Mattress and back pain

Back pain wakes you up at night? Isyour mattress the cause? On what criteria to base your choice of a good mattress?
We spend a significant portion of our lives in bed. In total, we live a quarter to a third of our life in bed! The recumbent position, by its prolonged nature, can cause multiple aches and pains. Correction of a bad supine posture is the first step to pain-free nights and mornings.But sooner or later, an inadequate mattress will cause back pain.

The choice of a good mattress is substantial. It should be firm enough to support your weight, while embracing the natural curves of your back. If it is too soft, the support it offers your body is insufficient. If your mattress is too firm, certain parts will be in contact with surface, tensions will build up, and pressure point will show-up at hips and shoulders.

Your mattress is adequate if it meets the following conditions:

Adequate mattress

Adequate mattress

• At the visual inspection, your mattress is perfectly flat. it does not dig.
• You are comfortable in the supine posture, for a period of over 20 minutes.
• When you are side-lying, your head and your spine are as close as possible to horizontal. No deviation is visible to the visual inspection of the spine, and follows a straight line from the most posterior part of the head to the inter-gluteal fold.

Your mattress is inadequate or too worn when:
• Your mattress hollows.
• You feel the springs of the mattress.
• You feel pressure points in the shoulders and hips (too firm)
• Your spine takes the form of a C (too soft or worn) or S (too firm).
• You feel unexplained night and morning back pain and aches.


To verify this, do the tape test:

Tape test showing too soft mattress

Tape test showing too soft mattress

1. Lie down comfortably side-lying for 15 to 20 minutes.
2. Take a meter or measuring tape rigid, and join the most posterior point of the head and the inter-gluteal fold.
3. Ask someone to take a picture of your back.
4. Your mattress is adequate if the vertebrae follow a straight line, as close as possible in line with the measuring tape.
5. Your mattress is too firm or too soft if the spine is curved away from the measuring tape.
Read our next article about pillows. Ask for advice on injury prevention to our rehabilitation professionals. We can help you.

jf Duranleau, pht, D.O.

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