Many people don’t realize that memory foam mattresses cause back pain, but it’s a serious issue. This blog post will help you understand what causes the problem and how to prevent it. Memory foam mattresses are popular for their ability to conform to your body, which can lead to slumbering in positions that strain the spine or even lead to injury. Our tips below will show you how this mattress material is affecting your health and provide some quick fixes so you can get on with life without worrying about pain every morning!
Read also our guide on what to do if you can sleep on the couch but not on the bed.
What is a Memory Foam Mattress
A memory foam mattress is a type of bed that is made from polyurethane foam. The foam is designed to conform to the sleeper’s body as you sleep.
Memory foam mattresses are popular among people who suffer from back pain because the material is designed to contour to your body and relieve pressure points. Over time, the memory foam bounces back less – meaning that it actually retains the shape of your body and ‘remembers’ your sleeping position.
However, if your spine is not actually supported in the right way then this can lead to more bad than good in terms of your back.
Is a memory foam mattress bad for your back?
Memory foam mattresses are often praised as being great for back and spine health. However, this just isn’t the case for everybody.
A memory foam mattress can cause back pain by allowing the body to sink into the mattress in a way which misaligns the spine or which puts strain on your back muscles during the night.
If you are a heavier person, or if your body weight is not evenly distributed accross your body, certain parts of your body may sink too far into the foam, causing misalignment and strain.
This is a particular problem for women, who may find that they carry weight through their hips, buttocks and thighs. If your hips sink further down into the mattress then this can put great strain on the lower back and can cause your body to be out of it’s natural alignment.
Memory foam mattress causing lower back pain
If a memory foam mattress is too soft then it is easy for your body weight to sink into it in the wrong places, and this will cause your spine to fall out of alignment and cause joint and muscle pressure through your hips and lower back.
If you find that you always wake up with lower back pain after sleeping on your memory foam mattress, the likely problem is that your mattress is too soft (see below for a solution).
Memory foam mattress causing sciatica
On the other hand, if you find that your memory foam mattress is causing sciatica it is likely that your mattress is too hard for your body. This is because a mattress that is too firm will create pressure points under your body weight, which may lead to problems such as sciatica.
How long does it take to adapt to a memory foam mattress?
As with all mattresses, a brand new memory foam mattress will have a ‘break in’ period where the mattress is adjusting to use, and your body is adjusting to it!
For most memory foam mattresses this period is around 30-90 days. It may just be that your body is still getting used to the memory foam mattress and your back pain will ease after the mattress is fully broken in.
See also our full guide on how long it takes to adjust to a new mattress.
Comparing memory foam to other mattress types
Memory foam is not the best mattress type for everyone. If you are a stomach sleeper then they are likely to be too soft.
Yet, some people find that a memory foam mattress really helps to relive their back pain by supporting the shape of their body overnight, and reducing movement.
As memory foam warms through the presence of body heat, it molds to the shape of the body and allows a more natural shape for your spine, whilst still offering support.
However, some people find that they simply do not like sleeping on memory foam due to its different feel compared with standard spring mattresses. Memory foam is also more expensive than other mattress types, although the price is coming down all the time.
If you prefer a firmer mattress, either because memory foam hurts your back, or simply because you don’t like the feel of a soft mattress, a latex mattress may be a good alternative for you.
Bad back from sleeping in the wrong position on your memory foam mattress
Memory foam mattresses are generally not recommended for stomach sleepers because they can cause back pain.
Stomach sleepers need more support for their spine at night, as the spine will naturally arch in the stomach sleep position if the mattress is too soft. For this reason, stomach sleepers tend to benefit from much firmer mattresses, and a memory foam mattress might just be too soft to offer enough support.
Memory foam mattresses are not ideal for side sleepers because they can cause neck and shoulder pain, due to the sleeper’s hips and shoulders pressing down too much into the mattress. Side sleepers need a mattress that will keep their hips in alignment with their shoulders during night time hours.
If you are a side sleeper, make sure to keep your spine in line by using a pillow that is thick enough to support your head and neck.
The best sleeping position to get the benefit of a memory foam mattress is on your back. However, if you are a back sleeper and are experiencing back pain from your memory foam mattres, you can place a thin pillow under your knees to ensure that your lower back is not arched and help you to get into a more comfortable sleeping position.
Read also: Should I raise my knees when I sleep?
How to sleep better with a memory foam mattress
There are several ways you can improve the comfort of your memory foam mattress, particularly if you are finding that you are waking up with a bad back.
If your mattress is too soft:
Mattress toppers are a great way to instantly improve your uncomfortable mattress and alleviate back pain.
A firm mattress topper, such as one made from latex, will provide instant relief if your current memory foam mattress is too soft.
You may also find that placing a harder surface under your mattress helps. If you are currently using a box spring bed frame, check that the frame is supportive and solid enough for the mattress. If not, consider investing in a new frame, perhaps a slat frame, or for a quick fix you can place hard wooden boards under your mattress to improve its stability.
If your mattress is too hard:
A soft mattress topper can quickly transform your bed into a comfortable and cloud-like haven. Pressure relief from a soft topper will help with back problems like sciatica.
You can even use a soft memory foam topper to instantly transform your ‘normal’ mattress into a memory-foam like version.
Is it time for a new mattress?
If you have gone through the ‘breaking in’ period of your mattress, have tried changing sleeping position, and even used a mattress topper – but still find you are experiencing back pain – then it may unfortunately be time to buy a new mattress.
How long does a memory foam mattress last?
If your memory foam mattress is getting old, it may have lost the support that it used to offer. In general, a memory foam mattress will last around ten years.
If you find you are suddenly experiencing back pain and your memory foam mattress is more than ten years old, it might simply be a case of replacing your mattress in order to get a good night’s sleep.
Conclusion: Is memory foam bad for your back?
In conclusion, is memory foam bad for your back? Memory foam mattresses are not recommended for side sleepers because they can cause neck and shoulder pain. Stomach sleepers also generally need a firmer mattress than memory foam can offer.
However, their softness is perfect for resting on your back without feeling too much pressure from the mattress itself.
If you find yourself waking up with a sore lower back in particular, it could be a sign that it is time for you to invest in a new memory foam mattress. Depending on how long you’ve had your current mattress, it might be wise to replace it every seven to ten years for the best sleep experience.
If you’re still unsure about what’s causing your back pain, consult with a doctor who can help identify the source of the pain and recommend relief methods.