Research shows that 80 percent of us will experience a back problem at some time in our lives, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year, and worldwide back pain is the single leading cause of disability. How much of that is bed-related? It’s hard to confirm, but in a three-month study of 313 patients suffering from lower back pain, the majority reported experiencing less pain—both while lying in bed and long afterward—when they slept on “medium-firm” rather than “firm” mattresses.
An old or unsupportive bed can wreak havoc on your sleep—and your body—but there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mattresses. What works for one person may not work for another. And, although many people still believe that firm is best, the term applied to bedding is really a holdover from decades ago, when a bed had to very hard to be supportive. However, with advances in technology and sophisticated engineering, mattresses can now have a comfy, softer top layer and still be highly supportive. What’s more, firmness is subjective. One person’s firm might be another person’s medium-firm or soft. That’s why it’s a good idea to try before you buy.
Differences of opinion about firmness aside, here’s a checklist of ways you can prevent back pain, adapted from American Chiropractic Association recommendations:
- Maintain a healthy diet and weight.
- Remain active.
- Avoid prolonged inactivity or bed rest.
- Warm up or stretch before exercising or doing physical activities, such as gardening.
- Maintain proper posture.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
- Sleep on a mattress of adequate support to minimize any curve in your spine.
- Lift with your knees, keep the object close to your body, and do not twist when lifting.
- Quit smoking. Smoking impairs blood flow, resulting in oxygen and nutrient deprivation to spinal tissues.
- Ensure that your computer workstation is ergonomically correct.
Back pain can be debilitating. Sleeping on a mattress that supports your body sufficiently is one measure you can take toward prevention.