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What is the Impact of Your Mattress on Your Spine?

The average American sleeps approximately 5.5 hours a night, although studies have shown that most adults should shoot for a minimum of seven to nine hours of sleep. Considering how much time you spend in bed and how important sleep is, and the fact that it can affect many aspects of your life, from your energy level and work performance, to mood, health, and safety, shopping for a new mattress is a very important investment. The type of mattress you use can majorly impact your sleep quality and can even worsen certain conditions, especially for people with back pain, neck pain, arthritis, and other conditions.

Back pain is currently one of the most common medical problems and it affects eight out of ten people at some point in their life. While back pain can be caused for a number of reasons, such as a physically demanding job, exercise, or improper lifting, it can also be caused by sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress.

If you suffer from chronic back pain or neck pain, you need a mattress that’s comfortable, supportive, and promotes spine health.

Is Your Mattress Making Your Back Sore?

An old or low quality mattress can cause back pain, sleep discomfort, can interrupt sleep, and can even worsen existing conditions.

For most people, the right type of mattress is a matter of personal preference. Some people prefer a firm mattress, while others search for a mattress that’s made out of materials that will contour to the shape of their body.

While there is no right or wrong mattress, there are some guidelines you should follow, to avoid purchasing a new mattress that will cause back pain, tight muscles, or worsen an existing back problem.

A bad mattress can:

  • Cause or worsen chronic pain
  • Cause or worsen leg pain, head pain, neck pain, and back pain
  • Cause or worsen joint pain
  • Cause or worsen neck pain
  • Prevent you from sleeping comfortably throughout the night
  • Can worsen arthritis pain

Mattresses for Spine Health

The mattress you choose should promote spine health. The spine features three slight curves that must be supported, even when lying down. The right type of mattress should hold the body in a neutral position, allowing the spine to hold its natural curve, while the heels, shoulders, buttocks, and head are aligned. Mattress issues can turn into a big problem if you’re experiencing poor quality of sleep, tense muscles, neck pain, or an aching back. A comfortable mattress can make all the difference in the world for people with existing back or neck pain and can help prevent pain in the future.

Firm Or Medium-Firm Mattress

A firmer mattress is often a good choice for people who do not have existing back pain. People who have chronic back pain or suffer from arthritis will find that a firm mattress can be incredibly uncomfortable. Medium-firm mattresses can work well for people who sleep on their side, or those who need a softer sleeping surface that can help support the spine and joints.

Memory Foam and Latex Foam for a More Restful Sleep

Latex foam and memory foam mattresses can be a good choice for someone who suffers from lower back pain.

There are many different types of memory foam and latex foam beds to choose from, each with varying levels of thickness. The contouring foam layers will promote spinal alignment and joint support. Sleep style, weight, and personal choice will all factor in when choosing this type of mattress.

Hybrid Gel and Memory Foam

Keep in mind, that some people avoid memory foam beds because memory foam has a reputation for excessive heat retention. However, gel and memory foam hybrid mattresses offer the best of both worlds, providing a blend of memory foam and a deep layer of gel, while providing the same level of support as a traditional memory foam mattress, without heat retention.

Do Mattress Toppers Work?

In most cases, mattress toppers are not very effective in easing back pain or preventing it. A mattress topper is not very supportive and can worsen back pain and discomfort for some people. Investing in a good mattress may be more expensive, but a good night’s rest will be worth every penny.

Types of Sleeping Positions

To determine whether you need a mattress that’s firm, medium-firm, or soft, you should also factor in how you sleep.

Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on your stomach should be avoided since it places extra strain on the lower back and neck. However, if you’re a devoted stomach sleeper,  you should use a firm mattress and a soft pillow.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers should use a mattress that’s medium-soft to firm, along with a firm pillow. Extra pillows should be placed between or under the knees if you are suffering from back pain and insist on sleeping on your back.

Side Sleeping

Side sleeping or lateral sleeping is the most common type of sleeping position in the world. Even people who fall asleep on their back or stomach may find themselves sleeping on their side at some point during the night. Unfortunately, side sleepers tend to be more prone to back pain, if they’re not using the right mattress. This is because sleeping on the side can slowly pull the spine out of alignment, which can lead to back, neck, and hip pain.

For this sleep position, the perfect mattress should be made out of high-quality materials with a medium firmness. If you’re a side sleeper, the mattress you choose should be firm enough to provide the right level of support for the rest of your body, but soft enough to keep the spine supported in a natural position. Memory foam mattresses are often a great choice for side sleepers.

Is it Time to Get a New Mattress?

If your mattress is over ten years old, it’s no longer able to provide the support you need.

Signs that a bad mattress may be to blame for your aches and pains include:

  • You toss and turn throughout the night
  • You wake up with a sore back, neck, or hips
  • You are tired throughout the day
  • Your mattress is more than ten years old
  • You find yourself in more pain in the morning

If you’re not sure which type of mattress is right for you, a licensed chiropractor can help.

Contact The Chiropractic Doctors Today to Schedule an Appointment

If you’re living with pain and having trouble sleeping at night due to an uncomfortable mattress, but you’re not sure which mattress will work the best for you, schedule an appointment with a chiropractor at the Chiropractic Doctors. At an appointment we will examine you, discuss your sleep habits and pain issues, and create a personalized treatment plan that’s tailored to your specific needs. We can also discuss which type of mattress will work the best for you, based on your current health and pain issues, preferred sleeping position, and other factors.

We’re here to help you on your path to wellness and a good night’s rest is a big part of that. Contact our chiropractic office today to speak with one of our helpful staff members and schedule an exam with an experienced and knowledgeable chiropractor.

Call our office to book your next appointment, and discover why The Chiropractic Doctors are consistently rated 5 stars by your neighbors!


This article was reviewed and approved by Dr. Matthew Phinney.

If you enjoyed this article, check out these other articles about chiropractic care:
What is the Difference Between an Adjustment and a Manipulation?
Is It Safe to Visit a Chiropractor While Pregnant?
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