“I like shopping for a mattress.”-said no one ever. And no wonder, the 9 billion dollar market has potential customers scratching their heads at the overwhelming number of  mattress types, massive differences in prices for what seems to be the exact same thing and pushy sales tactics. Stacie Freedmen summed up the mattress shopping experience perfectly:

“Goldilocks knew which bed was “too soft” and which was “too hard.” They all felt the same to me. Who can pretend to sleep under florescent lights in a strip mall? I obediently tried out mattress after mattress like a game show contestant, unsure if I was going up or down in price.

“I like this one,” I said.

“Of course you do,” he [salesman] beamed. “That’s a hypo-allergenic, dual temperature control mattress, handmade in Finland that converts into a flotation device. It’s $8,500 but, if you buy it today, I can give it to you for just $7,900.” [Read full blog post here]

The average lifespan of a mattress is between 7 and 10 years. If you regularly wake up with back pain, it could be time for a new mattress, particularly if yours has some age on it. Since a mattress can be a major investment, it is important to do some research before you decide on your final purchase. Plus, once you know what you are looking for, it helps to make the process  a little less overwhelming.

What is the deal with firmness?

Mattresses come in three levels of firmness: soft, medium, and firm. Soft mattresses allow you to sink in much deeper, and therefore provide very little support. Firm mattresses on the other hand provide adequate support, but may nonetheless place a great deal of stress on pressure points. Most people (and research) find a medium firm mattress provides the right amount of support for the back, yet is gentle enough to cushion delicate pressure points.

Even though most people prefer a medium firm mattress, the choice is actually a matter of personal preference, and may have a great deal to do with how you sleep. Back sleepers tend to prefer a medium or firm mattress, while side sleepers usually gravitate toward either a medium or soft mattress.

How about the mattress material?

The type of mattress you choose is just as important as its firmness. Here is a look at some of the most common mattress materials.

  • Memory Foam

Memory foam mattresses are ideal because they easily conform to the contours of your body. However, one of the drawbacks of memory foam is that it tends to sag over time. High density memory foam is less likely to sag, making it a better choice for anyone who suffers from back pain. High density memory foam is rated at 6 pounds per cubic foot or higher, and may initially feel stiff and rigid. Memory foam must become warm in order to mold itself to your shape. Once you lie down on it, you will notice it becoming softer after only a few minutes. Note: some people feel that memory foam mattresses make them too hot. If you are sensitive to heating up at night, look for temperature sensitive mattresses.

  • Hybrid Mattresses

Many people find that a hybrid mattress, which is a combination of memory foam and traditional inner spring coils, is ideal for preventing back pain. Inner springs provide you with support, while their memory foam covering gently conforms to your body to provide you with optimum comfort.

  • Latex

Latex mattresses are also an excellent choice for back pain sufferers. That’s because they tend to have a medium firmness, and conform to the body almost as effectively as memory foam. Your entire body is more likely to maintain complete contact with a latex mattress than it is any other type. This is important because it can help you eliminate joint pain elsewhere in your body as well.

  • Futon

Futon mattresses, depending on how thick they are, may be the least desirable, as they tend to offer only minimal support. They are usually rather thin, allowing your body to feel the rails underneath. This can result in hip, shoulder, and back pain when you awaken. A quality futon, on the other hand, may be a great choice due to the fact that they are excellent at supporting your joints. If you go the futon route, be sure to test the quality first and make sure you can’t feel the rails underneath you.

To sum it up

Keep in mind that mattresses that sag in the middle or are either too soft or too firm can result in even those with healthy backs waking up stiff, sore, and aching. So if your mattress is currently in the sagging stage or you are testing super soft mattresses, keep that in mind!  Make sure when you buy your new mattress that you have a 30-day money back guarantee and a minimum of 10-year warranty. Great resource for more information on buying tips can be found at Spine Health.

Good luck!

For more information on preventing back pain, please feel free to contact us and chat with a health coach.

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