Princess and the Pea, Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Sleeping Beauty—why do we have so many fairy tales that feature mattresses as key players? Is it because a good mattress is only a thing of fables? Does a “just right” mattress to avoid back pain exist? This is a common question we get here at Pinnacle Chiropractic here in Highlands Ranch. Lets see if we can answer it here.
Most of us have experienced the dramatic letdown of having what seemed like a good night’s sleep only to sit up and realize that our backs did not share the opinion. Back pain is debilitating, and if you want to get a good night’s sleep and avoid lower back pain, you must find the right mattress for your spine. A good mattress is essential for avoiding lumbar pain during the day and for experiencing a well-rested night.
The bad news is that there is no one kind of mattress that is best for back pain because all backs and sleeping habits are different. The good news is that with a little experimentation, you can find the perfect fit for your specific needs. We have a few suggestions to look out for when choosing a mattress to avoid back pain.
Keep Your Spine Aligned
Your spine is—quite literally—the backbone of everything you do. When you rest, it is crucial to keep your spine optimally aligned. Doing so will allow your soft tissue (muscles and ligaments) to rest when you are inactive. If your spine is strained as you sleep, your muscles are forced to work to support that misalignment. Also keep in mind that the pillow you use plays a part in maintaining a good alignment while you sleep as well.
Provide Adequate Support
Despite previous apocryphal suggestions, sleeping on a hard mattress or even the floor is probably not the best way to support your back and avoid back pain. On the other hand, mattresses that are too soft do not give your body the support it needs to rest your muscles. Your challenge is to find the right Goldilocks sweet spot when it comes to the firmness of your mattress.
Do Your Research
When sleeping on a mattress that is not your usual bed, pay attention to how that mattress feels. This will help you gather information about what kind of features are right for you in a mattress to avoid back pain. If you experience a good night’s sleep in a hotel or while staying at a friend’s house, record the mattress’ model number. You can also try out different mattresses at department stores, but keep in mind that laying on a mattress for five minutes is not the same as a full night’s sleep. Some mattress companies will allow extended trial periods, i.e. you can return some mattresses within 30 days or so if you’re not satisfied with your experience.
Know the Components of Your Mattress
Does your mattress have springs? When you have a box spring or even a wooden board under your mattress, is it more comfortable than if you don’t? Do you sleep better when you have a pad built into the top of your mattress? Has memory foam provided comfort and support in the past?
Memory foam mattresses usually sit at a medium level firmness, which is good for support, but keep in mind that memory foam molds to the body and so traps in heat for a warmer night’s sleep. Some beds come with the functionality of lifting either end of the mattress. While this may not be a consistently good solution for keeping the spine aligned during the night, it may help relieve pressure on your back.
While we don’t generally advocate buying something for the sake of buying something, in the case of finding the right mattress to avoid back pain, that may be your solution. A study conducted by Oklahoma State University showed that all of the 62 participants reported reduced low-back pain over the 28-day study period, regardless of which mattresses they were provided. They concluded that new mattresses can significantly improve selected sleep variables and that sleep quality throughout the night may be dependent on the regular replacement of one’s mattress.
Mattresses, like so many other things around the house, wear down in quality with time, so it only makes sense that they need to be replaced regularly. Mattress replacement is not a small task, so people often let it slide for years longer than they should. If you need a change in your mattress to avoid back pain, a totally new mattress might be the solution.