Why the word "rest" makes me cringe

   This week, one of my clients had to have a pre-cancerous skin lesion removed from the back of her thigh.  The provider that removed the lesion told her, “don’t do anything for 2 weeks.” I don’t profess to know everything possible about removal of skin lesions, but here’s my beef...this type of recommendation gets made to patients ALL THE TIME. I mean, A LOT. This recommendation to “rest” is made for pretty much everything, as far as I can tell. Including: outpatient orthopedic surgeries, tendinopathies, fasciopathies, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, concussion, removal of cancerous lesions, muscle strains and even yes...delayed onset muscle soreness (*insert wide-eyed emoji). So, I asked my patient how it made her feel to be told not to do anything for 2 weeks after having a few stitches put into her leg and she said “I just don’t understand why and I’m scared that if I do anything, I’ll mess something up.”  This is EXACTLY why I cringe to hear a provider recommend strict rest after anything...fear.  

    Fear is a driving force in our lives, but why do we so often use fear in healthcare in such a negative way? The implications of having a person rest are so grave for many injuries, illnesses, diseases, aches and pains. Not only does it make a person less healthy overall, it makes a person AFRAID of the implications of movement or activity.  “Oh, my body needs to rest to heal.” I call bullsh**.

    Our bodies are made to move. Like REALLY made to move. It’s incredible actually, how adaptable and resilient our bodies are and that is precisely why I told my patient to hell with that recommendation. We’re going to move in ways that make you feel safe, make you feel good, keep you active and don’t disrupt the stitches. I empowered my patient to move in the realm of her comfort level after being told something that really upset her. I empowered her through my use of encouraging words and safety reminders. May we all stop and remember that movement is our profession. Movement is our specialty. Movement is the skill we can teach people. MOVEMENT is indeed MEDICINE.  STOP telling people to rest.

End rant.

 

Cheers,

Dr. Ellie Somers, Physical Therapist