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Pillows, Mattresses and How They Affect Your Back

Woman Sleeping On White Bedding, WIth Soft Pillow, Mattress

There are few things more inviting after a long day then a bed that’s piled high with pillows. Unfortunately, what is supposed to provide comfort and renewal may actually be causing your neck and back pain.

There are plenty of potential reasons for back pain, but if your mornings are notably difficult because you’re waking up with a stiff, aching back or neck, there’s a good chance that you’re using the wrong pillow, sleeping on the wrong mattress, or both. 

Your Mattress

Of all the pieces of furniture in your home, your mattress is the most important to your health. Ironically,  it is also the one that gets the least attention.

Mattresses can be expensive, and many people start their adult life trying to save money by either purchasing the cheapest mattress they can find or accepting a hand-me down that’s been sitting in a family member’s basement.

Unfortunately, in the case of the first option you get what you pay for, and for the latter, mattresses have a shelf life. In both instances you can end up with a chronically sore back that affects the quality of your sleep and the way you feel when you get up each day.

If you’ve been waking up with a bad back and you haven’t injured yourself, the first thing you should do is take a closer look at your mattress, especially if your pain goes away as the day goes on, or is relieved by stretching. That’s a sign that your pain is more muscular then arising from your spine.

Another indication that your mattress is the root of your problem is that your pain is felt in the middle of your back. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • How old is your mattress? Depending on whether you have a traditional inner spring mattress or a memory foam mattress, the shelf life is between 5 and 10 years. Most people make the mistake of keeping their mattresses twice as long as they should.
  • How has your body changed? A mattress that was purchased when you weighed forty pounds less is not going to provide you the same support that it once did.

Your Pillow

Let’s return to the initial image that we presented of a bed piled high with pillows. Sounds nice, but laying propped up that high is not the right position for your neck and back. What you need is a single pillow that is appropriate for the position that you prefer for sleep.

The goal of a pillow is to help keep your head in alignment with your neutral spine. That means it shouldn’t be tilted to the side, or too high, or bent too low.

When positioning yourself and putting your pillow beneath your head, try to get a sense of how your spine would look if an X-ray were to be taken while you are lying there.  A side sleeper needs a plusher pillow that will hold their head up more, while a person who sleeps on their stomach needs a flat pillow under their head and another pillow positioned under their body in order to keep their spine in alignment.

If you believe that your mattress or pillow are contributing to your back pain, go to a knowledgeable retailer to find the right solution.

If your pain continues, it may be time to contact our office to set up a time for a pain consultation.

Other Insights

Are you in pain?

Most patients experiencing pain can be seen by Dr. Callewart or his physician assistant within 24 hours in Dallas, Forney, Rockwall and Addison, Texas.