Rest vs Activity

Rest vs Activity

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Rest vs Activity

When it comes to injury the rest vs activity question is common. Which is better for recovery? Will I hurt myself more? No pain no gain, right? This can be a tricky road to navigate and with our guidance you can optimize your recovery using both principals.


Historically the thought of resting musculoskeletal injuries was best practice. While rest will reduce the likelihood of putting your body in a compromising position which could potentially lead to re-injury or worsening of the current condition, it does come with a cost. With rest, or inactivity, blood flow is reduced. Blood flow is the main contributor to tissue healing, thus the injured tissue will heal more slowly.

In addition, with rest and inactivity, the surrounding musculature continue to brace and protect the injured area. This will often lead to excessive tightness and altered movement patterns that lead to compensation during everyday activities. If you have ever injured your back or ankle you can relate.

Either injury will often lead to altered gait (walking) patterns which present as a limp to leaning in unnatural, or inefficient, manner. Commonly the altered pattern of locomotion starts to produce additional pain in other regions of the body, often culprits are knees or hips. Now instead of having one injured area of your body all of a sudden two, three or even more regions begin to hurt. Now what? Less moving and more rest which will again contribute to the perpetual downward spiral of body pain and limited mobility.

Feeling sore, stiff, with the inability to participate in everyday activities, let alone fun recreational activities, begin to be frustrating. Now your attitude and mood is starting to deteriorate as well. Most of us have felt like this before and it is not a desirable way to live life.

Hearing this, why rest? Well the short answer is rest can be beneficial in some cases, specifically post surgical. Our body does need rest to heal in situations such as this. Our bodies do most of our tissue repair while we are sleeping. So yes, sleeping (rest) does have a benefit; however, excessive rest and inactivity during our waking hours commonly is less than optimal.


On the other hand, activity and movement could put your body in a compromising position as referenced earlier, increasing your risk to produce further injury or tissue damage. More damage could lead to prolonged recovery contributing to frustration and could create a sensation of being defeated.

However, hope is not lost. Activity and movement provides an opportunity to reintroduce efficient and optimal movement patterns. The restoration of said movement patterns usually reduce our body’s propensity to increase unnecessary protective guarding, which as we now know, will usually prolong musculoskeletal healing.

Furthermore, normalized activity and movement will increase blood flow providing yet another opportunity to quicken tissue healing. Faster healing helps us to feel more confident, improves our attitude and mood, and allows us to thrive in life vs just trying to survive the day. Thriving is always better than surviving!

What is best?

As usual the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Rest is important for allowing injuries to heal, especially post operatively, and reduce excessive stress to the injury site(s). Activity is important to improve blood flow and reduce compensatory movement patterns which will contribute to additional regions to be stressed unnecessarily. Too much or too little of either will prolong healing and reduce your ability to fully perform in your daily life.

The phrase we use to describe this balance is, “When tissue is challenged appropriately the tissue will respond appropriately”. Our physical therapy and medical staff work closely to ensure you can achieve the optimal balance between rest and activity to quicken your recovery post injury and surgery.


Recovery from injury can carry many emotions. Frustration, anger, fear, and confusion with all the information we are exposed to on a daily basis.  Balancing rest and activity is a crucial aspect of improving quality of life.  Our musculoskeletal professionals at Compcare are available to assist navigating through the Rest vs Activity balance during and after the recovery process. So if you are ready to thrive vs survive your days, schedule an appointment at one of our convenient locations. Here’s to thriving!

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