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How to Tell If Your Mattress Is Causing Your Back Pain

How to Tell If Your Mattress Is Causing Your Back Pain

A common problem like back pain has many potential causes. One of those just might be your mattress. This should come as no surprise, given that you spend about a third of your life resting your back on it!

An improper mattress that fails to offer the right level of support is a recipe for waking up with a stiff spine and pain on your pressure points. Here's some advice on how to discern if your mattress is the culprit behind your chronic or acute pain.

Your Back Hurts First Thing in the Morning

Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best one, and sometimes the most obvious signs are the likeliest ones. If you feel stiffness or morning pain as soon as you wake up, odds are good that your mattress is contributing to your back issues. This is especially true if your back felt okay when you went to bed the night before.

Of course, this doesn't mean that all stiffness or morning pain is a direct result of your mattress. After all, your body's blood flow slows down overnight, so everyone experiences at least a small amount of stiffness first thing in the morning. The trick is to watch out for acute or chronic morning pain that doesn't go away as you move around at the start of the day.

If your stiffness or morning pain only disappears after you take some time to perform active stretches, your problematic mattress is probably responsible for whatever back or neck pain you are experiencing.

You Mattress Feels Too Soft or Too Firm

Mattresses exist on something of a "Goldilocks spectrum." In other words, having a mattress that is either too firm or too soft will lead to discomfort, whereas a perfect mattress is "just right" (like Baby Bear's bowl of porridge in the fairy tale).

On the one hand, an overly soft sleep surface fails to provide the support your spine needs for a comfy night's sleep. A too-soft mattress is liable to let a sleeper's body sink, which exacerbates or even outright causes poor sleeping posture.

On the other hand, while your response to this news may be to seek a firmer mattress, you should know that a too-hard mattress can cause discomfort during sleep (imagine sleeping on hard terrain). Apart from negatively affecting your sleep quality, this discomfort can also cause spinal misalignment and unhealthy pressure being placed on your joints.

Either way, a mattress that misses the mark on the softness-firmness spectrum is a prime suspect for causing back pain and uncomfortable pressure. According to sleep experts, most people have the best results with a medium-firm mattress, no more and no less.

You Can't Find a Comfortable Sleeping Position

Failing to find the right sleep position for a nightly doze doesn't just lead to poor sleep quality. Poor sleep posture often goes hand-in-hand with needing to see a low-back pain doctor before causing other types of spinal discomfort. Tossing and turning in your mattress also suggests that your mattress is a poor fit for your body type or ideal sleep posture (see the point above).

For example, if every sleep position you try feels too hard on your body, then your mattress may be giving you too much support. And if sleeping on your back makes your hips and spine feel out of sorts, then your mattress may not be providing the support the human body needs to maintain proper spinal alignment.

Your Mattress Is Old or Cheaply Made

Quality counts, and quality usually costs more. So that cheap mattress you bought for half-price a decade ago may have seemed like a steal at the time, but it could be the reason you're experiencing back pain in the here and now.

A poor-quality mattress is often guilty of causing ongoing back pain. Cheap mattresses are likelier to have uncomfortable lumps or unsupportive sags that turn what should be a dreamy sleeping experience into a nightmare.

Research suggests that optimal spine health can be maintained by swapping out a mattress at least once every nine years. If you can afford it, getting a new mattress every 5-7 years is probably closer to the ideal.

You can certainly shoot for replacing your bad mattress every 7-10 years (depending on the initial quality of the mattress), but anything much older than a decade is probably going to make your morning back pain that much worse.

Whatever type of replacement mattress you get, remember that material matters. For instance, polyfoam materials make for cheaper mattresses but won't provide as much spinal support or quality sleep comfort as higher-quality and more expensive mattresses (e.g. a memory foam mattress).

You Don't Hurt After Sleeping in Other Places

This is one of the telltale signs that is rooted in common sense. If your morning pain ceases to be a problem when you sleep elsewhere, such as on an extended vacation, then your usual sleeping area is almost certainly to blame for your recurring pain.

If, however, you experience back pain regardless of where you sleep at night (such as at a hotel or a relative's house), then you might be able to rule out your current mattress. At the very least, your mattress may not be the root cause of your back issues.

This isn't to say that your mattress might not still be a factor in your back pain, however. Your spine problems might still hurt regardless of where you sleep, only for the pain and stiffness to be that much worse when you return to your mattress at home. 

You Wake Up During the Night

Similar to our tip about finding a comfortable sleep position, frequent nighttime awakenings are a good sign that your mattress is a poor fit for you. This in turn means your bed isn't providing the support or comfort that your spine needs.

Research from sleep experts suggests that just over one-third of adults wake up during the night at least three times a week. This suggests that there may be times when waking up in the middle of the night is not an indicator of a pain-inducing mattress. Other factors such as sleep apnea, insomnia, anxiety, and indigestion can all cause you to wake up before you've had your full amount of uninterrupted sleep.

Still, if you find yourself consistently waking up during the night, especially if it's connected to an uncomfortable or unnatural-feeling sleep position, your mattress is likely to blame.

Contact Deep Roots Health Center to Schedule an Appointment Today

If you suspect that your mattress is contributing to your back pain, buying a new, more supportive mattress is only one of the steps you should take to fix things. Acute or chronic pain in your lower back can have lifelong consequences, which is why you should contact the team at Deep Roots Chiropractic Health Center to schedule an appointment. Under our expert care, you can find the back pain relief you've been looking for.

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