Back pain is one of the most daunting conditions that anyone can experience. While it can be caused when you fall during an activity or a game or as an extension of other health conditions, back pain can also be brought about by the mattress you sleep on every day.
Let's go through a few telltale signs that your mattress is causing back pain and later give you some helpful tips on how to choose the best mattress. However, if you're experiencing chronic back pain that's constant throughout the day, it's time to visit a doctor to discover the underlying problem.
1. Your back pain is worse in the morning
Do you wake up feeling like your back is fighting your body? You can barely get up from bed with ease and the pain feels like someone was jumping on your back all night.
One explanation would be that if the night was too cold and you hadn't covered yourself properly, it could cause some pain in your ribs. However, if this back pain is a regular occurrence, it might be due to the mattress you're sleeping on. Luckily, within no time, you'll feel less back pain.
You may still feel some mild discomfort during the day. Not only does back pain make it hard to get out of bed, but you also find that you're not well-rested when you do finally get up. It could be because you spend most of the night tossing and turning, unable to find a comfortable position.
Restlessness can be a dangerous thing to the human body. It makes us get stressed or even depressed, get fatigue headaches, and anxiety, and affects our energy.
2. Your mattress is too firm or too soft
A mattress that's too firm doesn't provide enough support to the natural curvature of your spine. This can cause back pain, as well as neck and shoulder pain. On the other hand, a mattress that's too soft doesn't offer enough resistance. This can cause you to sink into the bed, which puts stress on your back and spine, causing you back pain.
3. Your mattress is sagging
Mattress sagging is one of the greatest root cause of holes in mattress. Some people do like their mattresses to sink a little bit, like a memory foam mattress does, but when it's too much, it distorts your spinal alignment. This can also cause pain in your hips and shoulders. If your mattress is sagging, then it's time to invest in a new one.
Your mattress can sag due to a couple of things.
One is your body weight. If you’re a heavy sleeper and you buy a soft mattress, it will sink when you sleep. The other possible reason would be the quality of your mattress. A mattress without a firm base doesn’t hold its layers strong and allows them to sag so bad you may feel the slats of your bed. Speaking of bed frames with slats; check if they’re broken.
Slats can break if you jump on your bed frequently or buy a bed that can’t handle your body weight. Also, if the bed is poorly made. Broken slats make your mattress sink and worst of all, they can tear through your mattress and void your mattress warranty.
If all slats break, you may fall on the floor and break your back, hip, neck or shoulders - even legs. Therefore, check your slats and have them fixed or buy a new bed frame. Click here to read our guide on fixing sagging mattresses.
4. Your mattress is too old, get a new mattress
Every mattress has a different lifespan with others claiming over 10 years. Mattresses are expensive, therefore, taking good care of your mattress by cleaning it regularly or even getting rid of things like the vomit smell on mattress can help extend your bed’s lifespan. However, if you've had your mattress for more than eight years, it's time to window-shop for a new mattress, because 8 years is the average lifespan of a mattress. After that, the old mattress starts to lose its shape and doesn't offer the same support as it used to. This can cause lower back pain, as well as neck pain and shoulder pain, affecting your sleep quality.
5. Your mattress is worn out
Some mattresses wear out quite fast if made poorly or with low-quality materials. However, a mattress can also wear out if you don't take good care of it. You can disinfect used mattress at least every 3 months to enhance its durability. Other things that can help you extend the life of your mattress include:
- Cleaning it at least once every 6 months
- Spot cleaning it every time you stain it
- Using a mattress protector to protect your mattress from spills and sweat
- Buying a quality foundation for your mattress
- Flipping it after every 3 months or so
A worn-out mattress may cause sagging on different parts, turning it into a lumpy mattress leaving you with low back pain. It will also apply constant stress to your joints and muscles causing other sorts of aches throughout your body. Wear can turn a firm mattress soft and uneven, affecting how your spine aligned and making you wake up feeling sore.
It's quite easy to tell when your mattress is worn out and buy a new one. In case it is only slightly worn out, you can purchase a topper to keep it firm enough for use. Our post on how to clean a mattress contains detailed information on how you can keep your current mattress clean and extend its useful lifespan. This will prevent you from spending a lot of money on unnecessary repairs and replacements.
What to do if your mattress is causing you back pain
Before you conclude that you're experiencing back pain from mattress issues, for any of the named reasons, have someone else test your bed and see if they notice any sagging, wearing out and firmness issues. If they do, then indeed your mattress is causing back pain and requires your attention.
As I discussed the signs that your mattress is causing you back pain, I gave a few solutions to the problem; one is replacing it with a new mattress, another is buying a mattress topper to restore firmness, and finally, getting a new strong foundation. There are other steps to take. Without following any order, one of the things you should do is get an adjustment from a chiropractor. This will help with your spine alignment, help your muscles relax, and prevent the back pain from escalating.
You may also need to check your sleeping position and change it. Try out a different type of sleep posture to see which one causes less pain, then stick to it. For example, some back sleepers may complain of neck pain and such, which go away when they switch to side sleeping.
Sleeping with or without a pillow can also cause back pain. All sleepers are different and some bodies align better when laying flat. Others get back pain when they don’t have a pillow under their knees. Experiment to see what works for you, especially as you target your pressure points. Click here, for more information on how a bad mattress can lead to general body aches and pains and what you can do to fix it.
How to choose the right mattress that won't cause back pain
Now that you know that your current mattress is the main culprit for causing you back pains, here are 2 most important things to ask about when mattress shopping. We all want a good mattress that offers the best support - zoned support - spine health and a good night's sleep.
The softness or firmness of your mattress depends on your weight and how the layers of the mattress compress, making it not a universal rule for everyone. However, medium firm mattresses (on a firmness scale) are almost always a favorable option. They provide the perfect balance of comfort and support and are suitable for people of most weight groups. If you're above 250lbs, you may want to consider a very firm mattress to support your weight and pressure points.
A mattress is constructed using different materials in their layers. Some have 3 layers, others have up to 7 layers. You can buy an all-foam mattress, hybrid mattress or innerspring mattress depending on your needs.
An all-foam mattress has all its layers made of foam. These are the most common types of mattresses and vary in firmness levels from very soft to luxury firm. All-foam mattresses provide excellent contouring and pressure relief and are ideal for people who suffer from back pain. Especially latex mattresses which are also breathable and hypoallergenic.
Hybrid mattresses, on the other hand, have a combination of foam layers and innerspring coils in their construction. These provide good contouring and support but can be at times unfavorable for hot sleepers. Hybrid mattresses are ideal for people who want the benefits of both an all-foam mattress and an innerspring mattress.
Innerspring mattresses have a steel coil support system that makes them very supportive and durable. They are also more breathable than any mattress with foam layers and offer good contouring. Innerspring mattresses are ideal for heavy sleepers above 250lbs.
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If you suffer from back pain, it's important to buy a supportive mattress that will keep your spine neutral and offer joint pressure relief. Whether you're buying your new mattress in store or online, make sure to test it to ensure you don't buy the wrong mattress that'll end up causing more harm. Avoid any poor sleeping posture as well, by finding a better sleep position to give you a comfortable sleep each night.