Back pain can be crippling. Every night, we have to face it – and it can ruin that next stretch of time before we return to the sheets once more…
From sleeping positions to physical conditions, back pain doesn’t have a single parent cause. Even poor back support – your bedding, pillows and mattress – can have a huge impact on how you feel in the morning, or whether you sleep well at all.
It’s this last problem we’re going to look at here: the best mattress for a bad back. When it comes to sleep, we believe everyone should get the right support. Team Tweak are here to offer advice on which mattress is right for you, because (literally) everybody is different. One sleeping arrangement can exacerbate back pain for some certain ailments, yet could deliver amazing benefits to someone else. We're here to help you find the ultimate solution to your sleep, whatever your needs may be.
So, that’s why we’ve paid attention to the subtleties lying beneath you… Keep reading for a full, all-comers guide to reducing back pain during sleep.
Why are you hurting at night?
The body is an incredibly diverse collection of pain points. You may have early-onset or late-stage arthritis, a curved spine, genetic disease or poor digestion, or you may be pregnant. Aching muscles and joints can face immense pressure when they’ve been worked too hard. Trapped or compressed nerves aren’t ideal either: this is when the discs between our vertebrae begin to shrink, which happens as we age. Whether it’s a chronic or sporadic condition, there are a huge number of origins back pain can have.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders, 80% of British adults will have noticeable lower back pain at some point in their lives. From the NHS’ perspective, it is also a “leading cause of disability,” and can often be “debilitating and emotionally distressing”.
Medication can help. So can mobility. But some situations are harder to treat in this same way. Let’s first list a few of the main causes of back pain, so you know what may be harming you.
The way we walk, sit, bend and sleep can affect our fascia – the elastic membrane between our biological tissue. Additionally, too much pressure as a result of poor posture can harm certain muscles and joints; the neck, shoulders and hips, for example, all experience this to a degree. Even sitting at a desk for too long can be very detrimental.
It’s a term used to describe nerve pain, one that may run from the lower back to the bottom of our legs. Toes, calves, thighs and the buttocks are equally susceptible. Sufferers are likely to report a tingling sensation, weak joints, and stiffness. Those most likely to develop sciatica are in their 40s and 50s, but it’s a danger for anyone over 20 years of age.
Contrary to what you may think, these ‘stones’ (really hard balls of crystals formed by waste product in the blood) can develop anywhere along the urinary tract: the urethra, bladder, kidneys and uterus.
Men are three times more likely than women to develop ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that affects the lower spine. Swelling, tiredness, sore spots and stiffness can develop and recede over many years. In some cases, it can be incredibly debilitating.
The spine is built from columns that soften the strain on each run of bones with a ‘disc’. This soft cushion of tissue can become misaligned. This can hurt a lot as it presses on your nerves. Slipped discs, when undetected, lead to 1-5% of global back pain.
Scoliosis can affect us at any age, but most commonly develops when we hit puberty. It is the name for a curved and twisted spine that can throw the hips, shoulders or waist out of joint. Children who suffer from it are likelier to experience pain as they get older.
We’ve only scratched the tip of back pain predicators here. In fact, there are such a huge number of complications that it’s easy to see why so many people complain about sleepless nights. However, it’s always wise to consult a GP before rushing to a self-diagnosis.
But on top of all the reasons listed above, there’s a final, man-made cause – your mattress. Let’s talk about what we mean, in a little more detail…
The role of a mattress for back pain
Sleep is a surrender to the unconscious. We aren’t aware of what we’re doing when our head hits the pillow. Some of us curl up; others spread out straight. We can wake in a sprawled position with a head under one arm, or face-down. Or instead, the morning sun can reveal that we’ve slept awkwardly on a sensitive spot. As much as we try to stick to our original position, bedtime can leave us helpless. We’re at the mercy of tossing, turning and overstrained musculature.
