Walking and swimming can help as well, as these are low-impact, whole-body exercises that can improve overall fitness. Shedding excess pounds may also help take some pressure off the spine and joints, providing pain relief.
Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as aspirin, Tylenol, or Ibuprofen, may assuage some of your discomforts. Hot or cold packs, a hot water bottle, or topical pain relief balms and gels can help too. If the pain is intense, your doctor may prescribe prescription medications, including pain relievers or muscle relaxers, depending on the source of the issue.
Many people find chiropractic care an effective, safe form of back pain relief. Massage and acupuncture are also commonly used in upper, middle, and lower back pain treatment as well.
If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, you may need to take it easy for a couple of days. Try lying on your back with a pillow or rolled-up blanket under your knees to support a neutral spine position for lower back pain relief.
You can also lie on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle, propped on the couch or a chair. Just be sure not to be sedentary for too long, as this can do more harm than good. If pain has not subsided after a couple of days of rest, talk to your doctor.
If none of the above have helped, your doctor might recommend treatment options such as cortisone injections, an anti-inflammatory, to address neuropathic pain.
Radiofrequency neurotomy and implanted nerve stimulators are other options, which involve interfering with neurological pathways responsible for transmitting pain signals from the body to the brain. Traction, a technique used to re-align misplaced spinal discs, ultrasound therapy, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) are also potential back pain treatment options.
In some cases, surgery may be necessary, although this is usually a last resort.
How Your Mattress Can Help or Hurt Your Back
The Wrong Mattress Can Exacerbate Back Pain
Low-quality mattresses, old mattresses, and those that are not the right firmness, design, or material for your body type may exacerbate or even cause back pain, especially in the low and mid-back.
Poor sleep posture can have just as much effect on spinal health as slouching during the day. Likewise, lack of spinal support from your mattress may worsen spinal misalignments and strain the muscles.
Too-soft mattresses and those that have deteriorated over time tend to be worst in terms of supportiveness. On the other hand, a too-firm bed could push the hips and shoulders too far, inhibiting spinal neutrality and exacerbating pain.
The Right Mattress Can Offer Support
A quality mattress of just the right firmness, on the other hand, can contribute to back pain relief and better overall health. The best mattress for back pain is one that supports a healthy sleep posture and overall body alignment. Below are some more tips on choosing a quality model.
Mattress Shopping Tips for People with Back Pain
Determining which mattress is best for you will depend mainly on personal preference. But certain types are better than others, especially for those with musculoskeletal problems. Here’s how to choose the best mattress for back pain.
1. Identify Your Pain Points
As with determining the best overall treatment plan, identifying and diagnosing the source of the problem is the first step to finding the best mattress for back pain. Pinpoint your problem areas and keep these in mind as you shop.
2. Shop with Your Sleeping Position in Mind
Your sleep position plays a role too. Sleeping on your side, back, or stomach puts pressure on particular parts of the body.
Certain mattress types and firmness levels are more conducive to certain sleep positions than others. Side sleeping is the most common, but sleeping on the back is often recommended as the healthiest position for back pain sufferers.
If you sleep on your side, propping your knees or mid-section up with a rolled-up blanket or pillow may assist you in maintaining better spinal balance and relieve pressure points. Of course, a good mattress can help too.
3. Understand Contouring vs. Pressure Relief
When reviewing mattress descriptions, you’ll likely find many products that have contouring and pressure relief properties. The terms, often used in conjunction, are both critical for back pain sufferers.
Contouring is usually associated with memory foam and involves a reactive material that conforms to the body’s shape.
On the other hand, pressure relief refers to an ergonomic design feature intended to take pressure off pain points such as the hips or shoulders. Some manufacturers accomplish this with an added layer of material, while others shape the mattress or its inner components in such a way as to provide different levels to support different body parts.
Memory foam is usually ideal for back pain sufferers, while traditional innerspring mattresses are most likely to exacerbate discomfort and pain. Latex is typically a good middle-ground, providing less contouring than memory foam but more even pressure relief than innerspring models.
4. Look for Zoned Support
Zoned support consists of built-in “comfort zones” and distinct levels of support at different parts of the mattress. These mattresses tend to be a bit more expensive, but they can be well worthwhile for people with back pain and other sources of discomfort.
These mattresses typically have the highest degree of support around the back and stomach and softer, contouring sections to gently cushion the hips and shoulder area.
5. Read Reviews From People Your Weight
Bodyweight and composition also factor into determining what mattress will be ideal for you. Someone of average weight who is a side sleeper needs about three inches of comfort layer cushioning for a perfect night’s rest.
However, someone who is much lighter may not need quite as much. On the other hand, a heavier person will likely want more layers, as their body will compress further into the mattress.
To get an accurate idea of how well a mattress could work for you, look for reviews from customers of a similar weight to yourself. Also, look for mattresses that come with a good sleep trial (at least 30 days), so you can try it out for yourself risk-free.
Pain-free Nights for Better Days
The quality of your sleep can significantly impact your day and, more importantly, your overall health. Investing in a quality mattress is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to finding pain relief and a good night’s sleep, albeit an important one. For more tips on choosing the best mattress for your body, talk to your chiropractor or physician.