Reginald has been a sleep specialist for the past 20 years, training new and veteran associates in the retail mattress industry.
The average life span for a mattress set is between 8 and 10 years. This is based on normal ware. Statistics also tell us that our comfort level changes around the same time. Mix this with someone that has back pain and we have a complicated situation. Read further and I will explain what is the Best Mattress for Low Back Pain.
I have been in the mattress business for over 20 years. My knowledge of sleep habits and solutions for various comfort levels makes me a qualified person to write this article. Added to my experience is the fact that I have had back surgery. I do know what back pain is about. Much of my knowledge on this subject comes from years of research.
In this article I will explain the mechanics of sleep. It is not about a particular brand name. I will though educate you to the type and construction you should look for when purchasing your next mattress. With this information you will eliminate issues with sleep you didn’t know before.
Are You Accommodating Your Mattress?
Many times people put off getting a new mattress set when they actually really need one. One of the reasons being that a mattress purchase is a big investment. This is when we put it on the back burner and it becomes a lower priority item.
What happens next is that our mattress becomes more uncomfortable. This is what I call - “You accommodating your mattress.” This could happen for months or even years.
If you have back pain then you are only making your situation worse. Your mattress is adding to the pain and discomfort. One of the areas a weak supporting mattress will give you is poor spinal alignment.
When you are sleeping your mattress should be accommodating your sleep comfort. Not the other way around. Does this make sense? You bet it does!
How Do We Sleep?
Most people have a particular position they sleep in. This correlates with sleep research studies that show statistics for the three positions of sleep. Look at the statistics below and find out where you are on the list.
- Side Sleepers - the preferred sleep position for most people at 54%.
- Back Sleepers - approximately 38% of people prefer this position.
- Stomach Sleepers - a small number of people sleep in this position at 8%.
As we get older our comfort levels change as do our sleep positions. The predominant sleep position for adults is side sleeping.
Side and Back Sleepers
Support vs. Comfort
Over the years I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this expression: “I need a firm mattress because I have back pain.” This saying has grown to be the most widely used misconception observed by the bedding industry.
What I find most often when people say this expression is that they are confused between the two words “Support” and “Comfort.”
The support in a mattress comes from the bottom. The materials used in this part of a mattress range from:
- Steel coil system
- Solid foam core
- Rubber bladder filled with air or water
The steel coil is the oldest support system used in mattress construction. I will not get into the particulars about the coils except for one. When talking about the best mattress for low back pain you should make sure that it has a pocketed coil system.
The comfort in a mattress comes from the materials used on top of the support system. The materials range from cotton, wool, latex, high density foam, and memory foam. Manufacturers are always mixing it up when it comes to comfort levels of a mattress.
The number one take away from this article should be this equation:
Support + Comfort = Great Night Sleep!
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The support in a mattress equates to building a house. The stronger the foundation the longer lasting house. The materials used in this part of a mattress range from:
- Steel coil system
- Solid foam core
- Rubber bladder filled with air or water
Each of these support systems is good up to a point. It all goes with the money you payout. Theoretically, the more money you spend the more support.
For our purpose in the best mattress for low back pain, I recommend a steel coil system called a pocketed or encased coil system
The Pocketed Coil
The pocketed coil is a spiral coil encased in a strong fabric. These are arranged in rows side to side and head to toe. The rows are then glued or sowed together.
The key to this type coil system is its ability to give you better spinal alignment. With proper alignment you feel this immediately.
Remember that the gauge of the wire is very important. A pocketed coil gauge ranges from 11 to 17. The key to this for our purpose is the lower number will indicate a heavier and stronger wire. The higher number is a softer or weaker support.
The next thing to remember is the number of coils. For a queen size mattress the number of coils range from 600–1200. If the gauge of the wire is a low number look for the largest amount of coils.
To better explain the mechanics of this system watch the short video below to get a better idea of why it is the coil you need.
Pocketed Coil System
I talk about the comfort of a mattress second because most people think of it first. This includes all salespeople. Yes, the best mattress for low back pain must be comfortable. But, without good support, comfort is only temporary.
When you go into any mattress store all you see is a sea of beds. In this section I will explain how to work with your salesperson. I mention a “mattress store” because the sales people are mattress specialists. Furniture and appliance store salespeople are not.
Before the salesperson starts to show you mattresses make sure that you know what you want. You already know what kind of support you need.
