When you consider that the average person will sleep eight hours a day (or one third of each day), then that means you spend one third of your life in bed, which translates to about 25 years, then it’s easy to understand why picking the right mattress is so important.
Add in the fact that at any given time in their lives, more than 80% of Americans will experience back pain, and that mattress not only becomes important, but downright vital! When you don’t get a good night’s rest, nothing will go right. You will feel bad, your work will suffer, your social life goes to heck and we haven’t even discussed how important sleep is to your immune system!
Mattresses are such a personal choice that it is difficult to point to one brand or type and say that this would work for everyone. There are guidelines, however, that can help you narrow down your choices.
The problem with reviews is that you really don’t know who wrote them or if the person who is writing the review was paid to say what Brand X is the best. So, while we would all hope that when a chiropractor writes a review, they actually slept on the mattress in question or at least know something about it that didn’t come from a brochure.
In this article, we won’t pretend that we’ve slept on every mattress here, rather, we will explain the differences between mattresses and which mattress works best for whom. Let’s face it, a 25-year-old with text neck will want a different mattress than a 75-year-old with sciatica.
We do want to stress that simply buying a new pillowtop mattress will not be the solution if you have back pain. Back pain from an old mattress, probably, but if you have chronic back issues or other health problems that cause back pain, such as arthritis, don’t waste your money with the old spring style pillowtop mattresses.
In 2018, the ACA endorsed the Casper Wave mattress. Casper is a fairly new company that was founded in 2014 but has been named one of the most innovative companies in the world. Casper not only designs and manufactures mattresses, but they have their own research laboratory in San Francisco, California, that does research and testing on a variety of ergonomic designs and materials.
The Caper Wave mattress is made from 5 layers of premium foam that encourages proper spinal alignment. This recommendation from the ACA does not mean that this mattress is good for everyone, such as those with certain health issues, but is a general recommendation for a good quality mattress that supports spine health.
Personal comfort notwithstanding, the main factor you should consider when choosing a mattress is spine health. Our spine has three slight curves and all need support, even when you are in a horizontal position.
The perfect mattress holds your body in a neutral position, meaning that the spine is able to hold its natural slight curve, while the head, buttocks, shoulders, and heels are all aligned. You know you have found the perfect mattress when you feel no pressure points at all- almost as if you were floating on water or air.
For those who do not have back pain, a firm mattress is usually the best choice. However, if you have arthritis or other types of back pain, a firm mattress is going to make your back an even bigger misery to you than it is now.
Chronic low back pain can make sleeping a nightmare, so you want to get just the right mattress, but how do you know which one that is?
Traditional spring type mattresses are flat and similar to a plank of wood. Springs are stiff can cause the body to lie unevenly on the surface, leaving your lower back with little or no support.
For those with low back pain, the best mattress will be memory foam or high-quality latex foam. Of course, the perfect bed will be based on your preferences, with some people enjoying the feel of latex foam and others memory foam, and preferences as to layer thickness and firmness will be a personal choice that will depend on your weight, sleep style, and other choices.
Some have stated that memory foam beds are too hot since they are made from materials that trap body heat. Others dislike the idea of sleeping on beds manufactured with chemicals. There are memory foam beds that are made from natural materials, such as soybeans or bamboo, that will eliminate those concerns.
For those who suffer from general back and neck pain, whether it is due to a highly active job or health issues, it can be difficult to find exactly what you are looking for.
First off, if your mattress is more than 10 years old, it probably cannot offer you the support you need to stop neck and back pain. The same is true of your pillow. Most pillows have a life expectance of 3-5 years, so while you are shopping for a new mattress, it might be time to check out the pillows as well.
You might think that buying one of those memory foam mattress toppers would be cheaper (and easier) than a new bed, but truth be told, these rarely work for people. In fact, a full 20% of people who buy a memory foam topper return the mattress within a few days.
If you do try one, be sure that it has a generous return policy, in case it doesn’t work for you. Buy the best product you can afford that is at least 3 inches tall, but 5 inches is better.
Like mattresses for those with chronic low back pain, most people will find that a high-quality latex foam or memory foam mattress will offer more support and less pain than the traditional spring type mattresses.
While there is no perfect mattress for everyone, many people who suffer from sciatica state that a medium-firm mattress. Mattresses that are too hard or too soft both cause sciatic pain.
Most people with sciatica find that a memory foam mattress that is 10-12 inches in height is the perfect answer. If you sleep with your spouse and their movement causes pain, a 12-inch memory foam mattress will reduce almost all transfer of motion. Look for a memory foam mattress that is either made from natural materials, such as bamboo or one that states it uses open cell technology to prevent the buildup of heat or that incorporates gel in the mattress to keep you cooler.
You can also try a hybrid mattress that uses both springs and latex foam. Springs provide much needed support but can be too stiff for sciatica sufferers. Combined with the softness of latex, however, you might find that this type of mattress is both responsive and very adaptable.
There is something else to consider when looking for a mattress and that is your preferred sleeping position.
Stomach sleepers should try to avoid this position as it puts a lot of extra strain on the neck and lower back, but if you can’t sleep any other way, choose a very soft pillow but a firm mattress.
For back sleepers, you should first try a medium to firm mattress and a firm pillow. You should also keep extra pillows to put under or between your knees if you have back pain but like to sleep on your back.
Side sleepers are the most popular group and for better spine health, you should try to sleep on your side as much as possible. If you have hip pain or low back pain, try sleeping on your side with a flat pillow between your knees. If you have shoulder pain, try a firm pillow but soft to medium mattress. Side sleepers will probably prefer a medium firm mattress, but some might even like a soft to medium mattress.
The right mattress can make you feel like a million bucks the next morning. If you don’t seem to be able to find a mattress that suits you or you don’t want to go through the hassle of trying and returning a half dozen mattresses, you might want to consider talking to your chiropractor before you go mattress shopping.
Your local chiropractor can help you determine what type of mattress might work best for your condition and needs.
If you found this article helpful, please feel free to pass it on to others via email or social media.
We at Better Health Alaska would like to remind you that you don’t have to live with back pain. We offer same day appointments, a 10-minute wait promise, and our helpful staff will gladly look into your insurance for you. If you don’t have insurance, please read this article here.
Call one of our offices for a no obligation consultation or make an appointment online here.
Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.