If you suffer from back pain, then you already know what an enormous effect your mattress can have. A mattress which is poorly suited to your body will not support your spine properly, leading to further discomfort. For example, if your mattress is sagging or is too soft or too firm, then your spine and muscles are forced to do more 'work' while you sleep.
In contrast, a new mattress which is well suited to your body will offer the correct balance between comfort and proper spinal support. This allows your back to truly rest while you are asleep. If you are not sure which brand or type of mattress to buy in Singapore, this article on mattress buying guide will help you.
Beware of labels like "Orthopaedic"
Don't make the mistake of assuming that just because a mattress is labelled "orthopaedic" that it is automatically going to help relieve your back pain. The truth is that there is no industry standard, requirement or any specific test that a mattress has to pass in order to be labelled "orthopaedic".
Reputable orthopaedic mattresses have indeed been designed with the goal of supporting the joints and spine to relieve pain. But unfortunately mattresses from less reputable manufacturers have been labelled "orthopaedic" purely as a marketing ploy, resulting in a higher price tag but without any real benefit to you. As a result, even the savvy consumer now finds it difficult to distinguish a truly orthopaedic mattress from one merely labelled as such.
Furthermore, even if a mattress is known to be a properly designed high quality orthopaedic mattress, there is no guarantee that it will necessarily be a good fit for your body. Each person's body is different and each cause of back pain is different, meaning that trying out the mattress is the only way you will truly know whether it will help your back.
The correct level of firmness for a bad back
In the past it was always assumed that back pain required a very firm mattress. Recently, studies have revealed that this is not actually the case. The ideal level of firmness for a bad back is now considered to be somewhere in the medium firm range.
Of course, levels of firmness are not regulated terminology for mattress manufacturers and may vary from one brand to another. However, the take-home message from the studies is that the best mattress for back pain is neither the softest end of the range, nor the firmest end of the range. Somewhere in the middle (not too soft and not too firm), with a good balance between comfort and support, is considered best for relieving back pain.
The best type of mattress material for back pain
Bad pressure distribution
* Note: excessive pressure points in the illustration is shown in red.
If you have back pain, you'll be delighted to know that today's manufacturing offers better relief and more options in different mattress materials than ever in the past.
Latex mattresses and memory foam mattresses are currently the most widely recognized options for helping relieve back pain. They both have different sets of pros and cons.
A latex mattress, made from the sap of the rubber tree, is a natural option which offers a superb balance of firmness and comfort. The naturally 'bouncy' feel of a latex mattress is comfortable for those with back pain, yet it pushes back more than a memory foam mattress would, delivering better spinal support. Latex mattress contours to the shape and weight of the body allowing natural spinal alignment which can feel very comfortable and supportive.You will not feel any pressure point on your body as it is evenly distributed ensuring good blood circulation while you sleep.Since they are naturally allergen-free, dust mite resistant and mould resistant, latex mattresses offer advantages beyond relief of back pain.
The illustration on the left shows the comparison of pressure distribution as the person lays down on low quality mattress vs European Bedding latex mattress. When the body's pressure points are evenly distributed and reduced, the better is the sleep comfort and blood circulation.
Memory foam also conforms to the shape of the body, which can feel very comfortable. However, a big disadvantage of memory foam is that many attest that it feels rather hot and that it can emit a chemical smell. Memory foam also absorbs energy and movement, meaning that your body has to do more work when turning over in bed, and this may exacerbate back pain.
The key to remember is that everyone's body is different, so you will need to test out different types of mattresses to find the one which is the best for your particular back problem.
Mattress shopping tips for those with back pain
- Shop for a mattress later in the day, when your back pain is more likely to be present. If you go too early, you may make the mistake of buying a mattress which feels quite comfortable at the time, but which turns out not to offer relief for your back pain.
- Bring your own pillow (alternatively, consider shopping for a new pillow while there). Either way, you'll want to test out the mattress the same way you plan to be sleeping on it at home.
- Bring a friend to look at the way your spine is aligned. When lying on your side on a mattress with proper support for your back, your spine should form a straight line.
- Listen to your body. Pressure points indicate you're on too firm of a mattress. In contrast if you feel a pronounced sinking effect in your shoulders and hips then you are lying on too soft of a mattress.
- Think further than just your back, shoulders and hips. A good mattress for your back should keep your head and heels in proper alignment too. It's all too tempting to assume the head and heels are not important when there are back problems, but in reality the reverse is true: the whole body and its alignment are critical in managing back pain.
- Shop exclusively from stores which allow you to have an in-home trial of the mattress for up to 30 days. With back pain it is absolutely critical that you are able to try out your selected mattress in your own home. If it's not comfortable, the bedding store will allow you to change the firmness level by replacing the mattress core free of charge.
The bottom line
Your mattress can make a tremendous difference to your back pain. The right mattress will allow your spine to be properly supported while you're asleep.
Those with a bad back require a special balance between comfort and spinal support, but when that is found, the relief can literally change their life.