What is the Best Mattress for Low 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 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 focus on the question of support. A mattress without the proper support results in bad sleeping posture, they don’t keep the spine in alignment and also strains muscles – all leading to increased lower back pain.
We need “pushback” within the mattress support system. This is why a subsystem of support layers under the plush soft upper layers is imperative in a mattress. Regardless of the sleep posture (back, stomach or side-lying), the spine needs support to maintain the 4 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. Check out my bedline: JUST SLEEP
Another way to explain this extremely critical factor is that 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. Science has shown that 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 typical memory foam mattress have no pushback and actually create a 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 (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 at least 8 inches of resiliency as a base and at least 4 to 5 inches of a comfortable supportive upper layer for correction and support then at least 1 to 2 inches of softer pressure-relieving foam (such as coconut bio-foam) for the mattress-no matter what foam is used in the mattress development.
My preference is latex foam for the support layer which provides durable and comfortable pushback resistance and another coconut bio-foam which provides “neutral resiliency” optimal comfort and allows the base support layers to do the supporting 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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All my best,
Dr Raymond Hall, DC
Inventor and CEO