Jul 09, 2015
WHAT TYPE OF MATTRESS IS BEST FOR 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 of us suffer from lower back pain at some point in our lives. The proper mattress can alleviate back pain and in most cases, help to prevent back pain. The key is that our mattress should provide both comfort and support. Since comfort means different things to different people, let’s first focus on the question of support.
The PROBLEM: A mattress with the improper support cannot keep the spine in proper alignment resulting in bad sleeping posture and muscle straining. These unintended consequences can definitely lead to increased lower back pain, insomnia, and simply poor or disturbed sleep.
We need the crucial concept of “pushback” within our mattresse’s support system. This is why the proper layering and the right types of foam is imperative in a mattress for the correct and optimal support. Regardless of the sleep posture (back, stomach or side lying) the spine needs support to maintain the four primary curves, the thoracic, lumbar, cervical, and sacral. 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. Reseach has shown that the cervical (neck) and lumbar (low back) curves are most stable and less prone to injury when their curves are maintained. The thoracic (mid-back) and sacral (gluteal) curves also need support but ironically, for the opposite reason. They need correction or straightening, to correct and ameliorate the harmful effects of gravity. Most of the “original” memory foam mattresses have no pushback and actually sag, creating a long lasting indentation. This is good for temporary comfort but useless for pushback support for back sleepers. If you like memory foam, you need to advance your selection to the newest Gel-Infused Memory Foam which combines the effects of pushback and elastic recoil with the original pressure relieveing effects of memory foam (see my mattress links below for more info). Pushback support is also important with side sleeping. While sleeping on your side, your spine needs to 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 (forward) 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 upon. I suggest all mattresses need to begin with a firm supportive high resiliency base of any mattress-no matter what foam is used in the mattress development. By far, my preference for the supportive layer itself is latex foam which provides durable and comfortable pushback resistance. I love a top comfort layer of a coconut biofoam, which provides “neutral resiliency” proximal comfort and allows the supportive layer underneath (latex) 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.
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