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Use it or Lose it!!!

Use it or Lose it

While a short period of rest can be beneficial for many injuries, allowing inflamed tissues to heal and minimizing stress on recovering structures, there comes a point where too much rest can lead to other, more serious health issues. Prolonged bed rest affects many of the body’s systems, including the musculoskeletal, integumentary, respiratory, cardiovascular and GI systems.

Negative Side Effects:

- Muscle mass decreases 1-2% per day of bed rest

o It takes twice as long to regain lost muscle mass in relatively healthy individuals, but even longer in those with ongoing health concerns

- Decreased bone density, leading to increased risk of fracture

o Osteoblasts (the cells responsible for building strong bones) decrease in number with bedrest while osteoclasts (the cells responsible for breaking down bone) increase

- Respiratory Complications (i.e Pneumonia, atelectasis, diaphragm weakness, etc.)

- Increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (blood clots)

- Pressure wounds

- Constipation

Unfortunately, several injuries or illnesses lead to unavoidable episodes of prolonged immobilization and/or bed rest. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most current, drastic examples of this type of illness. Patients diagnosed with COVID-19 present with a wide range of medical complexity from mild respiratory involvement to prolonged ICU hospital stays requiring ventilatory assistance. Regardless of the severity, many of these patients are reporting symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath and muscle weakness that linger for weeks or months after diagnosis.

How PTs Can Help

Physical therapists are considered the movement experts. They understand how the various parts of the body are supposed to work together and how to look at the entire kinetic chain to identify the smallest dysfunctions. What many people do not realize is that PTs breadth of knowledge stretches to all of the body’s various systems and how they function together, as well as how an impairment in one can affect any number of other systems. Whether the issue at hand is related to muscles and joints, cardiac or respiratory, or any combination, a PT is able to work with that patient to create individualized care plans that maximize functional independence. Talk to your PT today about getting started on the best program for you.

Dittmer DK, Teasell R. Complications of immobilization and bed rest, part 1: musculoskeletal and cardiovascular complications. Can Fam Physician 1993; 39: 1428-32, 1435-37

Carfi A, et al. Persistent symptoms in patients after acute COVID-19. JAMA. 2020; doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12603.

Staff, A. (2019, February 13). Bed Rest Can Set off a Chain of Complications. Retrieved September 12, 2020, from


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