What’s the best mattress for my back?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

By: Ahmet Dervish, MD

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Do you wake up with a throbbing back? It could be your mattress or even the way you sleep. Since there is not a one-size-fits-all solution, I encourage patients to purchase a mattress that is most personally comfortable for them. However, I do have a few guidelines that can help in your search.


Many people prefer firm mattresses; yet there are no proven statistics that show firm mattresses give better spine support.


If a mattress is too hard, it can result in even more stress on pressure points like the hips. Those who sleep on their side will usually feel achy after sleeping on a firm mattress, as their hips and shoulders are pressed against the mattress.


There is nothing pressing on the spine while sleeping, so if you feel more comfortable and relaxed on a softer mattress, I encourage you to purchase one.



Mattresses and the sleep position can either help or hinder a back condition.


Bursitis - Overly firm mattresses may cause bursitis patients significant pain. Add pillow-top padding to make the mattress more comfortable.


Degenerative disc disease - Relieve pressure on the discs by sleeping on the stomach. Patients may prefer firm mattresses and a pillow under the hips to further reduce stress on the low back.


Herniated lumbar disc - Depending on the position of the herniated disc, certain sleeping positions are more comfortable. Most commonly, patients sleep on their stomach or in the fetal position. Patients who are prone to developing neck pain may prefer sleeping in a fetal position, as the stomach position may aggravate the neck.


Hip pain - Sleeping on the side of the body and a pillow placed between the knees can decrease the pressure across the hips.


Osteoarthritis - The fetal position is usually preferred. Adjustable beds are beneficial for osteoarthritis patients, as the head and knees can be elevated, releasing pressure from the facet joints.


Spinal stenosis - The fetal position is also favored with spinal stenosis patients.


Test drive

If possible, try out a mattress before you buy it! Have you ever had a perfect night of sleep in a hotel? Ask the concierge about the brand of the mattress. Try out your friend's mattress if they swear by it. If this is not an option, make sure to lie on the mattress at the store.


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