Back support is therefore crucial. The best mattress for a bad back takes your own situation and habits into account. Structures are modified. Materials can change, accommodating the way in which you sleep. Pain points are cared for. A tailor-made mattress is one of the best ways to reduce any long-term or sudden, unexplained issues with lower back discomfort. Almost any of the causes of back pain we discussed can be tackled, in part, with a good choice – whereas a poor mattress could be the reason you’re feeling worse off from the get-go.
So how does mattress design – when used in the right, specific combination – mediate the issues we’re dealing with?
Let’s take each feature of a mattress one at a time:
- Buoyancy is determined by the material and springs of your mattress. The more springs there are, the more evenly weight is distributed – this is a main difference between ‘single coil’ and ‘pocket sprung’ mattresses. Sleepers who prefer lying on their back will be better off with a pocket sprung design, as the spine is kept straighter than it would be on (for example) memory foam, which is devoid of springs altogether. Don’t go for a model that’s too springy though, as there won’t be a chance for the spine to curve at all, which is just as detrimental.
- Deeper comfort, on the other hand, can be a big plus point. Foam is kind to necks and shoulder blades, especially if you sleep on your side. It helps hip pain recede as less pressure is incurred when rolling over. Pillows affect the whole arrangement, since they increase or decrease the height of your head and upper back to the rest of your frame. Foam, latex and mattress toppers contribute to a more sinkable sleep.
- Reliability, is key to a good mattress investment. Single coil mattresses are notorious for sagging over time. And even the finest designs can suffer from too much pressure; only rarely will a mattress survive longer than 10 years before it starts to damage sleep quality. Individually wrapped pocket springs can generally withstand more use.
By being aware of the different attributes, you can be more certain whether a mattress is appropriate for you. But that’s not specific enough. We’re about to list the types of mattress that are out there, and the back conditions they’re suited to.
What is the best mattress for a bad back?
Rarely does one mattress fit all. Each medical condition has a corresponding design that it is most suitable to. Let’s get down to them, shall we?
Continuous or single coil
It’s easy with this category: don’t buy it! Continuous or single coils (apart from wearing out much quicker) will squeak in the night when you’re moving around – a disaster for couples if one half is already being kept awake by their back pain.
Sufferers of scoliosis, strain at the base of the spine or a slipped lower disc may find a ‘medium-firm’, traditional spring build alleviates some of their pain. You might call this an orthopaedic mattress. It deals with irregularities in bone structure, thanks to the level of back support it provides. Blood circulation is also heightened when we lie straighter on our backs or stomachs.
Those suffering from a number of inflamed areas will often find a reflex or memory foam mattress ideal for their needs. As these let you sink into the material, harsher pains – like those in the hips, buttocks, shoulders and legs – are literally softened as time goes by. Ankylosing spondylitis is one of the afflictions that stands to benefit from a foam design, and arthritic concerns can also become less intense.
Latex and hybrids
Latex claims to hit a balance between pliability and firmness, treating all of the pain you’re likely to have. Hybrid mattresses are quite similar, reaching a comfortable middle ground. Really though, it translates to a medium level of back support, bolstering the hips and shoulders of those who don’t sleep on their side or belly. Sciatica is just one condition that can be moderated with a hybrid mattress.
The new concept on the mattress scene
So, we’re at the close of our back pain rundown; hopefully, we’ve given you enough ideas to sleep on when shopping for a comforter worth your cash. Before we wrap up, however, know that the decision is a big one. If you’re seeking more customisation, depending on why you’re hurting and whether you sleep with someone who has their own preferences, turn painlessly to Tweak Slumber’s products.
A mattress for a bad back with Tweak comes in two forms: the Nrem, and the DUO. Customise your mattress with interchangeable foam inserts that adapt to the contours of your body. Pocket springs provide a supportive base, and the unique comfort-changing layer means you can trade firmer and softer areas to match your individual posture, and provide as much sink-ability as you need (you can even personalise each side of the bed!). Ours are the first ever 100% self-tailored mattresses that can genuinely transform the way we square up to a bad back.