People put off buying a new mattress because, and say it with me, mattress shopping SUCKS. Often, it’s waking up in pain one too many times that finally gets them moving. This pain can come in a variety of forms, but there are two main causes to consider: Proper Support and Pressure.
Of course, before I dig into this, I must reiterate that I am not a medical professional. My recommendations come from a couple of decades of anecdotal evidence. I have sold thousands of beds to thousands of people, and these are the trends that I have identified. If you buy a mattress that you don’t like based on this information, I really am sorry. I know it SUCKS. But if you followed my guide on How Not to Get Screwed, you should be getting a good night’s sleep in no time.
1 – Lower Back Pain
If you sleep on your back or side, lower back pain is generally due to a mattress that is too firm. I know, it’s counterintuitive, but hear me out.
Your body is not a straight line. On your back, your butt wants to sink in a little more, and your lumbar needs something coming up to meet it. On your sides, your hips want to sink, and your waist needs some extra support.
If your mattress is old and the comfort layers are compressed, you have nothing coming in to fill the gaps. If your mattress is new, and you’re still listening to the myth about firmer beds being better for the body, then BOOM. Lower back pain. Exchange it while there’s still time.
Now, for you stomach sleepers out there, you’re in the opposite boat. Your pressure profile is exactly the opposite. You need something a little bit firmer to keep your hips and shoulders at relatively the same level. If you get something too soft, you’re basically turning yourself into a banana. Don’t do that.
2 – Upper Back Pain
I’m sure you can guess what I’m about to say. If you have upper back pain while sleeping on your back or your sides, then, yes. You need something firmer. We’ll talk about the differences in firm support vs firm comfort layers later, but listen up. If your hips sink too much, you’re pulling those muscles in your upper back out of whack. There’s an easy test for this: take one of those extra pillows taking up space in your closet and stuff it under your side of the bed. Right where your hips lay. This will push the support higher in that spot. In the morning, if the pain has eased a bit, you know you’re on the right track, and you can drop me a couple of bucks on my donate page as a thank you.
If you’re sleeping on your stomach and your upper back hurts, then try a different pillow. Try something lower. Hell, try not sleeping on your stomach. People who sleep on their stomachs suffer more aches and pains than everyone else.
3 – Neck Pain
Stop what you’re doing and look at your pillow. If it’s old, get a new one. Those cheap fiberfill pillows you get at Wal-Mart or Target are made to be replaced every 3-6 months. Fancier pillows, say memory foam or latex, should be replaced every 2 years or so. Down pillows can be fluffed in the dryer for a while longer, but you have to like that kind of feel.
Refer to my pillow buying guide for more help: Pillow Shopping SUCKS!
If you fixed the pillow and your neck still hurts, then I have another question for you: What else hurts?
Go from there.
4 – Shoulder Pain
As a general rule, shoulder pain is a pressure issue. Side sleepers put a lot of weight on their shoulders, which a softer mattress can help. Check The Firm/Soft Spectrum for help in determining your level.
Another helpful tip is trying a different pillow before you shell out the money on a new bed. Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting your head a little higher.
5 – Hip Pain
What kind of pain is it? Is it inside pain or outside pain?
If it’s outside pain, then your mattress is too firm. This can cut off your circulation and/or make the muscles in your hip/butt sore to the touch in the mornings, not to mention keeping you up tossing and turning all night.
If it’s an inside kind of pain, not sore to the touch, but more bone-hurty, then your bed may be too soft. In general, your hips do need to sink a little more than the rest of your body, but if you go too far, then you can throw yourself out of whack. If you think that this may be the case, grab a pillow, stick in under your mattress at your hips, and sleep on it. If the pain is lessened, then you know you’re on the right track.
6 – Knee Pain
If I sleep on something too soft, I wake up with my knees killing me. I sleep on my side, and the angle puts pressure on my joints. If this is your only complaint in life, grab a pillow and stick it between your knees. You should be fine.
If you’re sleeping on your stomach and your knees hurt, try sleeping with a pillow under your feet to take some of the pressure off.