency anemia should rest as often as necessary until restored energy levels make it possible to resume regular activities.


The Effects Of Overtraining

"Rest" is not a dirty word!  Take a complete day off once a week.  And remember to take a vacation, sleep late once in a while, walk on the beach, or go out shopping for a day instead of doing time on the StairMaster.  Anything to break the cycle.  It will recharge you and get you back in the swing of things.  This is a simple problem to solve, and you can usually catch yourself in time before anything drastic happens.  Your bodily reserves are just like the batteries in your Walkman – after continued use, they are going to run out and you have to replace or recharge them if you want to keep hearing your favorite song.


Cytomegalovirus (CMV) Infection

Rest is needed, sometimes for a month or longer to regain full activity levels.

Cold Or Flu

Resting in bed and keeping warm are still recognized as an important part in recovering from the cold or flu: time is the only sure cure for colds and flus.



To prevent worsening of symptoms during episodes of labyrinthitis, keep still and rest during attacks, gradually resuming activity.  Avoid sudden position changes, do not try to read during attacks and avoid bright lights.


Compartment Syndrome

Symptoms should subside if the activity that caused the problem is avoided, either by resting or by performing other forms of exercise.


Exercise, deep breathing, and strain on the muscles of the chest may worsen the pain and slow the healing process.


Treatment plans recommended by some doctors include regularly scheduled rest.  Others, however, stress the importance of continued mobility during the recovery phase, if tolerated.

Not recommended for
Muscular Dystrophy

Complete inactivity (such as bed rest) can worsen the disease.

Neck / Spine

Not recommended for
Low Back Pain

Inactivity is definitely detrimental to patients with low back pain.

Tumors, Malignant

Carcinoid Cancer

Physical stress should be avoided since this can precipitate carcinoid crisis attacks.

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May be useful: may help with
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Moderately useful: often helps with
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often helps with
Very useful: is highly recommended for
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Caution: is sometimes not recommended for
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