- Dori Nissenson
Which Bed is Best?
How Important Is Your Mattress For The Health Of Your Back?
My last newsletter spoke about the importance of pillows with regard to the health of your neck and upper back. Mattresses are just as important. In fact, sleeping on the wrong mattress can cause or worsen back pain. Just as with a pillow, a mattress should maintain the natural curvatures of your spine. A mattress that does this is an ergonomic mattress and facilitates good sleeping posture, and actually helps the muscles in the back and core relax… promoting a healthy sleep.
If you are waking up with back pain or you experience it during the day, it is time to re-evaluate your mattress because your sleeping positions and mattress may have a significant impact on your pain and should be addressed and modified if necessary.
Firm Or Soft???
There is no perfect mattress for everyone. Therefore, it is important to choose a mattress that fits your natural sleeping posture. Historically, choosing a mattress may seem like an overwhelming decision with so many options and price points. Today, however, many mattress producers are taking a new approach to selling their product. Many mattress companies allow you to order your mattress online with your particular specifications for a reasonable price and try it out in the comfort of your own home for a few weeks. At that point, if you are not satisfied with it, the company will allow you to return it at no cost to you.
In the past, it was believed that a mattress should be very firm. However, now it is accepted that a mattress should be medium-firm… firm enough to support the spinal curvatures and soft enough to be forgiving on your skeletal structure and to allow the core muscles to relax. So how is this firm/soft combination achieved? The answer is memory foam. Memory foam can come in a variety of densities depending on your needs. Good quality memory foam has been viewed as a superior material for ergonomic mattresses and is ideal in avoiding and providing relief for back pain.
The spine has three gentle curves:
1. The C-shaped cervical spine that supports the head.
2. The reverse C-shaped thoracic spine that holds up the upper body.
3. The C-shaped curve of the lumbar spine in your lower back which is the foundation of your back.
These curves need to be supported and maintained for a healthy back and a healthy sleep. Memory foam conforms to the natural curvatures of the spine and supports them. In this way, memory foam has proven to improve, as well as prevent back pain. Today, many mattress manufacturers are selling several premium mattresses that are designed specifically for pain relief in that they combine memory foam and the traditional coil springs. The memory foam allows for support and cushion of the spine and the coil springs provide a firm surface underneath the foam for stability.
Does My Sleeping Position Matter????
As we discussed, mattress research shows that very firm mattresses are a thing of the past and medium-firm mattresses are the accepted way to go today. However, where on that medium-firm scale should you be? The answer is… It depends on your sleeping position.
Back Sleepers: Back sleepers should go with a medium-firm mattress. In most people, sleeping on your back increases the arc in your low back so that your low back is elevated or even off the surface of the mattress when you are lying with your hips and knees straight. In this case, it is important that the mattress fill in the space under your low back. Therefore, the mattress should be firm enough to support the low back in the elevated position but soft enough to cushion the sacrum and upper back (the areas that lie on either end of your low back) which will have more pressure on them due to the fact that the low back is slightly elevated.
Side Sleepers: Side sleepers, as opposed to back or stomach sleepers, have a much smaller surface area upon which their whole body is resting. In addition, they are resting on their shoulder and hip which are both bony. Therefore, it is important that side sleepers go with a mattress that is a bit softer to simply cushion their body.
Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers need a slightly firmer mattress than back or side sleepers because if their mattress is too soft, it will exaggerate the curvature in their lumbar and cervical spine causing back and/or neck pain. In addition, if their mattress is too soft, the increased curvatures in the lumbar and cervical spine areas will cause tension in the back muscles and prevent them from “letting go”. This can lead to or exacerbate back and neck pain.
So The Top Mattress Choices Are????
The Saatva Mattress: The Saatva mattresses are designed to be luxury coil mattresses at lower prices. Saatva mattresses use two sets of coils. The first set is tempered steel which prevents long term sagging. The second set is comfort coils which are individually wrapped to contour to the body’s shape. Most upscale hotels use Saatva mattresses. Saatva mattresses are also highly regarded as effective for chronic and persistent low back pain and are consistently recommended by orthopedists and other back pain specialists. Saatva mattresses offer three options: Firm for back or stomach sleepers, Luxury Firm for most people, and Plush Soft which is ideal for side sleepers. The reviews state that Luxury Firm is the most suitable for people with existing back pain issues.
The Amerisleep Revere Mattress: The Amerisleep Revere mattress utilizes a unique memory foam made with a high proportion of plant-derived materials manufactured in a zero-emissions facility. Therefore, it offers a more eco-friendly approach to memory foam, pairing plant based foams with luxury finishes. The manufacturing process of this more environmentally sound mattress keeps the memory foam breathable and makes it highly responsive, ensuring optimal spinal alignment to prevent and reduce back pain. Amerisleep beds also feature Celliant which is a mineral-based fiber embedded in the fabric of the mattress cover. This material is thought to ease muscle pain and promote circulation by taking excess body heat and converting it to beneficial infrared energy. This mattress is medium-firm. This company is also one of the first brands to develop the online mattress concept and offers a 100-day trial completely risk free so you can try this mattress out and return it at no cost if you don’t like it.
Helix Mattress: The Helix mattress is a fully customizable high quality mattress at an accessible price. Everything about your Helix mattress will be tailored around your own back pain issues...therefore it is a great option if you have spinal pain. Furthermore, if you sleep with a partner, both sides can be designed differently so that the mattress can be customized to you and your partner’s body type and sleeping position. If you are not satisfied with this mattress, you can return it within 100 days of purchase with no cost to you.
The Bear Mattress: The Bear mattress is designed to facilitate recovery from injury among professional athletes and people who are extremely physically active both professionally and recreationally. This mattress is medium-firm. Those who would benefit from this mattress are marathon runners, tri-athletes, and professional sports players. The Bear mattress features a new kind of fabric that can deflect the natural body heat as infrared energy which helps the muscles and joints substantially in the injury recovery process without overheating the bed. This, in turn, helps enhance the resting effect of the mattress, again facilitating recovery from injury. The Bear mattress also features Celliant in it's mattress cover. This is the same technology used in the Amerisleep Revere mattress. Finally, this mattress is built with a little more firmness as it is a mix of memory foam on top and gel- infused foam beneath the top layer. This mattress can be trialed for 100 days and is returnable at no cost.
In many of my past newsletters, I have emphasized the importance of protecting your back through improving the flexibility of your muscles, increasing the strength of your core, practicing good body mechanics, maintaining normal spinal alignment during activity and at rest, and assuming proper posture during work as well as during recreation. As mattress choices are important, our efforts to ensure the health of our spine have to be all encompassing. Please make sure that if you are suffering from back pain anywhere in your spine, you are seeking professional help and addressing all contributing factors.