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The Best Mattress for Neck Pain-what the studies say

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Which is the Best Mattress for Neck and Pain?

I have spent the past three days looking over the internet at research studies, clinical trials and various opinions for the best mattress for neck and back pain and after an exhaustive search I believe I have found the best, unbiased article to answer your question. Which is-which is the best mattress for neck and pain?

Buying a mattress is a large investment usually and more than ever people are searching the internet to get better informed before buying. There is only one problem, and it’s a large one when looking for a pillow or mattress-there is a lot of biased articles because the people making them want to sell THEIR products. Which is fair enough but doesn’t help us, the consumer any.

As I searched the internet for the best mattress I also found that different independent studies had differing results. If you read the study from the Lancet you will read that the study found a medium  firm mattress was best for back pain which at that point I thought ‘yes’-a medium firm mattress is the answer. However, the next independent clinical trial I looked at found a soft mattress was reported to be the best mattress for their trial.

So I was no clearer on which was the best mattress than when I started, in fact it just left me with more unanswered questions. Which type of mattress did the Lancet use when the firm medium type was considered the best? Which brand/type of fabric/spring density etc was used when the other clinical trials found the soft mattresses best?

I was lost and confused. It was late. I would come back tomorrow and search once more. I needed to sleep on this a bit more.

The next day I awoke with renewed vigour keen to find the best mattress for my readers. After more hours of searching I discovered that I was still going around in circles. Contradicting studies after contradicting studies. Manufacturers biased opinions after manufacturers biased opinions. If I read once more ‘ you spend one third of your life asleep so buying a good mattress…” I was going to scream. But then, almost magically, with the click of my mouse appeared an unbiased, comprehensive opinion on the best mattress! He calls himself a ‘mattress developer’ and unfortunately, because of my hours of incessant searching through bleary tired eyes I forgot to copy the link this article. I believe it was in a forum somewhere. If anyone can help me here I would greatly appreciate it.

From a mattress developer

Mar 30 ’02

The Bottom Line Don’t be afraid to look at a local factory, and remember if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

So you are going to buy a bed, and you’ve been looking at all the ads…WHEW!! Confusion abounds! Well here is some info, which comes from someone who doesn’t represent just name brands. Studies show that we go through different depths of sleep, until we get to the deep sleep, which is where your brain essentially goes on auto-pilot, and this is where you get your actual rest. Tossing and turning interrupts this deep sleep and after you’ve rolled over, it takes your body approximately 12-13 minutes to get back down to your deep sleep. First thing for you to do is determine what position you sleep in i.e. back, side, or stomach(which is a no no, and is usually caused by a history of very uncomfortable mattresses)Studies show that 85% of people sleep on their sides, which is the most recommended, with back sleeping the second most popular and stomach a distant third. Next, what body type do you have? Curvy people need a mattress which curves with you, non curvy people generally need a bit firmer, although not a hard mattress. Think in terms of reducing tossing and turning, as true support is an equalization of pressure points, which are what cause tossing a turning.

When you visit stores, lay on different beds IN THE POSITION YOU SLEEP IN! Get your whole body on the bed, don’t just push your fist into the bed, or stand at the foot and lean back on the bed. How does it feel after a few minutes? It takes several minutes for pressure points to show up. Move to the next one and try again. Bear in mind that the initial feel of a bed is largely determined by the padding, not the springs, although the springs are important. If you are a side sleeper, I’d opt for a higher coil count, and I wouldn’t listen one whit to the low coil count/heavier gauge of wire is better for you spiel. Think in terms of pressure per square inch, or psi. When you lay down, your body weight is spread over a large surface area and your body’s psi is much less than when sitting. A low count/heavy gauge coil will give much greater upward pressure against your shoulder or hip than a higher count thinner wire. This increased pressure is what causes your arm to fall asleep, or your hip to get sore. Also the padding will wear out quicker from the beating it takes between your hips and the stiffer springs. These old style coils are what air bed manufacturers are referring to when they talk about “old fashioned metal coil pressure points”. Side sleepers should also consider a knee or whole body pillow to keep your top leg from swinging forward and propping you up as this puts a great deal of strain on your low back and your neck area too.

