People understand that selecting the right mattress can help their back and neck but getting information on choosing the right mattress is nearly impossible. According to the Better Sleep Council, there’s so much confusion about mattress shopping that many people decide to keep their old, worn-out mattresses. If that’s you, perhaps your chiropractor is the right one to help.
From a chiropractic perspective, mattresses are healthcare products that can retain a neutral, non-stressed position of the spine. A correct bedding system can reduce back pain by 57%, decrease back stiffness by 59%, and improve the quality of sleep by 61%, according to a report in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiotherapeutic Therapies.
Chiropractors are well-positioned to communicate their knowledge of the spine to help patients select sleep systems, just as they can recommend pillows, back supports, and orthotics – forms or inserts for your feet to help relieve foot, heel, ankle, leg, and back pain.
Before helping you in the mattress decision-making process, though, your chiropractor needs to review your standard health history and your sleep history. The health history helps identify problem body areas that may need added support or comfort and certain systemic problems, such as circulatory disorders, which may indicate the need for specialized bedding.
The sleep history should include your preferred sleeping positions, type of mattress in use, and any problems with them. You’ll likely be asked how often you wake up with back and neck pain or stiffness, about your bedtime routines, and descriptions of sleeping environments, such as preferring a hot or cold room. A chiropractor’s postural analysis also may provide necessary information for a mattress recommendation.
More importantly, first identifying any health-related problems in this process may also lead your doctor of chiropractic to recommend other forms of treatment, such as rehabilitative exercises or spinal- or pelvic-stabilizing orthotics.
Here are some common issues patients have and their particular needs when choosing a mattress.
Patients suffering from low-back pain (LBP) most often prefer beds that are more firm. One study indicated that hard beds should be the first choice for LBP sufferers. Of course, the recommendation is not that they should sleep on a rock-hard bed, but instead need support. A firmer mattress prevents the low back from sinking deeply into the bed and irritating the facet joints.
Upper back and neck pain
Patients who are suffering from upper back and neck pain often prefer softer or plushier bedding. The plushier cushioning in the bed allows the head and thoracic area to sink into the bed to support the cervical area. A pillow-top mattress, or one with softer foams, padding, and quilting, can be a good recommendation. Several types of pillows are also available to provide extra support for the neck.
Arthritis and fibromyalgia
Patients suffering from multiple painful joints often prefer bedding with cushioning that disperses the weight across the greatest surface area. Frequently, such patients also have spinal complaints. Since fibromyalgia is related to stress levels, it also is important to discuss your pre-sleep rituals with your chiropractor.
Sleeping on the stomach in a soft bed can stress the thoracolumbar spine, which refers to the area between the rigid thoracic spine and the mobile lumbar spine. The weight of the belly and pelvis also compresses the bedding.
To provide support to the stomach, pelvis, and thoracolumbar areas, a firmer mattress is necessary. Your chiropractor will also encourage other sleep positions, as a stomach-down position puts stress on the low back by not keeping the spine neutral.
An estimated 73% of the population sleeps on one side of their body or the other. Plush mattresses are often recommended to side-lying sleepers because these mattresses provide the best way to maintain the spine’s natural shape and the curves of the hips and shoulders. Plush bedding cradles the body and helps disperse the body’s weight across the maximum body area instead of creating pressure at the hips and shoulders. Special pillows also may be added to support the neck.
Important Mattress Facts
1. Inner-spring mattresses represent 86% of all mattresses sold and are intended to provide combined support of the neck, back, shoulders and hips. They are also the most commonly recommended type of mattress by chiropractors, medical doctors, and physical therapists.
2. Mattresses and box springs, commonly called foundations, are usually sold as a set because they are designed to work together for optimal support and comfort.
3. “Firmness” is the bedding industry’s term for stiffness. Firmer beds don’t necessarily have higher coil counts or stronger gauges of steel. However, they often do have stiffer padding and thicker foam cushioning.
4. If an extra level of softness is necessary, a patient may want to add a pillow-top pad that fits on top of the mattress.
Remember this: Chiropractors believe in optimizing health through food nutrition, constructive exercise, stress management, and proper posture. So there’s your answer to why a doctor of chiropractic is a solid choice to discuss the best mattress options for you.
Getting a new mattress is an investment in your health. After all, a good night’s rest can do wonders for the mind, body, and soul. Your doctor of chiropractic can help you in your quest for the best possible sleep.
CUKC Chiropractic Health Center
Cleveland University-Kansas City, founded in 1922, is a private, nonprofit, chiropractic and health science-focused university in Overland Park, Kansas. The CUKC on-campus Chiropractic Health Center is open to the public and treats patients from Kansas City’s 15-county metro area. Our goal is to provide care and solutions for a better, more productive life for our patients.