Guide to Choosing Mattresses for Back Pain Patients

Lack of sleep can be an annoying problem, but combining it with niggling back pain can spell nightmare. While there are a number of possible underlying causes of back pain, the primary culprit may just be right under your nose – your mattress. Yes, you need to take a closer look at the bed you sleep on. This may just not save you a few winks, but more importantly, the health of your back and spine.

The Debate on the Best Mattress

For years, there have been continuous debates on what’s the best mattress for people with chronic back pain. A lot of advertising hype veered towards promoting firm mattresses as the most ideal choice.

This have been the universally accepted notion for several years until people with firm mattresses claim to still deal with back pain problems despite having spent fortunes on top of the line mattresses.

While it is true that mattresses are not to be perceived as a miracle cure for back pain since there are a host of possible underlying causes, the choice of mattress is still very important to alleviate and manage back pain.

Remember, we normally spend 6-8 hours in bed, it’s high time we pay better attention on the quality of mattress we sleep on.

Recently, there have been studies that show that there is no generic solution for everyone. There are a number of factors to be considered when choosing a mattress. This goes without saying that the best mattress is not necessary the firm one.

First, Some Back Pain Facts

Our back supports an intricate system of joints, discs, tendons, ligaments, nerves, muscles and vertebrae. The human spine is specifically designed to function better in an upright position.

Every time we lie down, especially on a bed with poor support, we subject our spinal components to significant amount of stress and tension.

So you can just imagine, if you have an existing back problem, sleeping on a bad mattress can easily aggravate the problem.   In such cases, lack of sleep may just be the least of your worries.

To better understand how to maintain the mechanics of the spine, we need to take a look at some basic facts about our spine. It is made up of three sections and three gentle arches that need support whether you are on an upright or supine position.

First, Some Back Pain Facts

The cervical spine, which has a C shape curve consists of 7 vertebrae and supports the head. The thoracic spine that follows a reverse C shape curve includes 12 vertebrae and is responsible for supporting the upper body.

The last one is the lumbar spine or more commonly known as the lower back, which has a C shape curve, has 5 vertebrae and is the very foundation of the back.

If these curves are not supported properly, it can lead to chronic pain in the back or for those with existing ones, further aggravation of the condition.

This brings us to an obvious conclusion that for people with back pain, it is critically important to choose a bed with chiropractic and orthopedic attributes. This requires a high-quality mattress that will minimize skeletal problems.

What’s the Best Mattress Type for Back Pain?

There are a number of factors to be considered when choosing a mattress.   Remember, this is no such thing as a one size fits all solution here. Below are some important aspects that you need to take into account.

1. Body Shape

If you have bigger than usual hips, you need a somewhat softer mattress to be able to keep the body in a neutral position. An overly firm mattress will force the lower back to slump to reach the mattress. If mattress is too soft, your body will tend to sink on the lower back. Your back will accommodate this by shifting towards the opposite direction – which is equally uncomfortable.

2. Type of Back Problem

As with all things in life, different problems require different solution. The same also apply to choosing an ideal mattress for your back pain. For patients with lumbar disc problems, you need a slightly firmer mattress. On the other hand, for people with spinal stenosis, a slightly softer bed is a better choice. And then there are those with lower back problems, who should consider getting a medium firm mattress.

3. Sleeping Positions

Wrong sleeping positions can also contribute to back pain. Lying on your back for extended period of time will force your lumbar spine to flatten, resulting to pain and stiffness. If you lie on your stomach for a prolonged period, the lumbar spine is curve than its normal shape which can also cause pain. So it is generally recommended to sleep on your side, alternating from left to right from time to time.

Guide to Choosing a Mattress

Before you go buy a new mattress, here are some valuable tips to help you in your selection process:

  • Support – A good mattress should be able to support the natural curvature of your body in all points.  This means your spine should be able to keep its same shape as when you are in an upright position.  When testing a mattress, pay careful attention to your shoulders, lower back and hips, all these three are the heaviest parts. If the mattress is overly hard, you can immediately experience an uncomfortable pressure.
  • Bed Selection – Keep in mind that it’s just not about the mattress. Your investment will prove useless if you place the mattress on an old worn-out bed.  Give it a good foundation.
  • Space – Normally, a sleeping person shifts position about 40-60 times during the night. If you are sleeping with a partner, then make sure you both have enough space to move.
  • Comfort – There are a number of mattress options such as water, foam, spring and air. Any of these types can work for back pain, but you need to personally test it to properly gauge which one will best suit you.

When to Replace Your Mattress

As a general rule of the thumb, it is time to get a new mattress if the old one no longer provides the back support you need.  According to experts, the spine should never sink into the mattress. As to the question on how long it would usually take for the mattress to wear out to this state, it largely depends on how you weigh and how you sleep.

Mattresses typically have a lifespan of 15-17 years, although this may vary in consideration to the different quality and type of mattress you buy. It is a good idea to test new mattresses from time to time so you can better distinguish the difference between your existing one and a new one and help you decide if you indeed need to buy a replacement.

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Cherine Weiland

Cherine puts a strong emphasis on serving patient needs, clinical excellence, community involvement and empowering team training that builds the spirit of excellence that drives Active Back Care.

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