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Choosing a mattress for lower back pain

Getting a good mattress and bed will greatly increase your chances of staying pain free in your lower back....

mattressSleeping on the wrong mattress can have significant consequences for lower back pain. A mattress lacking in back support reinforces poor sleeping posture, strains your back muscles, and does not help keep the spine in alignment... all of which can increase lower back pain.

You can also sacrifice sleep comfort and quality if you do not choose a mattress that matches your individual preferences. A long night tossing and turning makes not only for lower back pain but low energy levels and tiredness! It will also affect your partner as well!

A mattress that provides both sleep comfort and back support helps reduce lower back pain, allowing the structures in the spine to really rest and rejuvenate during the night.

With the variety of mattresses on the market, choosing the right mattress for sleep comfort and back support can be a confusing decision. For people with low back pain, it’s definitely worth it to take time to select the best mattress for their back. The following practical guidelines are designed to help people with lower back pain choose the best mattress for back support and sleep comfort.


1. Personal preference should ultimately determine what mattress to purchase. Any mattress that helps someone sleep without pain and stiffness is the best mattress for that individual. There is no single mattress that works for all people with lower back pain. You should choose the mattress that meets your standards for comfort and support and allows you to get a good night’s sleep.


2. Understand and enquire about the physical components of the mattress. The coils or inner springs inside a mattress provide back support, and different mattresses vary in their number and arrangement of coils. Padding on top of the mattress provides comfort and comes in many different thicknesses. Mattresses depths typically range anywhere from 7 to 18 inches deep. Choosing the number of coils, type of padding and mattress depth should be determined by your preferences for back support and sleep comfort.


3. Find a mattress with sufficient back support to reduce low back pain. A good mattress should provide support while allowing for the natural curves and alignment of the spine. Proper back support from the mattress also helps you avoid muscle soreness in the morning. A recent study indicates that medium-firm mattresses usually provide more back pain relief than firm mattresses. See this study on the best types of mattress for back support for more information.


4. Achieve a balance between back support and sleep comfort when buying a mattress. Overall comfort while sleeping on the mattress is equally important as sufficient back support. Sleeping on a mattress that is too firm can cause aches and pains on pressure points. A medium-firm mattress may be more comfortable because it allows the shoulder and hips to sink in slightly. People who want a firmer mattress for back support can get one with thicker padding for greater comfort. Choosing a good pillow is another important factor for sleep comfort.


mattress back pain5. Know when it’s time to get a new mattress. If an old mattress sags visibly in the middle or if the patient is no longer sleeping comfortably on the mattress, it is probably time to purchase a new one. Putting boards under a sagging mattress is only a short-term fix and may cause more back problems and low back pain in the long run. If the old mattress is still comfortable for you then you may choose to wait before buying a new one.


6. Shop for the best value and quality of the mattress rather than for price. Finding a high-quality mattress is usually worth the investment, considering the effect a mattress can have on low back pain and sleep comfort. Mattresses with more coils and thicker padding tend to be higher quality and also more expensive. However, a higher price is no guarantee that the mattress is more comfortable or more supportive than a less expensive mattress. Mattress stores often have sales and promotions, so it may pay off to comparison-shop for the best price after finding the right mattress.


7. Be aware of mattress advertising gimmicks. Claims that a mattress is “orthopedic” or “medically-approved” should be viewed skeptically. There has not been extensive medical research or controlled clinical trials on the topic of mattresses and low back pain. The individual person must determine whether or not extra features on a mattress make it more comfortable or supportive for the back.


8. Give the mattress a test-run before buying. You might be able to try sleeping on different makes and models in hotels or at other people’s homes before going to a mattress store. When shopping at the store, shoppers should lay on the mattress with their shoes off for several minutes to decide if it is a good fit. If two people will be sleeping on the mattress, both should test it at the same time to make sure they have enough space and are both comfortable on the same style of mattress. Testing a variety of mattresses is necessary because mattress companies use different ratings of firmness and padding.


9. Purchase mattresses from stores and companies that are trustworthy. Consider the customer service offered by the mattress store, such as delivery options, warranty, removal of old mattresses and especially the store’s return policy. Look for mattress stores where customers can return a mattress if they are not satisfied with the quality or comfort after sleeping on it for a significant amount of time (i.e. a couple of weeks to a month).


10. Take good care of the new mattress. It is recommended that owners reposition their mattress every six months to ensure that the mattress is evenly worn. This includes rotating 180 degrees and flipping the mattress lengthwise on a regular basis. The Better Sleep Council advises that putting a mattress on a box spring/foundation that is not made to go with the mattress may decrease the life of the new mattress.

Adapted from Spine Health.

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