January 04, 2016
What Mattress Is Best If I Have Lower Back Pain?
Patients often ask me what mattress will best help relieve their lower back pain. Sleeping on the wrong mattress can actually cause back pain or make it worse, but which mattress is the right choice for helping to alleviate lower back pain?
Almost all (statistics show about 8 out of 10) of us suffer from lower back pain at some point in our lives. The proper mattress can alleviate and in many cases prevent back pain. Your mattress should provide both comfort and support. Since comfort means different things to different people, let’s start by focusing on the question of the key to low back pain prevention- support.
A mattress without the proper support results in bad sleeping posture, no matter what position you sleep. Poor support in a mattress will not keep the spine in normal and proper alignment which inevitably leads not only to strained muscles, but an increase in incidence lower back pain. We need “pushback” within the mattress foam to create the proper support system. This is why Talalay Latex (the gold standard in my opinion) or gel infused elastic properties in memory foam of the support layer in the mattress is imperative. Old memory foam and most polyester or cotton filled toppers do not provide support. So why is support the hot topic?? Here are some thoughts from my 31 years of experience as a spine specialist:
Regardless of the sleep posture (back, stomach or side lying) the spine needs support to maintain the four primary curves of the spine (thoracic, lumbar, cervical, and sacral spine). These curves are designed to distribute mechanical stress when the body is in motion and also during sleep.
Both the cervical and lumbar curves need pushback or “resiliency.” Resiliency is defined as the ability of an object to spring back into place and/or the capacity to recover quickly. The cervical and lumbar curves are most stable (and thus less prone to injury) when their curves are maintained. The thoracic and sacral curves also need support but ironically, for the opposite reason. They need correction, or straightening, to correct the harmful effects of gravity. Most of the old memory foam mattresses have no pushback and actually sag, creating an indentation. This is good for temporary comfort but useless for pushback support for back sleepers. Pushback support is also important with side sleeping. While sleeping on your side, your spine needs essentially stay straight and not allow for transient scoliosis which also disturbs the weight-bearing distribution of the spine.
The same principles apply to stomach sleeping. Without proper support, the spine can actually be driven into a hyper-lordotic (similiar to what you see in a lot of young gymnasts) position which can be very strenuous on the spine especially with people with spinal stenosis or degenerative arthritis. So it should be clear that maintaining proper support is paramount to the bed system which you sleep. For back pain sufferers or people simply trying to prevent back pain, I suggest a firm foam support as a base of any mattress and either a medium or firm Talalay Latex or Gel Infused Memory Foam for the support layer.
My preference of the two foams for the ultimate support in mattresses is the Talalay Latex found in my PREMIUM mattress line (not the less expensive "Dunlop" like many manufacturers use) which provides durable and comfortable "pushback" resistance. This incredibly supportive yet comfortable foam is topped by a 1.5 inch layer of coconut based biofoam (imported from Italy), which provides “neutral resiliency” comfort and a cooler template for your body through it's open cell technology and allows the underlying Talalay to do the supportive lifting of the spine. A mattress that provides both comfort and support helps reduce lower back pain, allowing the spine to really rest and rejuvenate during the night.
Hope this technology and a through explanation of the biomechanical needs of your spine help you to make a healthy choice when it comes to purchasing your next mattress! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact our incredible customer service at 805-379-5007.