Many people have concerns regarding an air mattress and back pain, and often quite rightly so. The term ‘air mattress’ can apply to many different types and qualities of air mattresses and airbeds. You can purchase an airbed for camping for $20 or less – or pay over $100 for one.
Many people are worried if their choice of air mattress could cause back pain, or aggravate the back pain they already have. If you currently have back pain, you should consult your physician for advice. Ask if an air mattress could help or could aggravate your condition. Just like many other types of mattress, air mattresses are not always suitable for certain spinal issues and you should always follow your doctor’s advice.
Air Mattress and Back Pain: What to Look For
Here is what to look for if you have back pain and are looking for an air mattress that helps you sleep better:
Deflation: Even the best air mattress will deflate over time – some more quickly than others. As the mattress deflates, your sleeping posture will change and you will tend to sag most at your pressure points – particularly the shoulders and hips. However, this deflation is slow, and you can easily pump up the mattress pressure regularly to prevent this.
Automatic Inflation: Some air mattress models come with secondary pumps that keep the air mattress fully inflated. This pump will automatically inflate your bed when it detects a loss of air pressure. If you intend purchasing an air mattress as your primary mattress, then it would be a good idea to make sure a secondary pump is available.
Air Mattress Construction and Design
The above information is good for most people, irrespective of back pain. So what should you be looking for if you suffer back pain? The construction of your air mattress is a very important factor here. Many air mattresses or airbeds are designed with horizontal air ‘channels’.
That means that the mattress is constructed with horizontal air tubes. When you lie on the bed, the pressure exerted by your hips, for example, is spread horizontally along the length of the mattress. This tends to reduce hip support because the pressure is not contained locally. The same applies to your shoulders and other pressure points.
Your Spine and Different Sleeping Positions
Viewed from the front, your spine runs in a straight line from the top of your neck to the bottom bone – the coccyx. Viewed from the side, it is curved in an S shape. If you sleep on a mattress that deforms the spine by bending it sideways or changes its natural curve in any way, then the back pain will be a likely result.
One way of preventing back pain is to maintain your spine in its natural position when you sleep. The way to achieve this will differ according to the way you generally tend to sleep: side, back or belly.
Side Sleepers: Your body should be correctly supported along it length in such as way that the shoulders and hips are allowed to sink slightly so that your spine looks straight when viewed from the front or back of your body. If the mattress is too firm, your hip bone and shoulder are supported, but not your waist.
This can lead to your spine tending to bend down at the waist seeking support, so the spine supporting your lower back tends to fall lower than it should. This causes your vertebrae to come closer to each other then they should. If the mattress is too soft, your hip bone and shoulder pressure points sink too far into it, again tending to bend your spine away from its straight position (when viewed from front to back).
Each of these situations can result in a nerve being trapped as it is squeezed or distended between two or more vertebrae that have been forced out of their natural position. This can cause significant pain. Alternatively, your back muscles will strain to keep your spine straight, trying to prevent it bending out of its natural position. This can lead to significant pain in your back muscles.
Back Sleepers: As explained earlier, while your spine is straight when viewed from the front of your body to the back (or vice versa), it is bent in an S shape when viewed from the side. When sleeping on your back, too hard a mattress will cause your spine to lose its natural ‘S’ shape. Your shoulders and buttocks should be supported and so should your lower back. Otherwise, you are liable to feel pain for the reasons above for side sleepers.
So how do you resolve this problem with an air mattress? It’s quite simple really. The best air mattresses are not designed with horizontal air chambers, but with large numbers of vertical chambers – much like the individual pocketed springs in an innerspring mattress. The chambers with the most pressure exerted on them will sink more than the chambers with less pressure. Therefore, the natural curvature of your spine is maintained whether you sleep on your back, your side or your belly.
This, in turn, helps to prevent back pain caused by unnatural pressure on your spinal column. This arrangement of air chambers allows your hip bone and shoulder to sink in and take up their natural position relative to the rest of your spine. Your back muscles are supported and pressure on any pinched nerves is eliminated. That is because each vertebra is aligned correctly with its neighbor – as nature intended.
Finding the Best Inflation Level
An air mattress offers one major advantage that a memory foam or innerspring mattress does not have. People who have concerns regarding an air mattress and back pain forget that the same issues can arise with regular mattresses – only the solution is not so easy. Any type of mattress will ultimately begin to fail to offer you the support you need. It may take a few years, but once your back begins to feel pain there is usually not much you can do to resolve the situation.
