Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well, staying safe, and sleeping well! We spend a quarter (sometimes even a third) of our lives sleeping. The importance of quality sleep cannot be understated, and becomes more essential to our well-being as we age. Many of you may be suffering from insomnia or neck tension because of a bad mattress. These problems can spill over into the daytime and make you more irritable and less energized. As a chiropractor, I want you to sleep on a mattress which supports your body and facilitates quality sleep. Therefore, today, I’m going to share with you a few tips which will assist you in selecting a good mattress.
One indication your mattress is ill-equipped for sleeping on is if you go to sleep feeling spry and wake up feeling wrecked. If you struggle to climb out of bed in the morning or find your back pain worsens after sleeping, these are also signs your mattress is the problem. Old mattresses can develop dips or kinks which, when we sleep, negatively affect our bodies.
Now, what’s “good” as far as a mattress is concerned can vary. Each of our bodies is different. As you’ve probably seen on mattress commercials on television, some people prefer firm mattresses while others prefer soft mattresses. I’ll discuss the implications of each preference, as well as the effects each can have on your body later.
The goal of any “good” mattress is to maintain spinal alignment throughout the night. As we toss and turn, our mattress should adapt to our bodies, cradling our hips and other stress points.
There are three basic types of mattresses. The first is the traditional box-spring mattress. Associated with the box-spring mattress is the innerspring mattress. These mattresses contain metal coils, or springs, which compress and expand as we move. Underneath the mattress is a study box which supports the weight of both the mattress and our bodies. While an innerspring mattress contains the springs within itself, a box-spring mattress contains the springs within the underlying box. The innerspring allows airflow within the mattress, which is good for individuals who easily overheat during sleep. These types of mattress have been around for years and tend to be less expensive than some of the options we’ll discuss later.
You can expect to utilize a box-spring mattress for an average time period of six to eight years. However, during this time period, the quality of the underlying box-spring will degrade. After months and years of sleeping (usually in the same position), most springs will struggle to spring back. This can lead to sinkage and loss of support. The wonderful thing is you can always replace the box spring with a platform or wooden foundation, both of which will not lose their form over time.
Sleep Number, a popular mattress company, provides the second type of mattress: the air mattress. Combined with technological capabilities, an individual has the option to adjust the firmness or softness of these mattresses by adding or decreasing the amount of air held inside. These mattresses tend to have longer warranties, ranging from ten to fifteen years. The flexibility of these mattresses is a major selling point. However, their various moving parts increase the chances of malfunction. If something breaks, someone has to come fix the problem and you might be left with subpar sleep in the meantime. Air beds can be expensive and are susceptible to trenching (which occurs when the middle of the mattress has sunk).
The third common mattress type is memory foam. Memory foam mattresses like Tempurpedic gained popularity among sleepers due to their plushy texture and ability to mold to the exact shape of our bodies. However, memory foam also traps heat. This can lead to overheating during sleep, which results in middle-of-the-night sweating and bad sleep. For this reason, it’s recommended you buy a memory foam mattress with a layer of cooling gel. Most recent iterations of the memory foam mattress have this layer built in.
Memory foam mattresses are sold in a variety of thicknesses and firmness levels. Compared to automated air mattresses, the maintenance for a memory foam mattress is very minimal. The mattress is delivered to your house rolled up and shrink wrapped. After cutting the plastic off, you can simply unfurl the mattress and watch the memory foam expand before your eyes. Similar to the Sleep Number, the warranty on a memory foam mattress ranges from ten to fifteen years. You do not need to flip memory foam, as the mattress will retain its original shape indefinitely. Foam mattresses come in varying levels of density, which equates to firmness. The lowest density is less than 4 PCF (pounds per cubic foot) and has limited durability. Medium density memory foam is 4 to 5 PCF and is middling in terms of breathability and price. The highest density memory foam is more than 5 PCF and is the most expensive and likely to trap heat.
You’re likely to see more and more mattresses which combine aspects from the previous three types mentioned above. These mattresses can have springs as well as thick layers of memory foam or latex. They come in a variety of densities and firmness levels. However, like box-springs, these mattresses are liable to sag over time.
