What is the Best Mattress For Back Pain?
Orthopedic specialists mostly agree that the best mattress for back pain would be something resembling "medium firm" or "not too soft, but not too firm either."
How this undeniably vague advice would play out for each individual in pain... is nearly anyone's guess. Each individual's perception of soft or firm would be different.
Picture a tall, overweight 45-year-old male, let's say about 6' 7" and over 300 pounds... maybe an ex-football player... and then imagine a dainty and petite 68-year-old female just clearing 5 feet and barely tipping the scale to 100. They are as different physically as two humans can be, but both suffer from chronic lower back pain, and both experience discomfort while sleeping. So wouldn't it make sense that they would require totally different mattresses?
But there are some commonalities worth mentioning when discussing the best mattress for back pain -- even with these very different examples.
To begin with, they both need extra support. Of course, everyone knows back pain sufferers need proper support, but what does it mean, exactly? Well, the human spine is curved in the "S" shape, and it likes to stay in that shape as much as possible. So the best mattress for back pain would keep that curve intact by filling in the gaps caused by body curves. That way, the back muscles can relax fully without the spine flattening out.
A mattress that's too firm would stay rigid and cause the muscles of the back to do all the work of holding the S-curve in place. Bottom line -- more pain. Not only more back pain, but painful pressure points could develop in the body's gravity centers -- the hips, bottom and shoulders.
On the other hand, a too-soft mattress squishes down too much under the body's weight with not enough support to the heavy parts, which simply sink in. What happens then? The spine goes convex, from the S shape to an uncomfortable C shape. Again, the muscles can't relax while trying to maintain the natural curve of the lower back. More pain and discomfort -- plus possible nerve compression: numbness, tingling, and so on.
But here's why the best mattress for back pain can't be the same for everyone. For optimal support, our petite and thin female retiree will need a softer mattress than our hefty ex-football player simply because of the laws of physics. His weight will displace more of the mattress. He sinks further down into it, which requires a firmer construction -- in order to provide the lifting support he still needs for his spinal curve.
But her weight will barely make a dent. The man's mattress of choice is too rigid and unresponsive for her. She will need a softer, bouncier surface to provide the support she needs.
The Best Mattress for Back Pain--Solution?
While you need to thoroughly test each mattress before buying, there is some evidence that latex foam can be therapeutic to back sufferers of all sizes and shapes. People who need firmer support can use latex as a topper or in the padding layers of an innerspring mattress. Those who need softer support may do best with a 100 percent latex mattress.
The reason latex works well for back pain lies in its naturally resilient yet strong inner structure. It is a very responsive material, molding into the shape of your body, yet adjusting quickly as you change positions. It is also long-lasting and available in several levels of firmness and thickness.
While each individual will respond differently to the same mattress, one thing is clear: quality matters. No matter what type of mattress you buy for your own back pain, make sure the components are first rate, including the steel coils, padding, latex foam, or memory foam, if you choose these materials.
Lori Steiner writes on topics related to personal health and creating a healthy home environment. She experienced chronic pain for a number of years and understands the importance of proper mattress quality and support in helping her feel better. Please visit her website, Your Mattress Buying Guide to learn more about the best mattress for back pain and other tips.
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