Bedrest, which is often recommended as a therapy for everything from backache to the complications of pregnancy, does not help, and may even hinder, recovery from some illnesses.
That's the conclusion of an analysis performed by Australian researchers. The scientists reviewed 39 trials of bedrest for 15 different conditions, with a total of 5777 patients.
In 24 trials investigating bedrest following a medical procedure, no outcomes improved significantly, and eight showed a worsening of the condition. Bedrest was most likely to make the condition worse after lumbar puncture, spinal anaesthesia, radioculography and cardiac catheterisation.
In a further 15 trials which investigated bedrest as a primary treatment, nine showed a significantly worse outcome for some conditions. Those conditions which did not benefit from bedrest as a primary treatment were acute low back pain, labour, protein in the urine, hypertension during pregnancy (preeclampsia), heart attack and acute infectious hepatitis.
The authors note that bedrest is still being overprescribed by physicians (Lancet, 1999; 354: 1229-33).