A constant, throbbing pain in your foot that doesn’t seem like it will go away…
A dull burning sensation in your calf…
Random electric pain running down your back, all the way to your legs each time you sit for too long or try to lie down…
Does all of this sound familiar? Chances are, you suffer from sciatic nerve pain that keeps you up at night and interrupts your daily activities.
But there's good news! The right mattress can help with your sciatica. In this guide we cover what to look for in a mattress for sciatica, and much more.
What is Sciatica, and How is it Related to the Use of a Proper Mattress?
The sciatic nerves are found in the lower back and travel all the way to the buttocks, back of the legs, soles of the feet, and down to the toes. Sciatica is caused when the sciatic nerve is pinched or irritated, usually the result of a herniated disc. Poor posture, injury, obesity, arthritis, bone spurs, and a lazy lifestyle are all the factors responsible for sciatica.
Other factors include:
Often explained as a sharp pain that starts from the lower back and makes it way down to the back of the legs and the feet, sciatic pain can be described as numbness, tingling, throbbing, heat, inflammation, sharp pain, aching, and even muscle spasms in the relevant areas. The intensity of these symptoms alternates between mild and severe, acute or chronic, and usually only present themselves on one side of the body. For mild, acute pain, doctors recommend inflammatory drugs or relief through ice therapy. However, in severe cases, surgery is a must.
People with sciatica often have a hard time finding a comfortable sleeping position that alleviates their pain. Lying down can increase pressure on the hips and lumbar area, causing flare-ups. Moreover, sleeping in the same position can also result in a sharp pain upon waking up. Hence, lying down on a mattress that distributes body weight evenly and supports the lower back is essential for sciatic sufferers so that less pressure is put on the sciatic nerves.
Some people who suffer from sciatica may also experience bladder control issues. In this case, one must opt for a mattress that isolates motion transfer to avoid disturbing their partner through the night. A mattress with strong edge support and a responsive surface can also ease the pain of sciatica, making it easier to get in and out of bed.
What Should Sciatica Sufferers Look for in a Mattress?
Looking for the right mattress can get overwhelming, especially for satiric sufferers. That is why we have made it easier for you. Below are a few factors that need to be kept in mind when choosing a mattress for your sciatica.
Just because you have sciatic pain does not mean you need to break the bank buying a mattress. Before you walk into the mattress market, set a budget to help filter out your choices. Avail holiday discounts and sales that most mattress companies offer at specific times of the year, such as Black Friday or Christmas.
Inferior materials used while making a mattress may result in premature sagging and indentations, significantly affecting the body's pressure points. Moreover, a poor-quality mattress will not last too long. Even though good quality mattresses may cost a little more, remember that they provide long-lasting relief from sciatic pain.
Of course, mattress firmness is subjective. Depending on your body type, weight, sleeping position, and preference, what might seem firm to you might not seem firm to someone else. To make this easier, we would suggest those with sciatica look for a mattress that supports pressure points and the lumbar area. Moreover, a mattress should never put extra pressure on the hips and shoulders.
Pressure relief is key for people living with sciatica, especially those who sleep on their sides and feel pain flare-up in their hips often. Memory foam and latex are the ideal mattresses to look for as they cushion heavier parts of the body and avoid pressure from building up.
If you usually lie down on the far end of the bed, a mattress with strong edges can help you feel more secure. Edge supports also help when you get in and out of bed, especially if sudden movements are painful because of your sciatica.
Ideal mattresses are those that mold themselves according to your body's shapes and curves, allowing spine alignment and providing pressure relief. Memory foam is an ideal mattress to opt for, along with some good qualities of latex and polyfoam.
Even though the temperature is not related to sciatic pain, it isn't easy to get a good night's sleep when it is too warm. People who usually feel too hot at night usually benefit from a cooling mattress. After all, rest heals even the worst of pains.
Sciatic pain worsens after you have been in the same position for too long. That is why latex and hybrid mattresses that have a responsive surface can help to switch positions while sleeping without putting too much pressure on the body.
Type of Mattress
Despite what the media says, no same mattress will suit two people. The type of mattress you need depends on your needs. Always research the features of a mattress beforehand so that you can make your decision easily when in the mattress market.
Best Mattress for Sciatica and How They Can Help with the Pain
Most of the mattresses you come across will fall under one of the five categories listed below. Remember to choose the one that suits your needs and body type.
Of course, you will find plenty of mattresses within each type based on design, material, and extraordinary features. However, understanding the difference between each mattress will help make your choice easier.
Did you know that memory foam was invented by NASA in the 1970s? A viscoelastic substance is used to make memory foam that softly fits into the contours of your body. Memory foam mattresses have a slow response and low resistance, making them perfect for sciatic patients who do not like sudden jerks when getting in and out of bed.
Memory foam mattresses come in different foam densities. Since they keep motion transfer to the minimum, you don’t have to worry about waking your partner up by tossing and turning on the bed.