More Mattress Statistics
• Your body will tell you between 10 and 45 seconds whether it accepts a comfort level or not. The longer you stay on the mattress will be a good measurement.
• 95% of people test a mattress on their back. Always test a mattress by laying in it the way you sleep.
Manufacturers produce comfort levels in groups of three. What this means is that a retailer will display a particular model X in a Firm, Plush, and Pillow Top.
The firm feel is designed for and preferred by back sleepers. The plush and pillow top models are more comfortable for side and stomach sleepers. So, it’s logical that you will see more plush and pillow top beds on display.
You can easily determine whether a mattress is firm or plush by actually looking at it. If the design on the top of the mattress has more stitching it is probably a firm mattress. The less stitching on the mattress will indicate that it is a softer comfort level meaning plush or pillow top.
There are many materials that manufacturers use in the construction of a mattress. These materials range from:
- High-Density Foam
- Memory Foam
The most popular and durable materials used today are memory foam and latex. Both of these materials have the ability to add extra support and provide non-pressure comfort. I do recommend memory foam for comfort but don’t shy away from latex because it has excellent comfort. Latex foam is a little pricier but in fact, it may just be the comfort that your body is looking for. Don’t forget we are talking about the best mattress for low back pain.
If you don't care for memory foam or latex look for a mattress that is made of high-density foam.
How to Determine Your Preferred Mattress Comfort Level
There are a few simple ways to determine your comfort level when selecting the best comfort level.
- Most side sleepers prefer a mattress with a bit of contour to it. Avoid the mattresses that feels too firm.
- You must do the lay-down test, or what I call the 'Goldilocks' test.
- Because we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, you will want to spend time on this project to make the right choice. Make sure you are trying these with your sleep partner. You are wasting your time if you do this without him or her.
- Your body will accept or reject a mattress in a matter of 10 to 45 seconds. This doesn't mean that you have found the right one. It means that if your body accepts a particular model, then you are on the right track. When you find one that you like, you are half of the way there. Stay with that type of comfort and tweak your comfort level until your body says, "Ahhh."
- If you are a back sleeper, you need to try mattresses with a firm comfort level. Again, your body will tell you if it is close or not.
- If you are considering a mattress with an adjustable base make sure that you are testing your comfort level on an adjustable base.
The Adjustable Bed Base
One of the best ways to remedy low back pain while sleeping is with an adjustable bed base. A device that eliminates the box spring under your mattress and serves to adjust your body to your personal comfort level. The comfort you get is more pronounced than with just the mattress and boxspring.
An adjustable bed base comes in a variety of styles which basically means that the more bells and whistles the more the cost. The basic model allows you to raise and lower your head. Likewise, you can raise and lower your feet.
The next level or model adds special features such as massage, neck, and lumbar support settings, and the list goes on.
The health benefits of having an adjustable bed base are not just for back pain. As we get a bit older certain health issues crop up and we sometimes don't know what to do. I have paired my mattress with an adjustable bed base and sleep pain-free. Look at the list below.
Health Benefits of an Adjustable Bed Base
- Relieves low back pain
- Helps arthritic pain
- Relieves neck and shoulder pain
- Helps with Sleep Apnea, Asthma, Blood Pressure, Acid Reflux, Blood Circulation
Don’t Forget Your Mattress Protector!
Many people don’t know about this little tidbit I’m about to share with you. The most important item upon purchasing a new bed is a mattress protector. This is not a mattress pad but in fact, an item that protects the mattress.
The protection comes in the form of being waterproof, dust mite resistant, breathable, and hypoallergenic. A mattress protector will have a 10-year warranty on it. Meaning, if it should fail in a 10 year time the company will replace your mattress. Now that’s a good warranty! Below I left a link to the one that I have been using for years. It is called SafeRest Premium.
SafeRest Queen Size Mattress Protector
As mentioned at the beginning of this article - the best mattress for low back pain is not about a particular brand. Instead, it is to educate you about the type of mattress to sleep on. The information provided should give you a clear picture of what to look for when purchasing your next mattress set. As a quick checklist for you follow the points below:
- Determine your sleep position. (side, back, stomach)
- Look for a pocketed coil system with a heavy wire.
- If you are buying a set, make sure that the box spring is steel and not wood.
- For your comfort make sure you do the “Goldilocks Test.”
- Take your time and compare to the point where you can narrow it down to a few beds.
- Decide if you want to enhance your comfort with an adjustable base.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2021 Reginald Thomas