Back pain is serious business. Chances are, you or someone you know has had back pain at some time. It can be annoying in its most mild appearances and debilitating when more severe. Having a good mattress for back pain is more than a convenience; it can make a significant difference in a person’s quality of life.
Back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide and it is expensive. Americans spend over $86 billion a year on back-pain related health-care costs. That includes things like doctors visits, medicines, procedures and other medical expenses. As one of the most common reasons for missed work, back pain is associated with economic costs from lost productivity, too.
Causes of Back Pain
Our backs are a complicated entanglement of ligaments, muscles, cartilage, nerves and bone. It should come as no surprise that people have back pain for a number of different reasons. We subject our backs to a lot of mechanical strain and stress in our daily lives. The weight of our entire upper body is supported by our backs. Accidents, age, heredity and other factors can affect back health, too.
Some back conditions, such as degenerative and herniated discs, are serious and should be treated by a medical professional, but many are a result of our actions and our environment. Improving your posture, exercising, and getting a good mattress can go a long way in helping alleviate back pain.
You may have heard that resting is the best treatment for back pain. In the last few decades, however, doctors have started advising patients with lower back pain to stay as active as they can. Though a prescription of bedrest may not be what the doctor orders, a good mattress can help limit back pain throughout the day, by providing a healthy sleep surface throughout the night.
Sleep Positions and Surfaces: What You Need to Know
Beds are generally viewed as furniture, but they can be a tool for health, also. We spend a third of our lives sleeping. Our spines spend years in alignments created by our mattresses. A supportive and conforming mattress can reduce your pain and help you sleep better,
When it comes to sleep surfaces, there are many different types to choose from. There are three characteristics you should consider when looking for the best mattress for back pain. Pay attention to:
Supportiveness is integral in reducing and preventing back pain. This refers to how well a mattress keeps the body level without letting any part of the body rest lower or higher than another. Old and new mattresses often lack support and can exacerbate back pain.
The firmness of a mattress should not be confused with support. While support refers to how the body lays upon the mattress, firmness more closely related to the initial feel of the mattress.
Firmness in mattresses is measured with an Indentation Load Deflection, or ILD, rating. This measurement is the number of pounds of pressure needed to create a one inch by fifty square inch indentation in four inches of foam. Firmer foams receive higher ratings.
The firmness of mattress that will work best for your back depends on your sleeping position. Pressure points, stress points and your back’s shape all change with your position. In order to minimize stress points, match your mattress firmness to your sleeping position:
- Stomach Sleepers – This is considered by many to be the worst sleeping position for back pain. If you are most comfortable on your stomach, be sure to get a mattress of medium firmness. You want something that is soft enough to relieve pressure from your knees, but not soft enough to sink into, causing stress on the back.
- Back Sleepers – Medium to firm mattresses are preferred by back sleepers. They need firmness, but not too much pressure on the spine.
- Side Sleepers – Those who sleep on their sides need softer mattresses. Side sleepers need to sink into the mattress to allow it to conform to their body’s curves.
- Combination Sleepers – People who sleep in a number of different positions tend to prefer a medium-firm mattress. This provides softness for side sleeping, but is firm enough for stomach sleeping, also.
If you share your bed, you’ll need to consider your sleeping partner’s sleeping position as well. If your sleeping partner uses a different position than you, meet in the middle on firmness or look for a mattress that allows you to customize each side.
Conformability refers to the ability of a mattress to contour, or mold, to a body’s shape. By following the curves of the sleeper’s body, a mattress provides support to areas like the lower back. Inconsistencies in conformability can create unwanted pressure on the spine or contribute to muscle tension.
The best mattress for back pain will rate well in supportiveness and conformability and have a firmness that matches your sleeping style.
Best Types of Mattresses for Back Pain
We’ve come a long way in regards to the mattress selection available to the modern consumer. There are many different types of beds made with various materials. Some are better for back pain than others.
Futon mattresses come in dozens of varieties. Some have innersprings and others are just stuffed with various types of padding. They are typically inexpensive, but lack support and conformability. Futons often have longevity, or durability issues as well.
Waterbeds can be very conforming, but as anyone who has ever slept on one will tell you, they lack support. Firmness levels can be adjusted by changing the amount of water in the mattress, but water can only support so much. There is no isolation of movement with these mattresses, also. Users movements cause waves that can ripple for a few moments.
Innerspring mattresses often have positive consumer reviews not long after purchasing, but these mattresses are fairly susceptible to early sagging. Spring mattresses come in many different prices and varieties. Individual types and brands vary greatly in quality and consumer satisfaction ratings, though excessive firmness is a common complaint. Spring mattresses can be topped with memory foam, latex, or pillow tops for added conformability.
Memory foam mattresses consistently receive better than average owner satisfaction rates. With generally good support and conformability, consumers often associate pain relief with sleeping on them. Some softer or very dense models can be difficult to get out of, but overall these mattresses are a solid choice for back pain sufferers.
Latex mattresses receive above-average owner satisfaction ratings. They offer good support and moderate conformability. These mattresses have many of the benefits of memory foam without some of their setbacks. Latex can be made from all-natural and organic materials for those concerned about ecological or health issues. Though not as widely available as some other varieties, latex mattresses can be purchased online through a number of retailers.
What is the Best Mattress for Back Pain?
Your best mattress for back pain likely won’t be the same mattress your neighbor prefers. There are many factors to consider, including the amount of money you can spend. The bottom line is, simply getting a new mattress can reduce your pain and improve your sleep quality. If you’re sleeping on an old or sagging mattress, you will likely see significant improvements with any type of new bed.
Memory foam and latex mattresses consistently get better owner satisfaction rates than the other mattress types. For back pain sufferers, they provide the best overall conformability, support and firmness with the durability to use every night for years.
There are more memory foam mattresses available for consumers across a wider price range. Several companies provide quality products at surprisingly low prices. Take the time and shop around, you find a lot of information online. You can even shop for mattresses using the internet without ever having to leave the house.
In our recent guides, memory foam beds from brands like Amerisleep and iComfort earned above average ratings, and natural latex mattresses from Lifekind and Astrabeds also offered good value and satisfaction potential.
You should consult your doctor before making any drastic changes to your sleeping patterns. He or she will know your unique situation and can also tell you what you should avoid or look for. The key things to keep in mind when it comes to finding a comfortable mattress are to listen to your body, consider your sleep preferences, and take time to research things like quality. Your mattress is something you’ll be spending a lot of quality time with, and finding a good match can make all the difference for managing or at least minimizing back pain.