Back sleepers will need to find a bed which gently supports the small of the back, between the shoulder blades and even behind the knees. The same rules can apply in that you don’t want any gaps between your body and the mattress. The more “hollow” you are in the small of the back, the more the mattress needs to contour to you. Low coil counts can work for back sleepers if their body is not real curvy, but the smaller diameter of the high count coil allow them to follow any contour you have.

Stomach sleepers should really try to change their ways as your spine is hyperextended when you sleep on your stomach. Try your side and use the body or knee pillow. If you must sleep on your stomach, try a firmer mattress which won’t allow your spine to bend backwards too much.

You should really focus on the upholstery layers in the mattress, as the best spring in the world will not be comfortable if the padding wears out. Here, you want to think of how the padding will stand up to weight and the pressure of your hips and shoulders when you roll from side to side. Some materials do a much better job than others. I’m going to quote Consumer Reports in some areas here. The ticking or outer fabric of a bed is mostly an aesthetic consideration, although a stiff polyester fabric will make the mattress surface feel a bit stiffer and cotton will make it feel slightly softer, but not too much. Also, don’t buy into these wool/silk/cashmere claims of temperature control. There isn’t one bit of evidence that they make a difference, especially because there isn’t all that much of these ingredients in any given bed anyways. It isn’t like your are getting a 1 or 2 inch layer of pure cashmere in the bed. Besides, sheets, blankets, and your home’s heating and air conditioning should take care of any temperature concerns you may have. Consumer Reports calls such claims a “gimmick”.

The ticking is quilted to layers of foam and or polyester batting. These are what give you your surface feel of the bed. Batting gives a nice soft feel on the show floor, but just like polyester batting pillows, it compresses quickly and forms sags, er,um,ah, body impressions. Once it compresses, the softness is affected and that nice sales floor feel is diminished. These impressions frequently show themselves within the first 3-6 months, and are considered normal wear and tear of the mattress and they are not covered by warranty.

Under the quilting, lies more foam. Convoluted foam (the egg crate stuff) gives a softer feel as it spreads your weight over a larger surface area vis a vis the hills and valleys. Quality foam should be no less than 1.5 pound density, period. This is the area most companies have cheapened in their beds by going with lower densities which are not as resiliant, and then dropping the warranties, and also not covering “body impressions” as a warranty claim. Most foams used in beds today are 1.25 pound density. There are people who read this who will remember beds lasting 20 years. Well, mass producers don’t want to take you out of the market for that long, as their # of mattresses sold would level off.

Other padding in the middle layer may consist of cotton batting or even a hair pad. Cotton batting has no memory and it compacts quickly and it will leave a “body impression” under your hips. Cotton is also very heavy and up to 20-40 pounds of your mattresses weight (depending upon size) may come from this cotton. Lift a futon some time and you’ll see what I mean. I’d avoid it at all costs. Hair pads are expensive and seldom used. Fiber pads are used more frequently today and they keep the springs from chewing up the padding above. Another thing to look for is how is the padding attached to the bed? Many companies now use the “shoehorn assembly method” in which the innerspring is slid into the casing, as opposed to inner tufting or button tufting. It is a much cheaper way to make a bed in that you have robots doing the work. Button tufting was done years ago to keep the padding from shifting when you roll back and forth in bed. The problem was buttons would pop out and poke you in the hip or other places. Inner tufting still secures the padding to the spring, but it is attached to the border rods around the perimeter of the bed. It will make your padding last much longer. You will only see this craftsmanship on ultra premium hand-crafted products, not on Fords, Chevy’s or Dodges…oops, I mean Sealy, Simmons, or Serta. etc. This method is more expensive because you have to cut your upholstery layers about 2″ wider than the bed in order to wrap them around the edges to secure them. To a mass producer, saving 2″ of extra padding on the left and right side each of a bed means that every 15 (15 beds by 2″ each side and then top and bottom equals 8″ saved each bed) beds give you the padding for a queen size bed .If you find a company that does this and they don’t advertise too much you have found a great place to shop. The higher labor costs are offset by greatly reduced advertising costs. Which would you rather have a better built mattress or a name you could brag about to your friends?

