There are many different reasons why a doctor may put their patient on bedrest, such as having extremely high blood pressure, pregnancy complications, or when healing from a surgery or procedure. Although bed rest may sometimes be necessary to treat one area of health, it does come with side effects, especially on your joints, mobility, and muscles.
Effects of Bedrest on the Body
Muscles: Prolonged bed rest can lead to muscle atrophy (muscle wasting away) or sarcopenia (loss of lean muscle). This can lead to weakness which can make completing routine tasks like walking or holding objects more difficult.
There is also a reduction in slow and fast twitch fibers. These fibers are responsible for releasing energy and aiding in muscle contractions to complete movements.
Bedrest can also contribute to metabolic changes. Muscle contraction fuel is glucose, which is delivered through insulin. Glucose is then stored in the muscles, but after prolonged inactivity, less glucose can be stored, which may reduce muscle contractions.
Tendons, ligaments, and cartilage: Overtime, tissue can shorten, which can become permanent and lead to weakness and shortening of the muscles. Immobility also triggers contractures, which is an imbalance in the strength of opposing muscle groups. This contributes to a limited range of motion.
Joint contractures can begin to form within eight hours of immobility and become so severe that it can ultimately restrict the range of movement. Contractures may be avoided through proper bed alignment along with performing a full range of motion at least every eight hours. Physiotherapists and nurses can help with safe movements in beds to prevent complications.
Bedrest may be necessary, but there are some risks associated with it. Working with nurse’s and physiotherapists can help reduce some of these side effects along with following your doctor’s orders. You want to ensure that you bedrest isn’t harming other areas of health in the long run.
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