Four facts are indisputable. First, more than 40 million adults experience recurring or chronic back pain, most of which is non-specific. This means that there is no specific therapy to remove the source of the pain. Second, we spend one-third of our lives lying on a mattress. Third, there is a definite relationship between the mattress you sleep on and your back pain. Restful sleep is essential for maintaining a healthy back and spine. Fourth, choosing the right mattress can (1) improve your condition if you have an existing back pain issue, and (2) prevent you from developing back pain.
Mattresses come in a variety of types – memory foam, innerspring, latex, air, adjustable, etc. If any of these mattresses is too soft, the body will “sink in” causing low back pain and irritated spinal joints. If the mattress is too hard it can cause pressure points and reduce blood circulation. Today it is generally acknowledged that any type of medium firm mattress is preferable provided (1) it conforms to the spine’s natural curves thereby keeping the spine in alignment when you lay down; (2) distributes pressure evenly; and (3) minimizes transfer of movement from one sleeping partner to the other. This last point is important since most of us will change position more than 50 times during our sleep cycle.
Other factors that influence mattress selection include:
- Preferred sleep position – lying flat, lying on the side, or lying on the stomach (not recommended as it forces the spine into an unnatural angle and may aggravate back and neck problems)
- A proper cervical pillow will lessen the chances of neck and back pain
- Your height and body weight
- Mattress size, material, warranty, test period, cost, etc.
Mattresses have a definite role in the management of back pain. The best mattress for you is one that is tailored to your particular needs. If you have questions about back pain, or are uncertain as to how to proceed with mattress selection, you should consult a back and neck specialist.
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