With an air mattress, you can adjust the hardness or softness by changing the air pressure within the mattress. You cannot do this with a foam or innerspring mattress, even with the most expensive brands. The only solution is a new mattress. Not so with an air mattress! Simply add some more air if it feels soft and let some out if it is too hard for you.
Air Mattress and Back Pain: Summary
If you are concerned about an air mattress and back pain, don’t be! There’s no need to be. An air mattress offers you more control over its hardness or softness than even the most expensive regular mattress. In fact, some recommend air mattresses to those suffering back pain, and with good reason.
The higher quality air mattresses offer a better and more adjustable sleeping surface than any others, and you will never regret your purchase if you buy the right air mattress for your needs. What is that mattress? You have a choice, but here are four of the best air mattresses that we found suitable for people with back pain.
These mattresses are not presented in any specific order. All get good reviews and offer benefits according to your specific needs.
The SoundAsleep Dream series air mattress is a Queen size mattress constructed with 40 internal air coils that help support your pressure points. As mentioned earlier, this type of construction is the air mattress equivalent of a regular pocketed steel coil mattress. It supports pressure points for side sleepers and also helps belly and back sleepers to maintain their natural spinal shape when sleeping.
However, it does this only to an extent when compared to a pocketed steel coil mattress that could contain 4 times the number of steel coils that an air mattress can have air coils. Nevertheless, it is sufficient to help maintain your natural spine position. This air mattress also has a pump that can quickly top up your pressure, or reduce it, at the click of a button.
This Queen size (78 x 60 x 20) air mattress comes with a coil-beam construction that helps support your pressure points, maintaining your spine in the correct position for an excellent sleeping posture. This is true for side, back and belly sleepers. The sueded top keeps your bedding in place, and the mattress can be used on the floor as an airbed itself or as a mattress on a regular spring or solid bed base. It has an internal pump for easy inflation and deflation: let air out if too hard, and add more air if too soft.
The manufacturer claims to be the only air bad manufacturer that is endorsed by the International Chiropractors Association to help promote proper spinal alignment. This is our Number One pick for air beds since it meets all the criteria: comfortable, helps prevent or ease back pain and the coil-beam construction supports your pressure points where they should be supported.
The Etekcity air mattress is available only in Twin size. This is built using interconnected air coils that support your pressure points exactly where they need it to relieve pressure on your spine and back in general.
The Etekcity air mattress helps prevent back pain and helps to cure it if the pain is caused by poor sleeping posture. The Etekcity air mattress will help relieve your back pain by means of its excellent design that reduce pressure on your spine while sleeping, and helps maintains its natural shape – curved when viewed from the side and straight when viewed from front or back.
If you want an air mattress with a secondary pump that maintains your preferred air pressure all night, then the Insta-Bed Raised Air Mattress is the one for you. Also available only in Queen size, this air mattress has two pumps: one to inflate the bed (and deflate when necessary) and another secondary pump to keep the mattress inflated throughout the night.
You can choose from three comfort levels: Plush, Medium and Firm. The main pump will then inflate the mattress to that desired level. The secondary pump then monitors the air pressure and maintains it at your chosen level throughout the night. It does this silently so your sleep is not disturbed by the pump activating.
If you are looking for an air mattress and back pain is getting you down, then we can offer the above four options for you. Back pain can have many causes, though many are related to your mattress. Most people spend about one-third of their lives in bed yet pay less attention to their mattress than they should. However, if you have an existing issue with back pain, then before changing your mattress, you should consult your physician or physiotherapist.
The correct mattress can help prevent you from developing back pain due to a poor sleeping posture. It can also help cure back pain you already have – though this depends on the cause of the pain. Many people find their mattress to be too soft or hard for them. Even if the mattress was good to begin with, it may have lost its support. Not so with air mattresses.
You can change the level of hardness or softness of an air mattress with the press of a button. If it loses pressure then simply add more air. If you develop a condition that needs a harder mattress, then you can get that instantly. The relationship between an air mattress and back pain can be used to reduce pain or to improve the spinal support that would potentially lead to a reduction in your pain. None of this can be guaranteed medically of course, but it seems to work for large numbers of people who prefer air mattresses to any other kind.