As an osteopath, I am quite often asked about mattresses and pillows. Especially how they relate to people’s pain and how they can be used to reduce pain. This can be a tricky topic, as a lot of advice will depend on personal comfort and sleeping style. Let’s first explore the world of mattresses.
When purchasing a mattress, you will need to decide what spring type is best for you? (currently pocket springs are the way to go). This is usually dependant on price point;
- Slatted base or a mattress base?
- Do you want any special materials? eg latex mattresses were very popular a few years back, but have now been overtaken by memory foam (it’s hard to keep up with the fashions!)
- What level of comfort do you want? – hard, medium, soft; to pillow top or not etc.
Then there’s the technical side:
- Do you want the mattress to go up and down?
- Do you want it to massage you as you drift to sleep?
- Do you want your side of the bed to be fitted to you and your partner’s to them?
The possibilities are endless.
The Most Important Mattress Question
So what should you be looking for? Basically, the spring type is important. The current pocket springs systems allow for your shoulders and hips to sink into the mattress while supporting your torso and waist. This is an important advance in mattress technology that is missing from older spring systems.
Osteopathically and Biomechanically speaking, this is the most important factor for reducing pain caused by a poor mattresses. All of the other factors are based on extra comfort or personal choice.
Poor mattress posture will cause soreness over the hips and shoulders, caused by too much pressure on these points. You may also feel sore in the low back just above your pelvis which is due to the lack of torso support.
How to Test Your Current Mattress
An easy way to test whether your mattress causing discomfort is to, when side-sleeping, prop your torso up with a pillow. This will allow your hips and shoulders to make contact with the mattress, while allowing the spine to be in a neutral position, thereby taking the pressure off your low back.
If you find after trialing this for a few nights that your pain is lessened, then maybe it’s time to go shopping for a new mattress.
As a rule, mattresses should be changed every 8-12 years depending on the quality of materials eg latex, memory foam etc and the type of springs.