How to Choose the Best Mattress for Back Pain
Finding the right mattress to fix back pain takes time…
Got a bad back? You’re not alone. Sore and aching backs send more people to doctors than any other single complaint and the busier we get, the more we suffer. Sitting all day at a desk or standing in heels wreaks havoc on spinal alignment and sadly, most of us are just not exercising enough to undo that damage.
Sleep can help heal the abuse we throw at our backs but a good, supportive mattress can be hard to find. And the trouble is, if our backs don’t get the rest they need, nothing will change.
If you and your mattress have lost that loving feeling, let’s talk about the difference between firmness and support and an important thing called conformability.
What does mattress support mean and what does it have to do with my bad back?
When a mattress sales person starts talking about support, she’s referring to how well a mattress can maintain an equally level surface for the lighter (head, hands and feet) and heavier (hips and torso) parts of your body. A very soft mattress can begin life as supportive but may lose the ability to bounce back over time. In some cases, a soft mattress that begins to sag (which often occurs in the center of the mattress) can cause back pain in and out of bed.
An important thing to note is that some degree of dipping (in that middle third of your mattress) is a natural occurrence as areas that support the heaviest parts of the body gradually compress over time. Regardless of what’s inside your mattress – coils, foam or latex.
What does mattress conformability mean and why is it important?
While a supportive mattress is important, pay attention to how it conforms to your shape as well. Conformability describes how a mattress will subtly mold to the unique curves of your body. A mattress with good conformability attends to heavier and lighter areas equally, which relieves pressure point pain and protects your back from pain.
A mattress that lacks conformability can result in lower back pain by forcing it into an unnaturally flat position. Your body is in alignment when the spine is (mostly) straight when lying on your side. When you lie on your back, your spine naturally forms an “S” shape. A supportive, conforming mattress allows your back muscles to relax, which improves healthy blood circulation and reduces tossing and turning.
What type of mattress is best for reducing back pain?
Mom always said the firmer the mattress, the better and most of us still sleep on a mattress that feels more like the sidewalk than a bed. Thanks to that advice, chiropractors and massage therapists enjoy job security.
To minimize pain and discomfort and help your body relax into healing, regenerative sleep, you need a mattress that conforms to your body’s favorite sleeping positions while supporting all areas of your body. In general, mattresses fall into three categories.
- Soft mattresses. Tend to conform to your shape but fail to deliver uniform support across the entire body, which can result in lower back pain.
- Medium firm mattresses. Tend to conform to your body equally across the entire surface of the mattress, which alleviates pressure point pain for most people.
- Very firm mattresses. Tend to offer good support but don’t conform to the body equally, which can lead to pressure point pain.
Remember that your mattress foundation, whether it’s an adjustable base, Bunkie board or platform also affect how well your mattress supports your back.
Does your mattress offer you the support, conformability and firmness you need to reduce your back pain?
Shopping for a new mattress
So how do you find the best mattress for you? Grab your partner (if you don’t sleep alone) and start mattress shopping. By shopping, we mean lying on a lot of mattresses.
Talk to lots of sales people – this is their business after all – but be prepared to test mattresses for yourself. You know how your body feels on a bad mattress, so it makes sense that you’ll also know what feels good. Try these 3 simple rules when shopping:
- You don’t sleep sitting up so lie down on the bed.
- Lie on the bed like you do at home – side, stomach or back.
- Compare mattresses at similar price points so you’re comparing similar mattresses.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- 7 mattress myths debunked
- Where to put your bed for the best night’s sleep
- The ultimate guide to what’s inside your mattress