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Back Problems? Buy a Better Mattress!

There is no question that the mattress that you’re sleeping on can be either an advantage or a disadvantage if you are suffering from back pain. Different mattresses provide different levels and types of support, and though mattress comfort is a matter of personal preference, it is also something that can be guided by research and real data. There is a great deal of information available on selecting the right type of mattress for your specific type of pain, as well as on sleep positions that may be helping or hurting.

It is also important to keep in mind that your ability to sleep comfortably may be impacted by factors other than your mattress, including any medications that you may be taking, any personal habits such as napping or the use of electronic devices that may be interrupting your ability to sleep, the use of caffeine, alcohol or tobacco, stress, and a variety of sleep disorders. If you are considering purchasing a new mattress, be sure that you have addressed all of these issues before you make a big investment that you think a new mattress will solve. Though the purchase of the right kind of new mattress can provide tremendous relief of pain you may be experiencing, it is also important to seek medical attention to determine whether you have a physical problem that needs treatment from a physician.  Switching mattresses may provide more comfort and an alleviation of pain, but it is not a cure. 

The amount and type of support that a mattress provides is important for many reasons, but perhaps the most important is the fact that when we are sleeping is the only time that our bodies’ various muscles and structures completely relax. It is essential that we are well-supported during this particular time, especially if we are suffering from any kind of injury or disorder. Not only can a lack of proper support lead to additional pain, but it has been well documented that the body does the majority of its tissue healing when we are asleep, and therefore we must do everything we can to maximize our comfort and ensure that we’re getting quality sleep.

Sleeping in the correct position is one of the first things that a person can do to maximize their sleep quality. The healthiest position for sleeping is on your back with a pillow tucked behind your knees. This reduces stress on the spine and accommodates the body’s natural curve. It also eliminates any pressure point problems caused by side sleeping, which can put undue stress on hips and shoulders.  People who sleep on their sides and who have back or hip problems are advised to put a pillow between their knees to reduce this problem. Those who sleep on their stomach are often inviting neck trouble – this position is generally advised against. Those who are unable to sleep in any other way are advised to plae a flat pillow underneath their hips in order to alleviate stress on the spine.

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There are a number of different medical conditions that tend to require or be well served by certain sleep positions. Those who suffer from arthritis in their facet joints (which line the outside of the spine) generally find greater comfort by sleeping on their sides with their knees curled up into the fetal position. The curve provided by this position opens the joints up and eliminates pressure. Some find the most comfort sleeping in a reclining chair that elevates their head and knees.  Spinal stenosis sufferers also benefit from the same sleeping style as those suffering from facet joint pain. For those who suffer from degenerative disc disease, stomach sleeping sometimes helps reduce pressure on the lower back, though it may cause other problems.

If you are suffering from bursitis, it is a good idea to look into how firm your mattress is. Too hard a mattress creates pressure points and aggravates inflammation of the bursa. If you feel that your mattress requires more give, it is a good idea to purchase a new mattress that has a thick padding on top or to purchase an egg crate foam mattress cover that will provide more give for your existing mattress.  Those with hip pain usually benefit from sleeping on their side with a pillow between their knees in order to alleviate stress.

One of the most painful conditions that people seek relief from is a herniated lumbar disc. Much of the decision making about sleep positions for those suffering from this condition has to do with which disc is most impacted. Those who suffer from the most common form of disc herniation, paracentral disc herniation, usually prefer lying on their stomachs, while those who have a foraminal herniated disc usually do better sleeping on their side. In all cases, if you can fall asleep while lying on your back with a pillow behind your knees, this is the position that will provide you with the greatest overall comfort.

With reference to selecting a new mattress to address pain, though personal preference is always an important determining factor, there are certain basic rules that should be followed. People who suffer from back pain generally do better with a mattress that provides their spine with better support.  You don’t want a mattress with too much give because you want to keep your spine aligned in its natural position. Though this means that your mattress should be firm, that is not the same thing as it being hard. Too hard a mattress causes pressure point pain, particularly in the hips and shoulders. Those who suffer from arthritis and bursitis can be particularly impacted by a bed that is too hard.

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