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Mattress key for proper back health, experts say

Sept. 19, 2014 – Of all the items in our homes, the one used the most, and that could be most integral to our quality of life, is a mattress.

With so much time spent sleeping, a suitable mattress is not only important for a good night's sleep, but also for back health.


September 19, 2014
By Megan Cole The Canadian Press

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“The amount of time you spend in your bed is significant,” says Patricia
Roney, a physiotherapist at Fix Health Care in Victoria. “If you have a
really poor mattress you’re looking at an increased risk of
degenerative changes in the spine or in your shoulders. Arthritis and
degenerative changes in the spine can be influenced by the quality.”

Walking
into the mattress section of a store can be overwhelming, and with so
much selection Roney recommends not rushing a purchase.

“It is
best to take some time and try a few different places and mattresses,”
she says. “I usually make sure there is a decent return policy because
not every mattress is going to work. The one thing to test when you have
firmness you like is try laying down, and try rolling into a few
different positions.”

Roney says the mattress needs firmness
cushioning to reduce pressure on areas like the head, elbows and,
depending on the sleep position, heels and bum bone.

“These areas
normally have increased pressure so it is important to have cushioning
there,” she says. “When you are lying on your back, you don’t want a big
gap between your back and the mattress. It should conform slightly to
the curve. If there is a big gap it could be too firm.”

The feel
and support of a mattress is often related to how many coils are in it.
Dr. Jeff Reihl, a chiropractor in Moose Jaw, Sask., says the more coils
there are in the mattress the more it is able to conform to the curves
of the body and provide support.

Reihl, who is also chair of
public relations for the Chiropractors’ Association of Saskatchewan,
says when people wake up with back pain, they make the mistake of
blaming it on the mattress, but he says even the Cadillac of mattresses
may not solve morning aches and pains.

“Inherently, the act of
sleeping is something that contributes to back pain because we are in
one spot for a relatively long period of time, and we can’t get away
from that,” says Reihl.

“The act of sleeping will cause things to
seize up. Where a bed mattress fits in is it gives us the proper
support to keep our body lined up. The mattress is also imperative to
helping with proper sleep posture.”

Even though sleep posture can
vary from person to person, Reihl says the position that maintains a
neutral spine posture is to lie on the side with knees tucked up in the
fetal position.

“I educate patients to put a pillow between their
knees so basically you keep the knees together and you’ve rounded off
the back a little and your shoulders should be square,” he says.

With the help of appropriate pillow height, the head should be kept square with the shoulders and centred.

Because
it is easy to move out of the side position into a poor sleep posture,
Reihl says it is often best to lie on the back with some pillows tucked
under the knees.

“You can buy the most expensive mattress, but if
you’ve got poor sleeping habits and posture it won’t make any
difference,” he says.


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