Sources: Papers On Health

In every person there is a certain amount only of force which is

available for living. Also this force, or vitality, is produced at

only a certain definite rate. Where the rate is very low, only perfect

quiet in bed for a time can bring down the expenditure far enough to

enable the vital force gradually to accumulate, and a cure to be

effected. Sitting, in such cases, may be serious overwork.

When rest is ordered, we are often met by the reply that it is

impossible, as work cannot be given up. It is, however, often possible

to get a great deal more than is taken. Every spare moment should be

spent lying down in the most restful position. It is an important

element in nursing to give such a comfortable recumbent position to a

patient as constitutes perfect rest, and the nurse who does so, does a

great deal to cure.

There is with many a prejudice against rest. It is somehow believed

that it is a weakening thing to lie still in bed. "You must get up and

take exercise, and enjoy the fresh air." This is a very good order for

a person who has the strength for bracing exercise and fresh air. But

this is absent in a person truly ill. That person's vital force is low,

and the organs that supply it are feeble in their action. The fresh air

may enter the chest, but the lungs are not in a state to make good use

of it. "Exercise and fresh air" only consume the sufferer. On the

contrary, rest and fresh air allow the weak vital force to recruit. The

sort of exercise which is wanted in such cases is given by others in

massaging or such squeezing the muscles as stimulates the organic

nerves without using vital force in the sufferer. We have repeatedly

succeeded in giving new strength by some weeks in bed, when it could

not have been given otherwise. It is all very well for a young, strong

person, only a very little out of sorts, to take a cold sitz-bath for

ten minutes, and then a walk of a mile or two in mountain or seashore

air. But this treatment would be death to one really ill. Perfect rest

in bed, with an abundant supply of air through windows open night and

day, would save the life which such "exercise and air" would send out

of the world. It requires only a little common sense to see this. "He

must be weakened by lying in bed so long." There is no such "must" in

the nature of things. On the contrary, it may be absolutely necessary

to his getting strength that he should lie still for weeks on end. You

may, no doubt, give us instances in which a person was compelled to get

up, and was thereby made to lose the delusion that he was not able to

do so; but such instances in any number will not make one strong who is

actually weak. Make sure first that vital energy is supplied, and when

that supply rises to a certain degree it will not be easy to keep your

patient in bed.

We would also note that true rest can never be had in a forced

position. A limb bound down is not resting. The agonising desire to

change its position shows this. True rest is found always in freedom

and ease. It may be necessary to put splints on a limb, but it must

never be done where rest is aimed at. Usually there is a position of

comfort to be found. Let the patient find and keep that. He will then

have rest.

For instance, an exhausted patient is lying at full length in bed, but

under the waist there is a hollow which is bridged over by the back.

This part of the back calls for a considerable amount of force to hold

it over this hollow, but we get a pillow inserted under the back, the

muscles relax, and the patient rests. In packing and fomenting an

inflamed knee, for example, it is usually better done in a slightly

bent position, which is more restful than a straight one. Employ two

or three small pillows to prop it comfortably. And so on, in multitudes

of cases, the earnest healer will be guided by the patient's own

restful feelings. See also Noise; Veins.