Watch out for the SUPER SALE, YOU MUST BUY TODAY!!!!

Type of selling like you see at Mattress Giant. Don’t buy into free frames, many times they are offered by the RETAILER who uses them as an inducement to buy. The problem is that they will often void the MANUFACTURER’S warranty. Retailers don’t honor warranties, manafacturers do. If there is a free frame, ask if you can apply the price of the freebie frame to an upgraded frame. Queens must have a center support bar and kings need 2 center bars. Same with free deliveries. Gas, delivery trucks and delivery guys aren’t free. Also think of the amount of advertising you see associated with the product and or place you are considering. Advertising is a cost of doing business and impacts the price of a bed just like a coil spring does. Worse yet, advertising gives an intrinsic value too, which is to say, people think there is some reason that brand name is better than a brand they haven’t heard of. Ask yourself this question, when was the last time a mass produced product was the best quality in its class as opposed to a handcrafted product? McDonald’s is the most popular restaraunt in the world, are they the best quality?Personally, I’d check out smaller stores, and even some local mattress factories. They buy their springs and padding and covers from the same places everyone else does. Even so-called proprietary springs are barely discernible from the Legget and Platt springs who’s springs comprise about 80% of the market.

Also beware of the contradictions of different companies. Sealy, who uses a 660 14 gauge wire, double offset coil in their beds bought Stearns and Foster who uses a 416 count 12.75 gauge wire coil in their beds. Go into one store and they will tell you the Sealy 660 coil is the best, then you look at the Stearns and Foster and they will tell you that is the best spring. Stearns and Foster used to use an 8 way hand tied coil which was extremely expensive, the first thing Sealy did when they bought Stearns was to scrap the 8 way hand tied coil. It was too expensive. They cut the warranties from 20 to 10 years too. I get trade magazines which tout the Stearns and Foster as having the highest profit margin in the business. It is a joke. Salesmen who sell the names brands get spiffs or bonuses if you will, for selling certain high profit or slow moving models. Pillow top matresses are notorious for this. One week the Sealy rep will have the best bonuses for the salespeople and they will push Sealy products, next week Simmons has the best bonus and on and on. So you never can be sure if the salesperson has your best interests at heart when they take you through their selection. If you are interested in high end beds I’d highly recommend Latex, and this visco-elastic stuff. I sleep on the visco elastic and I do not toss and turn anymore. I think it is great. I think air beds are way overpriced,(I can buy them really cheap wholesale. I know many people swear by their airbeds but consider this. Most people tend to sleep on their beds for 1-2 years after the mattress has lost it’s ability to perform at a high level. So by the time they go to get a new one, ANYTHING NEW WOULD HAVE FELT GREAT!! Air, springs foam etc. anything would do a better job than their old bed. I can tell you this, customers who have had a quality foam bed will virtually always buy another foam mattess again. I’ve seen it over and over. Many new foam bed customers are former airbed customers. Air beds use compessed air in place of a spring or foam. How much can compressed air “give” to the curves of your body? Springs and foam have a great deal of “travel” in how far they can be compressed, air doesn’t. If you have curvy hips, a narrow waist and average shoulders an air bed cannot form to your contours like a spring or foam can. When the heaviest part of your body, your hips lays on the bed, you displace air, which has to have someplace to go, and in a compressed chamber there is no place for it to go. In essence, you have the same firmness under your legs as you do your hips. With a foam or spring mattress you have variable resistance, the more weight on the surface, the more compression you will have, and less pressure points. Lay your couch cushions on the floor and lay on them and then on an inflatable mattress and you will see what I mean. Good luck!!

I would like to add for those of you who suffer from neck pain that even though a good mattress is essential for your back, unless you have your mattress/pillow setup addressed you can have a $10,000 mattress and have worse neck pain than when you sleep on the floor or in a hammock or even on a bed of nails.

The reason for this is simple, unless you have your neck in a well supported neutral position when you sleep you can not even hope to wake up without neckpain.

Check out my video on which are the best and worst pillows and sleeping positions:

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