Is a Firmer Mattress Better For Back Pain?
At some time in our lives, nearly everyone will suffer from some degree of back pain. If this has happened to you, you were likely given the age-old advice to sleep on the firmest mattress you can find.
While this used to be common wisdom, the latest research now tells us that there isn't one type of mattress that's best for everyone, including people with chronic back pain. In fact, sleeping on the wrong mattress can lead to or worsen back pain.
Additionally, according to one study on patients suffering from lower back pain, those using medium-firm mattresses reported less pain when lying in bed as well as less pain-related disability compared with those using firm mattresses.
But with so many products on the market, making the right choice can be tricky. Just because a mattress feels good when you lie down on it in a showroom, this doesn't mean you're going to be happy sleeping on it for the next seven years.
Here are a few tips to guide you on picking the right mattress for your back
Keep Your Spine Aligned
The most important thing when choosing a mattress is to choose one that offers correct support for your spine — one that keeps your spine straight when you lie on your side or in its natural curve when you lie on your back.
If your mattress is too firm, this can cause pinching of nerves, reduced blood flow and even numbness or pins and needles. Muscles have to work harder to get comfortable, which can strain your tendons and lead to pain. If your mattress has seen better days, it’s likely to be a contributing factor to any back pain you may be experiencing.
Subsequently, buying a new mattress that provides the right level of comfort and support will help or even cure back pain.
When in Doubt, Go ‘Medium-Firm’
Firmness describes the feel of a mattress specifically in terms of comfort. For example, sleeping on concrete would be an extreme level of firmness, while the opposite would feel like floating on a cloud.
This is often said to be very subjective because what may feel comfortable to one person can be uncomfortable to someone else. For this reason, mattresses are offered in a number of different firmness levels so you can find a model to suit your preference.
Medium is a common firmness level that offers a middle-ground with some plushness but more limited sink. Medium-firm mattresses usually offer the best overall support because they have enough contouring to reduce pressure points, yet there’s not an excessive sinking into the mattress. Spinal alignment for most people is best maintained on a mattress of this firmness.
Sleepers in all positions tend to do well with medium-firm mattresses, and these mattresses also tend to work best for combination sleepers (who sleep in multiple positions) and couples who may not sleep in the same position.
It is important to try out a variety of mattresses to find the one that is most comfortable for you. Size matters so opt for the biggest size you can and spend as much as you can afford. For added reassurance that the mattress you’re buying is safe, clean and honest look for the NBF Approved ‘big tick’ label. If you have a back or skeletal problem, you should consult your GP or Specialist before buying.
Before you run to the shops to buy a new mattress, consider using a mattress topper instead. These are usually made out of polyester, memory foam, latex, wool, feathers or fibres and you stack it on top of your mattress to change how it feels, as well as how it supports your neck and back. As a result, a mattress topper provides superior pressure relief, and the effective distribution of your weight will avert morning stiffness, soreness and aches.
For more information about mattress toppers, read our blog post on What Does a Mattress Topper Do? Everything You Need to Know.
No matter the source of your back-related problems, sleeping well with minimal stress will ease the pain and let your back recuperate.
Our Microclimat TM Pressure Relief Mattress Topper will ensure you sleep soundly and wake up feeling happy and refreshed. We know you’ll love our products, but we also offer a 14-day refund guarantee just in case you aren’t fully satisfied.