Types of Back Pain
Orthopedic pain takes a variety of forms and back pain can range from lower back (sciatica) all the way up to the shoulders and neck. In the past, people were advised to select the most firm mattress available to help offset back trouble, but today we know that’s bad advice. In fact, for sciatic troubles, a firm selection is the worst choice. A recent study demonstrated that a semi-firm mattress provided the best sleep for sciatica sufferers. Upper spine and neck pain are less common but nevertheless a problem for many people, usually from poor posture or chronic tension in the muscles. These complaints typically also respond well to a semi-firm bed but you may need to consider the type of pillow you use as well as sleeping position.
Back Support versus Overall Comfort
The sciatica study noted above demonstrated that medium levels of firmness were most beneficial for lower back discomfort, thanks to a combination of support and pressure distribution. Pressure points are a significant consideration in mattress selection in any case, but become even more critical when back problems are present. While a very firm mattress exacerbated pain levels in the study, a very soft mattress was equally painful. The term supportiveness, as it relates to mattresses, refers to the degree to which a bed keeps the body on a level plane, versus allowing some portions to sink down or be lower than others. Again, moderation is generally the best choice for both support and firmness.
Selecting the Right Mattress for Your Back
Although most experts recommend replacing your mattress if it’s eight years or more old, a new study recommends replacing your bed every five years if you suffer with back pain. The study went on to show that those individuals sleeping in new beds reported significantly less pain. When testing beds, you should feel no arching of the spine whatsoever when lying on your back. Your shoulders and hips should sink in slightly with no gaps existing between your spine and the mattress. When lying on your side, there must be no pressure on shoulder or hip.
Orthopedic experts recommend visiting a local mattress retail store when you have plenty of time to explore and test. Spend time talking with the sales consultant and be prepared to describe your specific pain profile, sleeping habits and current mattress type. Take your own pillow along and plan to spend at least 15 minutes testing out each of your top three choices before making a selection. Although there is no one magic choice of mattresses for back pain, doing a little research and trusting a professional to point you in the right direction will help you make the correct selection.