Mattress Buying Guide:
Choosing the best mattress for Back Pain Relief.
I often give my new clients a single page mattress buying guide when they look for advice in buying a new mattress - but want to ensure that their investment alleviates back discomfort and pain.
Before we proceed with our mattress buying guide, please remember that you spend almost one third of your life in bed - sleeping! Selecting the correct mattress for your back is crucial for your health. Your body needs to be able to relax in a good posture so that it can recover from its days work and respond well to the demands of the following day. If your body does not rest easy over time it will fatigue and become "dis-eased" in some way.
The result of poor sleep in my physiotherapy world is back and neck pain!
Also, please remember that there are many environmental reasons for choosing a correct mattress. Many mattresses contain many chemicals which we are absorbing and breathing into our bodies night after night - especially in the form of fire retardant. Where possible buy an organic mattress made from natural fibres- more so if your general health is a particular concern. These are typically not treated with chemical flame retardants and are made from organic cotton, wool and coir(coconut fibre). This is worthwhile bearing in mind if you are considering a mattress, or pillow, made from a memory foam such as polyurethane.
Choosing a mattress to prevent and treat back pain is a well discussed topic in the physiotherapy and health world. However, remember that choosing a mattress is both a subjective and objective procedure.
Subjectively - you must feel comfortable lying on your mattress and inhaling its smell.
Objectively - I advise people on the type of mattress I think may help in the treatment, prevention and ultimate resolution of their back pain and stiffness.
If you have a stiff lower back - and have a deep curve at the base of your spine that does not flatten to the ground naturally when you lie down,(known as an increased lumbar lordosis) - then I usually advise a mattress that is supportive but not too hard. In my experience if you have an increased lumbar lordosis and sleep on a hard mattress your spine remains arched in your sleep while you are lying on your back. Most of my clients with this back posture report waking up with increased back pain in the morning if they have been sleeping on their backs. They tend to sleep on their sides to resolve this problem. However, if their mattress is a little softer sleeping on their backs is not a problem.
On the other hand if you have a flexed lower back (known as a flat back) and you tend to slouch when you sit, your back will benefit more from a firmer style mattress. If your flexed lower back is not supported enough it may get worse. This is as a result of a softer bed encouraging and supporting your flexed posture, often pushing it into further flexion while you sleep.
Ultimately, understanding your posture type will help you choose the best mattress for your back pain. Ask your physiotherapist/Physical Therapist to help you on this one! Nearly every day I hear of someone who has spent a lot of money on a mattress that has not helped their back pain. Do your research first!
The cost of your mattress is not always indicative of its quality and effectiveness in the treatment of back pain. Sometimes a cheap mattress can tick all the boxes that your back requires. However, in my experience with mattress-buying - you often have to pay more to get a mattress that has fewer chemicals in its makeup, which I firmly believe is very important with respect to your general health.
So, that's the basic mattress buying guide - do your research - both on the types and features of mattresses available and on your lying posture type before you open your wallet!
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