If you suffer from chronic lower back pain, the type of mattress you sleep on may help reduce your discomfort. Contrary to what you might think, a mattress that is firm isn't necessarily better for your back. In fact, mattress types that are either too hard or too soft can make your back pain worse depending on your body shape and the position in which you prefer to sleep. When you aren't sure what kind of mattress to sleep on, your chiropractor may recommend sleeping on a medium-firm mattress that will give your back adequate support yet is soft enough to avoid painful pressure points.
Sleeping on a mattress that is too hard can make you feel uncomfortable, which may lead to poor sleep. When you wake up more often throughout the night or don't get enough sleep, it interferes with your body's release of the growth hormone it needs to repair muscles and tissues.
A mattress that is too firm also allows for gaps between the mattress and the inward contours of your body -- a condition that leaves parts of your back unsupported as you sleep. This creates pressure points where your body touches the mattress. The uneven distribution of your weight can put too much pressure on your sacrum -- the triangular bone in your lower back.
A soft mattress isn't good for your back either. As comfortable as it may feel at first, a mattress that is too soft can actually increase lower back pain. For one thing, a soft mattress isn't firm enough to support your spine. When your lower back sinks into the mattress, it places more stress on the muscles, ligaments, and joints of the spine. The stress can throw your spine out of alignment.
Sleep and Back Pain
Research suggests that when sleep is disturbed, fatigue may cause individuals to feel heightened pain. Therefore, getting better sleep is an important treatment for reducing pain in your lower back. If your mattress is uncomfortable, frequently changing positions not only contributes to back pain, it keeps you awake. Sleeping on a mattress that supports the curves in your back can help you get better sleep. Otherwise, lack of sleep increases your fatigue, which can then increase your pain perception.
When you are lying down in bed, you take pressure off the discs in your spine, giving them time to rehydrate -- something they can't do when you are up and moving. The pressure of gravity--when you stand or sit--causes your spinal discs to leak fluid, decreasing the discs in height. Loss of fluid and height causes your spinal discs to lose their ability to absorb shock.
Discs that aren't fully hydrated shrink and become hard instead of being soft and spongy. When spinal discs lose their cushioning ability, bones rub together, which can cause painful pinched nerves. But a good night's sleep allows the discs to absorb water so that your back muscles can handle the extra pressure you put on them throughout the day.