Something we often get asked about in the practice is whether your mattress could be causing your back or neck pain. With mattresses being expensive items it can be a stressful process choosing one and keeping your fingers crossed that it promises a better quality kip. How can you judge whether your mattress may be contributing to your various aches and pains? The easiest way is to note how you feel when you first wake up. Is your back achy or stiff first thing in the morning? Do you have a more comfortable sleep in a different bed? A general health check for your mattress is also important. Is your bed much older than 7 years? Creaky, sagging or visibly worn? It could be time for an upgrade. A US study of 900 back pain sufferers found a 63% improvement when sleeping on a new mattress compared with their old one (1).
When actually making a selection don’t listen to all the hype – orthopaedic mattresses aren’t essential for everyone with back pain and memory foam won’t cure all ills. The choice is extremely personal and things like your weight, build and natural flexibility can have a bearing on this. The Sleep Council (2) recommend:
– Narrow down a short list of mattresses that feel comfy to you and spend five minutes or so lying on them in your normal sleeping position (a coffee before shopping may be essential).
– Look for a supportive bed that feels comfortable and cushioned, that you find it easy to turn over on and get out of!
– Choose a decent pillow to complement your mattress. What you should be aiming for is to keep your neck roughly in line with the rest of your spine. Sleeping with too many pillows thrusts the head forwards or sideways whereas too few can leave you unsupported with a real crick in your neck.
(1). Subjective rating of perceived back pain, stiffness and sleep quality following introduction of medium-firm bedding systems (2007). Jacobson, B., Wallace, T., and Gemmell, H. Oklahoma State University.