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Help me solve 10 years of back pain (multiple mattresses) 16 Nov 2021 12:55 #1

I'm looking for any guidance on mattresses to help ease my lower back pain. Up until about 10 years ago I was almost exclusively a back sleeper, but started getting lower back pain. This is probably from sitting at a desk all day, my hamstrings are always tight. I've started doing daily yoga, which helps, but not a total fix. I've gone through so many iterations of mattresses, I don't even know where to go from here. I'm 38, male, 6'2" 185lbs. Very light and hot sleeper otherwise.
1) First buy 10 years ago was a generic extra firm S-brand from a big box. Didn't solve my back pain, and was way too firm to comfortably sleep on my side. Got a 3" memory foam topper, which I hated because it was too hot and I absolutely hate the sinking in feeling.
2) Bought into all the Casper podcast marketing when they first launched about 6 years ago and ordered one. It felt absolutely amazing...for a week. Then after the latex/foam broke in back to back pain city. My girlfriend at the time convinced me it was too firm, so Casper sent a latex topper to soften it up. Very comfortable for side-sleeping, but still very bad lower back pain when back sleeping.
3) Just recently got fed up again and sold myself that a hybrid mattress would be the answer. Visited a Sleep Sherpa showroom (Chicago) and thought I liked the WinkBed Plus (firmest option available). I've had it for about a month now. It was nice but not great for back sleeping at the start. Absolutely awful with pressure points for sidesleeping. As it broke in, my back pain returned. Side sleeping is better, but still uncomfortable enough with pressure points that it's going to go back during the 120 night trial.

At this point I don't even know where to start again. From what I've gathered, I sleep well on foam/latex before the break-in period. The OG Casper felt divine for the first week, but back to back pain once it broke in. So maybe my lower back just doesn't do well with more conforming types like foam/latex and I need to go back to a very traditional coil mattress or a less conforming pillowtop otherwise?

I've had some good night's sleeps on hotel beds (Marriot/Hilton) and once at an AirBnB that seemed to be a pretty firm mattress with a natural fiber pillowtop.

Unfortunately Chicago seems to have limited showroom options right now. All I can find are American Mattress, Mattress Firm, Casper showroom, Tempurpedic, and Macy's. The Sleep Sherpa showroom I went to originally closed the week after to relocate to a new location (could be closed for months).

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Help me solve 10 years of back pain (multiple mattresses) 17 Nov 2021 12:04 #2


I'm sorry to hear about your back issues.

First off, a disclaimer. I can't diagnose any sort of back issue via an online forum, and if anyone else purports to possess that capacity, in the words of Monty Python, " Run away! Run away! !" The best I can offer is some general guidance.

By far the most important thing I would suggest would be to get a good evaluation from a healthcare professional who specializes in orthopedics. Having back pain for 10 years is quite a long time, and if there's a physical reason for the pain it certainly would be something you'd want to know about. Perhaps it can be addressed with specific flexibility exercises, strengthening, manipulative therapy or some other remedy. That would be the most important thing.

As for the mattress, I wish there was a certain item that would address/cure all low back pain - wouldn't that be wonderful?! It seems that you prefer something with a bit more surface tension, but still something that allows for some conformation while on your side, and still keeps you in a relatively neutral alignment. There are multiple ways to accomplish this, including a few that you mentioned. Latex certainly has good point elasticity, and in a slightly firmer uppermost layer it can still provide some good surface tension. You can also accomplish this with some pre-compressed natural fibers, such as cotton or wool, which you also mentioned. Higher density polyfoams that aren't ultra plush might also do the trick. All of these in the uppermost layers might be helpful to you, and you'd need to make sure that the materials beneath in the deeper upholstery layers were substantial enough so that they don't allow too deep of a comfort cradle nor do they lose their support factor too quickly. This would generally be materials of a higher density.

Regarding your experiences with your other mattresses, I can make some guesses:
(1) Was probably too hard to begin with, and then adding the memory foam topper would certainly have provided softness, but not something with a very good support factor. You more than likely would have been better off with a latex topper, maybe something that is 3" in the mid 20s ILD or so.
(2) New mattresses generally don't change too much in just one week, especially ones that are compressed and shipped as roll-packed items (they do tend to get a bit softer as they wear-in). I'd hazard a guess that is most likely your body adjusting to a new mattress and spending more time in one position as time went on, exposing your back pain issues. The extra topper comfort material on top may have exacerbated your alignment issues.
(3) Mattresses with a harder surface comfort do tend to be more appropriate for back and stomach sleeping and not as much for side sleeping - that is true.

Again, these are just guesses, and the common theme here is you and your back issues. You really need to start with a diagnosis of that and then begin to move forward from there. Even if you walked into my showroom today, I'd be hesitant about selling you mattress without more information regarding what you actually have going on, as you're describing two different issues. One is pressure points, which generally tends to be more surface plushness related, and the other is back pain, which generally tends to be more alignment related. These can be two very different things to address.

My answer probably isn't the one you wanted to hear, but it's the best I can offer, even with my background in biomechanics and anatomy. Maybe someone else in the forum has some other advice that might be more helpful.

Good luck!
Jeff Scheuer, The Beducator™ Owner of Mattress To Go
Researching for a mattress?... read The Mattress Shopping Tutorial.
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Help me solve 10 years of back pain (multiple mattresses) 17 Nov 2021 12:36 #3

Thanks for the in-depth reply! I guess I should clarify about the back pain. It basically only affects me when I'm laying down on my back for extended periods of time, otherwise I feel fine other than some tightness if I sit or stand for too long without moving around (which I feel is probably fairly normal for most office workers with inconsistent posture). I've seen a chiropractor and they just recommended what I've already started doing with my daily Yoga for stretching and exercising the core. It has definitely helped, just hasn't completely solved the issue when laying on a mattress.
So, I'm hoping that it's just that I haven't stumbled on the right solution for alignment for me to sleep on my back because I my lack of understanding in what goes into fitting a mattress (hence going back to the very firm side). For the pressure points, I think it's just because I'm on the lean side, so without my own natural padding, the harder surface of the current Winkbed Plus causes the pressure point in my hip when I'm on my side.
So it sounds like I need a tad bit more softness on the comfort layer than I currently have, some amount of higher surface tension on that comfort layer, and something on the firmer side, but maybe not quite as firm was what I currently have?

I guess I also do need to take one further troubleshooting step. All of these mattresses have had one thing in common that they sat on the same cheapo boxspring foundation. Someone else had mentioned that it could be poor quality and I should try a piece of plywood in-between to see if that helps fix anything.

I'm just not even sure where to go from here. I could take a gamble on exchanging the Winkbed within the trial period with a lesser firmness option. I could try one of the other DTC options out there. I'm really loathe to try the overpriced big box chains, though it sounds like I could potentially be more suited to a coil type. I'm curious about the latex you mentioned. I generally have very much liked the feel of latex but maybe I need something more dialed in for me?

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Help me solve 10 years of back pain (multiple mattresses) 17 Nov 2021 12:40 #4

Some sort of firm and flat foundation would be desirable.
Jeff Scheuer, The Beducator™ Owner of Mattress To Go
Researching for a mattress?... read The Mattress Shopping Tutorial.
Click here for TMU Discount Codes if purchasing from Trusted Members

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