Is a Memory Foam Mattress Bad for My Back?

Memory Foam is Big Business – But Is It Good For You?

You’ve heard it, time and time again, that memory foam is your ticket to the best night’s sleep you’ve had in ages. This is definitely true for some people who swear by the material, but many others remain skeptical. One of the most common questions we hear is whether various memory foam mattress options are good for your back, posture, and bone health.

mattress female athlete

How Memory Foam Works

Memory foam materials have their origins in 1960s NASA flight experiments. The institution needed very soft material to keep high-speed flight pilots protected against g-force. The same characteristics that make this material ideal for those flights also make it a very comfortable mattress material.

Since it conforms to the shape of your body, you can sleep in any variety of positions without feeling encumbered by stiffness. This softness is what really makes memory foam stand out, but not everyone is convinced that this is what’s best for the human body.

Memory Foam and Your Back

One of the major benefits of memory foam is the way it affects your posture by allowing you to adopt a natural sleeping position. Sleeping position is incredibly important here, so as a back sleeper:

  • Hard mattresses force the spine to adopt an “S” shape,
  • Softer mattresses let the spine sag downwards.
  • Memory foam produces a straight, natural spinal shape.

Here, it’s clear to see that memory foam serves its purpose, especially for those who suffer from chronic back pain. The same is true if you’re a side-sleeper, where the memory foam allows your vertebrae to remain in a natural position – try a mattress with slightly thicker layers of memory foam for the best results.

If you’re a stomach-sleeper, however, memory foam mattresses are not recommended. In this case, a stiff mattress might be the best option, and probably the most comfortable for you.

The Real Danger To a Healthy Back

An appropriate approach to health and fitness is an even better preventer of unwanted back pain. Taking some time out of your week to do some gentle arching curls and holds is one of the most effective ways to keep your spine and its surrounding muscles in check.

Stuart McGill, Ph.D, professor of spine biomechanics and author of Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance finds that a particular set of back exercises is the best for preventing back pain. You can learn more about those exercises in an article he penned for Men’s Health, though the exercises are just as effective for women as well.

To make things easier, watch the video embed below, which demonstrates a simple and effective short workout that you can do every day to strengthen your core and prevent back pain. Dedicating 5-10 minutes a day, a couple days a week, to mastering this short routine, should help you maintain a healthier back.

Highly active people are more likely to suffer back problems than couch potatoes, so you should take your particular lifestyle into consideration when choosing ways to keep your back in good shape.

Athletes and bodybuilders suffer from back pain frequently and should take clear steps towards preventing it whenever possible. Choosing the right mattress is just one part of the full equation.

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