Approximately 3.7 million Australians have bad backs. In 2014-2015, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated that about 70-90% of people will suffer from [lower] back pain at some point in their lives.
A bad back can mean many things. It can be symptomatic of an underlying problem such as disc disorders, sciatica, or back-related injuries. Oftentimes it’s strain from work, coupled with a bad mattress!
Before we even go straight to the tips, we’ll have a run-down of a mattress’ effect on back pain, and what type of mattress is best to alleviate back pain.
Do Mattresses Really Have An Effect on Back Pain?
A person spends an average of 7-9 hours each night sleeping on a mattress. This is the only period the body recuperates from a day’s worth of working, commuting, and everything in between. Having a bad or low-quality mattress to sleep on only makes sleeping counterproductive. Instead of being energised in the morning, you wake up groggy and irritable. Great way to face a new day, huh?
When a person is asleep, there is no downward force from the upper body to the spinal cord. In lying down [on a good mattress], the bones - instead of the muscles - will begin absorbing pressure from the body. This improves a person’s overall circulation, and consequently their sleep.
An uncomfortable mattress will only keep one either awake or tossing-and-turning through the night. Waking up feeling restless from the back pain may affect their work performance the next day.
How Do I Know My Mattress Is Causing My Back Pain?
Take note of all the times you experience back pain. See if there are any patterns. Does it keep you awake at night? Do you feel it when you first wake in the morning?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions, your mattress is the culprit to your back pain.
Start inspecting your mattress, too. Are there any visible signs of wear-and-tear or sagging? If so, it’s time to replace it!
Memory Foam is the Best Mattress for Bad Backs
Memory foam responds to both pressure and temperature. This pressure-relief property allows the material to conform to the body’s pressure points and let them sink a little. At the same time, the lighter parts of the body stay on top of the mattress and don’t sink as much.
The right memory foam mattress can significantly improve sleep due to its even weight distribution. This keeps the spine aligned and the back happy!
In contrast to spring mattresses, memory foam does not have a tendency to concentrate weight on just one side of the mattress. It also does not force the spine to curve or overextend while sleeping. On the other hand, the spaces in-between a spring mattress easily allow for early loss of support.
Backed by Research: Medium-Firm Memory Foam Mattresses Are the Way to Go
In a recent research by Professor Ahmed Radwan, PhD and his colleagues for the National Sleep Foundation, they found that mattresses in the firmer range are ideal for back pain, sleep quality, and spine alignment.
According to them, soft mattresses can decrease ‘excessive compressive forces’ on joints, but firm mattresses can help maintain the appropriate sleeping posture to avoid the hips from sagging.
Sleepers were also most likely to choose the mattress that kept their alignment most similar to that of a standing position. This why medium-firm is just the right firmness for back pain; it supports a sleeper’s back without sacrificing comfort levels.
"The mattress-buying tips for sufferers of back pain are no different from buying any mattress. The only difference is that we’ve narrowed down the mattress type to memory foam. Now the question remains: how do you find the best memory foam mattress for your bad back?
1. Make sure the firmness level matches your sleeping position.
We know for sure that firmness is the most important factor when it comes to bad backs. But it’s not the end-all-be-all. You also need to factor in your favourite sleeping position as this definitively tells you which pressure points are hit by the mattress.
Side-sleepers have their hips and shoulders directly hit by the mattress. As a result, sleeping on a soft to medium mattress is ideal to avoid unnecessary pressure on these places. They need a firmness level that can let the shoulders and hips sink a little while still providing support.
Back-sleepers, as mentioned, fare well in medium-firm mattresses. This avoids any collapsing of the back and hips that could result in pain.
Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach as this can cause your middle area to sag, overextending your lower back and causing pain. The only reason this can be good for you is if you suffer from sleep apnea.
Related Article: Stomach-Sleeping - Should You Still Do It?
2. Check whether or not it combats sleeping hot.
Since we’ve narrowed it down to memory foam, we might as well address the issue of memory foam being hot to sleep on. This has been a problem with several solutions to it over the years. There are countless cooling mechanisms out there now for memory foam, but here are some important terms to look out for:
gel-infused memory foam, perforated mattress, air cooling systems, air ventilation systems, open-cell memory foam.
3. Read honest customer reviews.
Nothing can tell you more about a memory foam mattress’ actual firmness level and cooling capacities other than honest customer reviews. Find a bunch of them to really see the general consensus on back pain.
Smart Shoppers, Better Backs
To improve your back situation, you need to be a smart shopper. You have to look for the best memory foam mattress on the block that can suit your back’s needs.
If you leave it to us, you don’t even have to look that far. The best memory foam mattress is just right here - with a medium-firm setting, and a cooling mechanism.