Lower back pain. It happens to all of us at some point in our lives, and some deal with it chronically. Waking up with lower back pain means you are sleeping, or trying to sleep, with that pain throughout the night, preventing you from getting long bouts of deep sleep. There are many causes of lower back pain, and your mattress can be one of them. Here is why...
Ever go on a long car trip? Sitting in one position for hours in a seat that does not support your posture properly can lead to fidgeting in your seat, discomfort and lower back pain, or lumbar pain. Many people have experienced this pain and have also experienced it's remedy: rolling up a t-shirt or towel, or stuffing a pillow behind your lower back to alleviate the pain. This extra support pushes the lumbar back into position, and allows the muscles to relax from their work of trying to keep the back in proper position, or spine neutral.
That same scenario can exist in your mattress, whether you own a traditional coil mattress or have a memory foam or organic mattress. The back is at rest when you are standing, and in the standing position the spine works similar to a coil, as it rests upon itself. In that position the muscles can relax, or stop firing. When sleeping on a mattress with improper support, worn out components or a large dip, the back falls out of proper alignment, causing the muscles to attempt to pull the spine into proper position, leading to lower back issues.
Back to the car seat: Sometimes car seats to an inadequate job of supporting our back. Unless the seat has proper lumbar support, or curves out into your lower back, you are not going to get proper support and will likely develop lower back pain on a long trip. The same goes with a worn mattress, as it allows the lumbar to sink during the night. The muscles fire constantly, working hard to keep you in proper alignment, and that constant firing leads to fatigued muscles and ultimately, soreness.
A mattress can cause this issue in a few ways:
- The mattress is too firm. When a mattress is too hard, it is unable to yield to the curves of your spine. The lumbar is left to "float" above the rest of the back, and gravity will pull it down. The muscles will fight to pull it back. This will lead to muscle fatigue, discomfort, tossing and turning and back pain.
- The mattress is too soft. When a mattress is too soft, it tends to allow you to sink. The heaviest part of our body is the middle third of our body, and gravity will pull that weight and mass down more than the lighter parts of our body, creating pressure in the middle third of the mattress. If the memory foam mattress or organic mattress is too soft or the materials are not supportive, lack density or simply have started to wear out and lose their support, the lumbar will begin to fall out of alignment and again, the muscles will be left struggling all night to compensate as they work to keep the spine aligned. People will try to find a comfortable position as they toss and turn to their side and stomach, but the lack of support will affect them no matter the position.
- Improper Design. If a mattress is using inferior quality foams and fill materials or is a wire-tied coil, these issues can also be contributors to lower back issues. Unless the mattress has the ability to support the lumbar, the back muscles will be forced to compensate all night long. When a mattress lacks the density to hold your mass properly, or it is so flat that it forces your back out of alignment, you are going to be sleep deprived and likely wake up sore and un-refreshed.
A new, dense, supportive non-toxic memory foam mattress or a good quality organic or natural mattress can give your back the support you need. Keep in mind most generic major brand mattresses are designed to last only a few short years as most mattress stores and their suppliers want you back in the mattress shopping market every 5-7 years. A good quality mattress like the ones at Nest Bedding in the Berkeley Albany area are designed to last 10-12 years and even longer with proper care and maintenance.
Shopping for a mattress should of course involve looking for a mattress sale, but as you shop for a mattress, your first area of concern should be finding a mattress which supports your spine properly so you can sleep peacefully, getting the rest your body requires. A good supportive mattress will help you alleviate back pain, so focus on good quality materials and expert advice from someone who knows what they are talking about. Avoid shopping at big department store mattress showrooms, where the guy selling mattresses was likely selling lawn mowers the day before.