Of course, when choosing any mattress, you need to try sleeping on the surface. Most companies will allow you a sixty to ninety-day trial, during which you can send the mattress back and receive a full refund. Give yourself as long as you need to determine whether the mattress is providing the support you need. If you’re still on the fence after a majority of the trial period has passed, do not hesitate to send the mattress back. After waking up on a quality mattress, you should feel refreshed and limber.
Now, let’s discuss firmness. Everyone is entitled to their preference, but in terms of my recommendation, you’ll want to choose a mattress with adequate firmness. This means, you do not want a mattress which allows your body to sink too much. When heavier parts of our bodies sink into the mattress (e.g. our head, our hips, etc.), the rest of our body is thrown out of alignment. Ideally, a mattress should comfortably support your spine and keep your body mostly level. This lends itself to optimal spinal health.
Men tend to prefer firmer mattresses, while women tend to prefer softer mattresses. The Sleep Number mattress is likely the best option for couples who disagree on their ideal firmness. Both individuals will be able to tailor their side of the mattress to meet their specific needs, ensuring great sleep for both.
As far as sleeping positions, as I’m sure you know, sleeping on your stomach is not recommended. Sleeping on your stomach causes one side of your neck and back to hyperextend, while the other side is compressed. When the body stays in a position such as this one for an extended period of time, muscle tension and cramps are sure to follow.
For side sleepers, ensure your neck is supported by a pillow. This support keeps your head from tilting and placing strain on the neck. Slightly bend your knees and keep from crossing your legs over one another. Most people find placing a pillow between the legs in this position helps keep their pelvis aligned. Foam mattresses are considered the best option for side sleepers as the mattress cushions the shoulders and hips, improving spinal alignment.
For those of you who are naturally back sleepers, good job! Keep your head in a neutral position (i.e. not too far back or forward). Placing a pillow beneath your knees will give flexion to your spine. You might want to give that a try!
Now, finally, what do you do when you’re in chronic pain and switching your mattress just doesn’t work? Well, then it’s time to see a chiropractor. A good mattress is not a suitable replacement for chiropractic care. It is merely a foundational aspect of overall wellness. Chiropractors are trained to treat misalignments within the spine, some of which can be caused by years of sleeping on a terrible mattress. After an adjustment, you may find your sleep quality vastly improves, because your body is no longer fraught with misalignment and tension.
If you are currently struggling with pain issues and are wondering what else to do, reach out to us at Lowcountry Chiropractic. There’s no need to suffer unnecessarily when there is an opportunity for healing. When you’ve emailed us, we’ll email back as soon as we’re able and set you up with an appointment. At the appointment, we’ll assess your condition and formulate a plan to help. Let’s get you back to feeling (and sleeping) your best! As always, I’m Dr. Bob and I have your back covered! Until next time, take care!
Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well! The month of August has meant hot, humid days for the Lowcountry. August has also meant a return to school and work for many of us. As summer vacation comes to an end, kids don heavy backpacks and adults spend consecutive hours typing at their desks. To my ears, this sounds like a whole lot of back strain! Today, I’m going to share a few stretches with you which can help relieve some of the tension you may be experiencing. Perform these stretches as a family or throughout your workday to keep limber and pain-free!
My patients’ most common complaint is lower back pain. This can include stiffness, tenderness, or even mild burning. The causes for lower back pain can vary. Common causes include poor posture, sports injuries (involving excessive twisting of the torso), lifting heavy objects and an unexpected fall. Of course, there could also be an underlying issue, such as a lumbar herniated disc or joint dysfunction. Due to this, your best option for assuaging lower back pain long term is to seek regular chiropractic care. However, if you need relief sooner rather than later, these stretches can be a handy asset in your pain-relief tool box.
These stretches are simple-yet-effective and suited for everyone. You can perform these at home, at work, indoors, outdoors—wherever and whenever you feel the need! It’s recommended you perform these stretches daily for the best results. One study found the effects of a particular stretch were particularly present in the fifteen seconds following the stretch and noticeable for the subsequent twenty four hours. Gains in flexibility diminish in the following days, however. Therefore, to build on your progress and continue training your muscles to be more flexible, you should stretch at least two to three times a week.
