A healthful night’s sleep is essential to your physical and mental well-being. During sleep, your body cycles through essential regenerative functions, and chronic sleep deprivation is associated with high blood pressure, increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, memory loss and mood changes. As a Rothman Orthopaedic spine surgeon, I am often asked whether a patient’s mattress and pillow may contribute to back and neck pain and whether a different bedding choice might help improve symptoms at night as well as during the following day.
How firm should my mattress be?
Advances in mattress technology have made choosing an ideal sleep surface ever more challenging as innerspring, air, water and foam designs are available in soft, medium, firm and adjustable variations. Pillows are also available in foam, down, feather and synthetic fills, and in a variety of shapes and levels of firmness.
Orthopaedic surgeons most commonly recommend medium-firm mattresses as some studies have suggested that medium-firm mattresses improve pain and disability more than firm mattresses. A new mattress may also improve sleep compared with old mattresses > 10 years old. Among pillow choices, latex and foam pillows may be superior to polyester or feather-filled pillows in maintaining good sleep posture and improving night pain.
What’s the best mattress for back pain?
Though a medium-firm mattress is a good starting point, it is most important to understand that each person’s best choice depends on individual factors including their overall posture, weight, age and other orthopaedic and medical conditions. A person experiencing low back pain, especially at night, should evaluate their current mattress and consider their choice of a new mattress as a process likely to involve trial and error. In trying different options, key factors are the ability of the mattress to maintain the spine in a neutral position, avoidance of pressure points that can lead to painful bursitis, and the ability to change positions freely to avoid twisting loads on the spine and possible nerve entrapment like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Optimizing mattress and pillow choices may benefit many patients with low back and neck pain, and an improvement in sleep support and posture may directly improve symptoms of spine arthritis including pain, especially in the morning with rising. When a new mattress and pillow do not relieve symptoms, a thorough medical and orthopaedic evaluation is recommended as pain resulting from circulatory dysfunction, spinal stenosis and herniated discs may be worse at night.
Dr. Howard Yeon is an orthopaedic spine surgeon at Rothman Orthopaedic Institute and currently sees patients in Montvale, NJ and Rutherford, NJ. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please visit RothmanOrtho.com or call 888-636-7840.