Hybrid mattresses come with a thick comfort layer mattress with an innerspring support core. Different materials can be used to make the comfort layers, including polyfoam, memory foam, latex, micro-coils, fiberfill, cotton, wool, or down.
Hybrid mattresses take the best of innerspring and memory foam mattresses and make the ideal bed for sciatic patients. Two inches of memory foam and pocketed coil base layers form a hybrid bed. This killer combination provides the perfect support and strength needed to help sciatic sleepers get through the night.
Latex is produced from a substance found in the rubber tree. However, it can be made naturally or synthetically. Mattresses that use latex usually opt for a denser one that helps support the core of the body and alleviate pressure points.
It is an excellent option for those who commonly change sleeping positions through the night.
Innerspring mattresses have a metal coil layer that makes them super bouncy and springy. They were used before memory foam mattresses were introduced. There is a thin comfort layer on top of the coil support structure.
The comfort layer of the innerspring mattress provides added cushioning, usually in the form of natural fibers such as cotton or wool. A majority of innerspring mattresses come with a pillow top- an added layer of padding on top of the comfort layer. This padding may have gel, wool, latex, or memory foam to ensure extra comfort.
The support layer may contain Bonnell coils, offset coils, continuous coils, or pocket coils. Bonnell coils are hourglass-shaped and wired together. They provide durability but do not absorb motion. Offset coils are great with compression and provide ultimate support to your body. However, they also do not absorb motion. Continuous coils are made out of one length of wire. Even though they make the mattress strong, they allow the transfer of motion.
Lastly, pocket coils are shaped like barrels. They reduce the transfer of motion because they are individually wrapped in fabric. However, these mattresses are expensive.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Lying down on the stomach is usually the worst for sciatic patients. This because when you sleep on your tummy, your pelvis is rotated forwards, affected the natural alignment of your spine. This extends your lower back and puts pressure on it, which in turn causes irritation in the sciatic nerve. If you cannot sleep in any other position, keep a pillow beneath your hips to bring your spine in a neutral position.
Sleeping on the side that has sciatic issues can cause aggravation of the nerve root, flaring up sciatic pain within seconds. Sleeping on the unaffected side can also raise the affected side unnaturally, pinching the sciatic nerve.
When you sleep on your back, you may suffer from a condition called lumbar spinal stenosis. This is when your nerves get out of the spinal column and travel through openings known as foramina. When you lie on your back, these openings shrink because the spine’s natural curve is accentuated. Hence, even though this is the most common position to sleep in for sciatic sufferers, it is advised to place a pillow beneath the knees.
Sleeping on the back is one of the best positions for sciatica patients. Since sciatic pain flares from an irritated sciatic nerve, it is crucial to reduce pressure on the area where the sciatic nerve lies- the lower back and lumbar discs. Hence, the supine position is known as the ideal position to sleep in. All you need to do is lie down on your back, making sure your entire body is in contact with the mattress. Then, place a pillow(s) beneath the knees so that they are elevated. You can also place extra pillows on the side of your back, under your arms, and your neck.
The second-best position for sciatic patients is the side position. This may help reduce pressure on the lower back, providing relief from the pain. Since you are not sleeping on your back, there should be no added pressure on the muscles, disc, and the sciatic nerve. However, it is crucial to keep your back aligned, hips straight, and knees curled towards the chest when lying in this position. To do this, keep the knees bent at a 90-degree angle towards the chest, and place a pillow between the two knees to reduce pressure on the affected sciatic nerve.
Invest in a good mattress. Always opt for a medium-firm orthopedic bed that does not lose its shape or fail to support the natural curvature of your spine. Stomach sleepers should invest in a firm mattress that keeps the body afloat, while side sleepers should get a softer mattress that provides proper support to the shoulders and hips. Moreover, back sleepers should look for a medium-firm mattress that supports the entire body's weight.
Using a body pillow is essential, especially when sleeping on your side. You can also place a pillow beneath your knees to accentuate the spine, hips, and pelvis.
Sometimes, placing a pillow between the knees is not enough as it does not reduce the pain. In these cases, elevate the knees when lying down on your back. Put a few pillows underneath the knees to find a comfortable position. You could also invest in a mechanical bed that keeps your legs elevated based on your individual comfort level.
Taking a warm bath before sleeping can help relax your muscles and sciatic nerve roots by releasing pain-fighting endorphins. However, make sure the water is not too hot. You can also opt for a hot water bottle to place on your lower back or buttock when you are about to sleep.
Lastly, stretching is super important for sciatic patients. This does mean that you need to exercise before bed. Instead, mildly stretching your muscles can help alleviate sciatic pain. Here are a few stretches to follow:
There is no denying that living with sciatica is hard. However, sleeping with it does not necessarily need to be a nightmare. All you need to do is find the sleeping position that alleviates your pain and invest in the correct mattress. Sleep is vital for your body to repair itself. Hence, never compromise on it. Seek treatment and medicines if you find your sciatic pain increasing.