Experts Corner

A Chiropractor Explains How to Tell When Your Mattress Could Be Causing Your Back Pain

April 30, 2021   By Dr Lisa Smycz

Waking up with a stiff back is uncomfortable and worrisome. It might feel as though you can’t bend over, or you may hear creaks and cracks as you stretch out.

But if your back is still in pain after a morning stretch, there might be a bigger problem.

Back pain is frustrating as it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what causes it. You might have tried different approaches to alleviate the pain, but found nothing works. Have you ever thought that the mattress you sleep on for 7-8 hours every night could the culprit of your back pain?

We spoke with a chiropractor, Dr Lisa Smycz of Errol Street Chiropractic Centre in Melbourne, to help us identify signs that your mattress is causing your back pain. It might be time for an upgrade!

Initial Back Pain When You Wake up

You know that feeling of stiffness when you first wake up? It’s the result of long periods of rest or decreased blood flow from sleeping. It usually takes a few minutes of stretching and moving to get rid of that stiff feeling. But if your back is in acute pain when you first wake up and you have to actively stretch to get rid of it, that might be a sign your mattress is doing more harm than good, according to The Joint Chiropractic.

“If you’re waking up with back pain — that’s an indicator that your mattress isn’t supporting you,” said Dr Smycz.

Too Firm a Mattress

You might have heard that a firm mattress is recommended for low back pain, but Dr Smycz told us that you don’t want a mattress so firm that it feels like you’re sleeping on the floor. A 2003 study found that a medium-firm mattress improves lower back pain more efficiently than a very firm mattress, which can potentially push on pressure points and cause misalignment.

“A poor quality mattress that’s very firm can definitely cause misalignment to the spine because it will be pushing the shoulders up, pushing the hips up, and not allowing the spine to be in a neutral resting position,” Dr Smycz explained. “We don’t want to be stressing the spine in the night with a bad mattress and pillow.”

READ: A Guide to Mattress Firmness

Too Soft a Mattress

A very soft mattress is usually lacking in support and comfort. Especially if it sags, it could lead to more serious health problems. When your bed is too soft, it will allow your body to sink, causing bad posture as you sleep and subsequent back problems, reports The Joint Chiropractic.

If you get a sinking feeling when sleeping in a bed, it might be time to start looking for a new mattress. Harvard Health Publishing reports that when you sink deeply into your mattress, your joints twist and become painful during the night. Ouch.

Shop the Ecosa Memory Foam Mattress

Quality of the Mattress

It makes sense that the quality of your mattress is directly related to back pain. Dr Smycz explains that how well you look after the mattress is a major factor. You need to make sure the mattress is protected and looked after.

“If your mattress is in good condition — in terms of quality, age, and treatment — you should not be waking up with back stiffness,” said Dr Smycz.

You’ll know it’s time to replace your mattress if you feel chronic back pain that greets you in the morning.

The Age of the Mattress

“You shouldn’t be sleeping on a mattress that’s more than seven years old,” explained Dr Smycz. “It simply won’t provide back support when the mattress is older than that.”

A 2009 study found that newer bedding systems increased sleep quality and reduced back discomfort, whereas older and cheaper mattresses caused back discomfort and poor sleep quality.

A Cheap Mattress

On that note, a cheap mattress is just as harmful to your back as an old mattress.

“If you’re buying a $200 mattress, don’t expect it to last,” said Dr Smycz.

Honestly, how comfortable can a cheap mattress be? Lumps and sags on the thing you’re trying to lay down on for eight hours a night? No thanks.

We also learned that cheap mattresses are most likely made with harmful foams or toxic chemicals, which not only hurts your back but is also harmful to your health.

Time for a new bed. Shop the Ecosa mattress.

Tossing and Turning in the Night

According to The Joint Chiropractic, if you find yourself waking up frequently throughout the night or you’re actively tossing and turning, it may be a sign that your mattress isn’t right for you. You shouldn’t have to find a comfortable sleep position – laying down should be pain-free and natural.

Sleeping on Your Stomach

Dr Smycz said that your sleep posture is an additional factor to back and neck pain. Stomach sleepers, take note!

“Sleeping on your stomach is the worst position to sleep in because you have to turn your head, which puts a strain on the neck and upper back,” said Dr Smycz. “Sleeping on your stomach compresses the solar plexus, and digestion is affected as well. It doesn’t allow you to properly rest and repair throughout the night.”

So what’s the ideal sleeping position to avoid back pain?

“The ideal sleep posture is lying on your side,” explained Dr Smycz. “When lying on your side, imagine a line going all the way from the neck through to the spine. You want that line to be straight. A nice, supportive mattress will keep that spine aligned.”

We know that side sleepers often prefer a softer mattress, but it’s important to find a firmness level that correlates to your weight. The best mattress for side sleepers is a memory foam mattress.

When It’s Not Your Mattress…

Dr Smycz gave us a heads up that if you have back pain when you’re sleeping and it’s waking you up, you should get your spine checked.

The bottom line: a good mattress should support the spine. If you’re waking up with pain, consider these factors as it might be time to invest in a new mattress. Lucky for you, Ecosa offers a 100-day trial period of its adjustable mattress to help in your quest to avoid back pain. A good night’s sleep is waiting for you!

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