Stretching frequently can decrease the potential for injury significantly. As well, as we age and become more inflexible, simple day-to-day tasks can become more difficult. Our ability to balance and maintain an upright posture becomes more difficult when our muscles are tight and stiff, which could lead to a fall. This is the last thing anyone wants! This is why it’s important to invest a small amount of time, at least two to three times per week, as a preventative measure against these potentialities.
The first stretch is relatively easy and simple. This stretch is best when performed in the morning, before you’ve even left your bed. If you suffer from a stiff back and require several minutes each morning to slowly straighten up to full upright posture after waking, this stretch is for you! Begin by lying on your back with your head on a pillow. Place both of your feet flat on the bed, thus bringing your knees into a bent position. Then, using both hands, you’ll grip your knee and gently pull your knee toward your chest. Hold this position for ten to thirty seconds. Please ensure your resting leg is bent, as having your resting leg extended places undue stress on your lower back. That’s the opposite of what we’re trying to do! Repeat this process with your other knee. Then, pull both knees into your chest and hold. Finally, repeat this process three or four times.
The lumbar spine has a natural curve. Most injuries occur because of an impingement (or stress) present at the back of a disc, near the base of the spine. This stress is often caused by overextending backwards and twisting simultaneously. By performing the stretch above, you’re performing flexion(bending forward), which is the opposite motion. This allows trapped fluids to imbibe and lengthens the muscles surrounding the base of the spine.
The next stretch is perfect for desk workers or people who spend hours sitting everyday. You’ll want to perform this stretch at least once every hour during work, as continual sitting tightens the muscles of the posterior chain (including the erector muscles, the gluteus maximus, the hamstrings, and the calves).
Begin in an upright seated position, with your knees bent. From this position, you’ll slowly bend forward. Your aim is to touch your chest to your upper thighs and keep your arms relaxed. Take a deep breath. Breathe out. Spend about ten seconds in this position before moving your chest to hover over one knee. Then, after ten seconds, repeat this on the other side. This is a static stretch, therefore refrain from bouncing. If you aren’t able to go down all the way or experience pain, stop in whatever version of this position feels comfortable. Repeat this entire process three or four times.
The third stretch is a wonderful stretch to warm up your body before a workout or strenuous activity. Loose, flexible muscles bear loads much more elegantly than stiff, tight muscles. If you’re preparing to go on a run, lift weights, or carry boxes, you may want to set aside a few minutes to complete this stretch before and after.
You can begin in a squat position. You’ll want to lean a portion of your weight forward, onto your hands (positioned in front of your center of gravity), and a portion of your weight back (down through the hips). You should feel this stretch in your hip flexors and along the lower back, but shouldn’t experience any pain. Allow yourself to relax into this position for ten to fifteen seconds. Then, similar to the last stretch, bend toward one of your knees to stretch the opposite side of your back. Repeat on the opposite side. Then, complete this set two to three more times.
The final stretch is called the child’s pose and is a popular yoga stretch. If you’re not familiar with this stretch already, we’ll go through the correct steps together! First, you’ll begin on your hands and knees, in a tabletop position. A table top position entails your shoulders being stacked over your wrists and your knees underneath your hips (though slightly widened). From this position, you’ll drive your weight back through your hips, seeking to touch your rear to the backs of your ankles. Simultaneously, you’ll lean forward with both arms extended. This stretch elongates the back muscles. Try to reach forward and stop if you experience any discomfort.
Next, you’ll retract one arm by pulling in your elbow and extend the other arm. This will stretch one side of your back. Hold this position for ten to fifteen seconds. Repeat on the other side. Repeat this set on either side.
These are the essential stretches for lower back pain. A few related stretches, targeted toward specific muscle groups and types of pain are as follows.
With persistence and time, I know these stretches will help! As stated above, these stretches are not a replacement for chiropractic care. Only chiropractic care can resolve the subluxations which cause persistent pain, tightness, and nerve damage. However, these stretches (when performed regularly and with correct form) can vastly improve your quality of life and help you feel more mobile in your body! As always, I’m Dr. Bob and I’ve got your back covered!
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