Persistent back pain can significantly interfere with your daily life. If you’re suffering, it’s worth making sure your mattress doesn’t aggravate, or even cause, the problem. We consulted medical professionals for their advice on this matter, as well as their tips for choosing the best mattress to promote spinal health in your preferred sleeping style.
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What kind of mattress helps prevent back pain?
“The best type of mattress depends on the person’s size, shape, and sleeping preference,” says Dr. Kevin Lees, a former clinic chiropractor with over 20 years of experience, currently employed at The joint chiropractic (opens in new tab).
A general rule is that there should be no gap at any point between your body and the mattress so that your body is fully supported (a memory foam mattress can be a good choice for this, as it conforms exactly to your shape). According to Dr. You also want your mattress to keep you in a natural position, without twisting or bending.
When buying a mattress for back pain, you should consider the sleeping position in which you sink. If you’re a combination sleeper who changes positions throughout the night, shop according to your dominant sleeping style.
dr. Lees offers the following advice for choosing the best mattress for your sleeping style:
If you mainly lie on your side, according to Dr. Read finding a medium or semi-firm mattress to relieve pressure points along the hips and shoulders. A mattress that is too firm will cause pain in those areas, causing sleepers to toss and turn.
Back sleepers can opt for a firmer mattress to stabilize and support their hips and low loins. “If the mattress is too soft, the hips and pelvis can sink, keeping the person in a ‘v’ or ‘c’ shape,” says Dr. Read, “This can lead to lower back pain, neck stiffness, or worsening of a current condition.”
If you usually lie on your stomach, you’ll also want to use a firmer mattress to keep your hips and pelvis aligned. However, this sleeping position is not recommended for anyone with back pain. “Sleeping on your stomach with your head turned to one side puts extra pressure on your neck, back, and pelvis,” says Dr. Grant Radermacher, owner of Ascent Chiropractic (opens in new tab). If you usually lie on your stomach, try training yourself to lie on your back instead, as this will provide a better distribution of your body weight and align your spine and pelvis in a more natural way.
Also keep in mind that your weight and build will also affect how firm or soft your mattress should be. “Someone who is very tall may feel that a medium mattress is too soft to sleep on their side, and a small person may find that a firm mattress doesn’t matter much at all,” says Dr. Read. There are also a few more things to look out for if you are not sure whether your mattress is causing your back pain or not.
You only really get a feeling for a mattress when you sleep on it. Fortunately, mattress testing has become standard practice among top mattress brands. These at-home trials last from 100 nights to a whole year — which is much longer than the three weeks it usually takes a body to adjust to a new mattress.