When we are in pain, our natural response is to tighten up and not move. Unfortunately, this is the worst thing that we can do! The tensing of muscles and immobility actually contributes to greater pain. Numerous research studies have found that bed rest is the worst course of action. If the injury or pain is sever, resting an affected area for 24 hours may be warranted. If the pain is mild or moderate than immediate movement is beneficial. Early introduction of gentle stretching and exercising speeds the healing process. There has been a large study that shows that remaining active speeds the rate of recovery, reduces chronic disability, and reduces time spent off work in people with acute low back pain. Multiple studies have found that exercise is more effective than other conservative treatments, such as pain medication, in people with chronic low back pain.
It is hard to fight the urge to curl up in a ball and stay in bed if you are having pain, but guided movements will make you feel better sooner. Start with gentle stretching. As your symptoms improve, you can move on to more strenuous strengthening. Making stretching and strength training part of your routine not only will help resolve a current injury, but also could prevent a future injury.
Tulber, M. W. and Koes, B. W. (2002). Clinical Evidence: Low Back Pain. American Family Physician. Mar 1;65(5):925-929.
Gregory, D. S., Seto, C. K,, Wortley, G. C., and Shugart, C. M. (2008). Acute Lumbar Disk Pain: Navigating Evaluation and Treatment Choices.American Family Physician. Oct 1;78(7):835-842.