According to the National Institutes of Health, back pain is one of our society's most common medical problems. It's estimated that about 8 in 10 Americans suffer from chronic or occasional back pain. If you're one of them, can the right mattress choice help ease your suffering?
Absolutely, sleep experts say. And while most don't recommend specific brands or models, they do recommend that back-pain sufferers follow a few general tips.
User feedback analyzed on SleepLikeTheDead.com finds that a medium-firm mattress is best for sore backs. According to this website, a medium firmness provides both support and conformity, which appears essential to relieving or preventing back pain; by contrast, a firm mattress won't offer enough conformity, while a soft mattress won't provide enough support.
However, the experts at Spine-Health.com point out that it's important to balance back pain relief with overall comfort. If a mattress is too firm, your back may feel better, but you may suffer from joint or pressure point pain. They agree that a medium firm mattress may be the best choice to find that balance.
Fortunately for back-pain sufferers, many high-quality mattress brands, such as Simmons Beautyrest, Sealy Posturepedic and Tempur-Pedic come in a range of firmness levels. For those who want the ability to tweak the firmness level of their mattress from time to time, an adjustable air-chamber mattress from makers like Sleep Number or Comfortaire may be the best choice.
Keep in mind, however, that according to user feedback analyzed by SleepLikeTheDead.com, memory foam, air, and latex mattresses get the best reviews for reducing pain, because they are more supportive, less likely to sag, and more likely to have good conformity. Sagging, in fact, seems to be most strongly associated with back pain and other complaints. Some mattresses -- particularly innerspring styles with thick padding or pillow tops -- are more prone to sagging, which can increase your pain. According to editors of Spine-Health.com, putting boards under a sagging mattress is a short-term fix at best. Experts agree that it's important to replace your mattress before it gets worn out.
Finally, for some back-pain sufferers, Spine-Health.com suggests that an adjustable bed may provide relief. The website notes that ideally the upper body should be positioned at an incline of 30 to 45 degrees, and the knees should be supported so they slightly bend. "The combination of upper body incline and the knee support can help take some of the stress off the lower back," according to this website. Many brands, including Sealy Posturepedic, Serta iSeries, Serta iComfort, Simmons Beautyrest, Tempur-Pedic, Sleep Number and Comfortaire offer adjustable foundations for their mattresses, although these can be significantly more expensive than flat foundations.
There are other causes of back pain aside from your mattress, of course, and the National Institutes of Health offers an excellent overview of the causes of back pain as well as guides to treatment and prevention. These tips, along with the right mattress, can help you live a more pain free life.
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