If you have back pain then it's very important to pick the right mattress. Many people believe that a firm mattress is best for a bad back, but this is actually incorrect. In fact, a firm mattress will not accommodate the natural curvature of the spine, and can cause additional problems. Let's find out what sort of mattress is best for a bad back, and why the firmest one isn't best for you.
Problems with a firm mattress
A firm mattress creates pressure points on the shoulders and pelvic area. This is uncomfortable for anyone, but in particular for those who sleep on their sides. Furthermore, pressure points on someone with a bad back will be doubly uncomfortable.
Another problem with pressure points is that if they are creating numbness, this will cause you to toss and turn frequently to get into a comfortable position. In a too-firm mattress, no comfortable position exists, and this will lead to sleepless nights.
A mattress which is too firm will not support your spine in its normal alignment. Instead it will only provide support on the heaviest areas of the body: the shoulders and hips. This leads to uncomfortable pressure points as described above. In addition to the discomfort, this mattress will cause longer term problems from the lack of proper support for the spine.
For someone with a bad back, a firm mattress can cause all sorts of problems as the body tries, unsuccessfully, to compensate for the lack of lower back spinal support. You may not even be aware that this is what your body is trying to do, since this is something your muscles will be doing subconsciously. You will, however, become very aware of a longer-term pain and discomfort which doesn't seem to be going away.
Lack of conformability
A firm mattress will not conform properly to your body, leaving gaps between your body and the bed. This means some areas of your body will simply not be supported by a too-firm mattress, and this will lead to additional pain if you have a bad back. Ideally, a mattress should give you good supportiveness but still actually conform to your body's contours.
Which mattress is best for a bad back?
We learned that a firm mattress is a poor choice for a bad back. So what is the best mattress if you have back pain?
The best mattress for a bad back is medium-firm. While it's important not to have an overly firm mattress for a bad back, it's equally important that it not be too soft. A too soft mattress will simply not support the body properly at all, allowing it to sink into the mattress far too much. As a result, your back pain will worsen after sleeping on too soft of a mattress. Instead, for a bad back, a medium-firm is considered the ideal middle ground: not too soft and not too firm.
The material the mattress is made out of also plays a huge role in alleviating pain. A latex mattress is the best type for a bad back. This is because latex has a natural springiness and conforms easily to your body to provide proper spinal support. Furthermore, latex is widely acclaimed as one of the most comfortable types of mattresses on the market. A night of restful comfort and ease can go a long way to helping those who suffer from a bad back.
If you lay down to try out a latex mattress, you'll quickly see why it comes recommended by many chiropractors and osteopaths: latex is supportive yet extremely comfortable.
However, when shopping for a mattress for a bad back, beware of mattresses which are touted as being orthopaedic. The truth is that "orthopaedic" is an arbitrary term used by manufacturers. There is in fact no industry-wide standard or government standard for an orthopaedic mattress. Instead, go with a latex mattress from a reputable mattress shop that allows you to change or replace the firmness level of the mattress within a certain period of time, like 30 days. It is a far better sign of quality of a mattress to be recommended by an independent party such as an osteopath, instead of it being touted as "orthopaedic" by the manufacturer.
The key message here is that if you have back pain, you should avoid a too firm or too soft mattress. In the past, it was thought that a firm mattress was good for a bad back. In contrast, more recent findings suggest that a medium firm mattress is better.
A latex mattress will go a long way to helping maintain your proper spinal alignment without creating pressure points. In addition to being better for a bad back, a latex mattress feels incredibly comfortable just to lie upon and relax. If you suffer from back pain, you should consider sleeping on a medium firm latex mattress. Try one out and see!