Top Mattresses For Sciatica and Nerve Pain
One of the most frequently asked questions from mattress shoppers that we experienced over 25 years in the bedding industry was which mattress is best to relieve nerve pain caused by sciatica?
Pain caused by damaged nerves can be localized, or in the case of sciatic nerve pain or damage, radiate down one leg or both and cause horrific pain, tingling sensations, numbness, and burnin sensations.
The first thing to consider is the root cause of nerve pain caused by pinching or pressure on the sciatic nerve. Contrary to popular belief, sciatica is not a medical condition, but rather a symptom that causes radiating back pain as well as leg pain.
In many cases there is no back pain, and only the legs are affected. The pain can be so bad, that as a last resort, you might find yourself crawling on hands and knees, as I once experienced, headed into my orthopedists office for a steroid and anesthetic injection.
The only relief I got was crawling into bed to allow the pain to slowly subside, and even then, I had to constantly adjust my position to find the perfect sweet spot of relief. Fortunately I had a really good memory foam mattress that I had designed for myself.
The relief I got was directly tied with the kind of mattress I was using at the time, and since I was a mattress designer and engineer, I had a rotating floor plan of various mattress types that I tried to see if there was a one in particular that really helped.
I was able to create just the right combination of layers and densities of the foams I used to create the relief I needed for sciatica outbreaks.
Most cases of sciatica are caused by a compressed nerve in the lower part of the body, in any number of anatomical locations. It can be difficult to diagnose because some patients experience numbness and tingling in their legs as well as in their back, making it easy to confuse sciatica with other medical conditions.
There are various causes and risk factors for sciatica. However, there are preventative measures you can take and treatment options available if you are currently experiencing pain. One of them absolutely includes choosing the right mattress to deliver relief.
How Long Does Sciatic Pain Last?
In many cases, sciatic pain is caused by a herniated disk in the lower back. The bones that make up your spine are held together by connective tissues. When these tissues wear down, pressure is put on your back and you begin experiencing pain. Herniation occurs when a disc begins to “pop out” between two adjoining vertebrae and squeezes the nerve.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the human body and is formed by the union of 5 nerve roots from the lower spine. It passes deep in the buttock and down the back of the thigh all the way to the heel and sole of the foot. The sciatic nerve serves a vital role in connecting the spinal cord with the skin and muscles of the thigh, leg, and foot.
As the largest nerve in the body, the sciatic nerve can be easily damaged when there is not a significant opening where the nerve breaks off from the spinal cord in the lower part of your back.
As a worn cartilaginous disc slowly degrades over time, sanded down by opposing vertebrae that grind down the these discs, the nerve is not protected and can literally become squeezed between two layers of bone, much as you would see if you placed a wet spaghetti noodle in a pair of pliers and slowly started mashing it down.
Often, a herniated disc can be attributed to injury, medical conditions that affect your nerves as well as carrying heavy loads frequently.
Sciatica usually appears rapidly and does not last more than 4-8 weeks, but if your pain does not go away after 2 months, you might want to meet with your medical professional to discuss your options. In some cases, surgery is necessary because damaged nerves can impact the function of your bladder and can even lead to the loss of bowel function.
If your pain lasts for more than say 90 days, it is possible you are suffering from chronic sciatica. Visiting your doctor is a crucial next step to begin pain management therapy or to schedule surgery if recommended. Don’t avoid getting some kind of treatment, as permanent damage could result from constant and unrelenting pressure on the nerve itself.
Risk Factors For Sciatica
There are a few risk factors that can increase your chances of developing acute or chronic sciatica. These risk factors are:
Work stress on back and legs
Sitting for extended periods of time
Wearing High heeled shoes
If you carry more weight, more pressure will be put on your spinal column and thus your spinal cord. Even pregnant women can suffer from sciatica simply due to the extra weight they carry for the duration of their pregnancy.
Frequent episodes of high or low glucose levels can also lead to permanent nerve damage. The risk of developing sciatica increases dramatically with age, as most sciatica sufferers are between 40 and 50 years old when the episodes begin. Lifting too much weight incorrectly, and sitting for long periods of time can put pressure on your nerves as well. In fact many Americans continuously sit for lengths at a time, far more than almost any other culture or population in the world.
With proper care and treatment, the symptoms of acute sciatica usually do not last longer than four to eight weeks. In fact, most healthcare experts believe that with proper treatment, sciatica will go away on its own. Data reveals that approximately half of people with acute sciatica will recover within six weeks. But, if the pain persists for more than eight weeks, imaging tests such as an X-ray or MRI may be necessary to help identify what is compressing the sciatic nerve and causing the symptoms.
Even acute sciatica can leave someone unable to complete daily tasks or even keep them from maintaining a job. Although it usually does not last for more than a couple of months, acute sciatica sufferers still need help with pain management.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory painkillers can work as a temporary solution to reduce inflammation until your nerve roots heal. Pain medications are one option to fight inflammation and help you live your life with less pain. It is also recommended to place cold packs on your lower back to decrease inflammation as well.
Other treatments that work include using natural anti-inflammatories like Turmeric, a spice, which can be taken in capsule form and can help reduce swelling and inflammation of joints, muscle, nerves, and connective tissues.
However, one of the most effective treatments for sciatica is to increase your daily activity level, and to rest. If you remain sedentary, your nerves will likely stay irritated for a longer period of time. Increasing your activity can reduce nerve irritation and inflammation.
Follow up physical activity with plenty of horizontal rest, as this reduces load on joints and allows your body to renourish and replenish itself without having to deal with the effects of gravity, which can make leg and foot pain especially hard to tolerate.
If anti-inflammatory medications and cold packs do not provide relief, ask your doctor if steroid injections or muscle relaxers are right for you. In some cases, acute sciatica also responds positively to acupuncture and physical therapy, massage therapy, stretching, and again, horizontal rest on the right mattress.
If your sciatica pain lasts for more than 3 months, your doctor may recommend an x-ray to further examine what is compressing your nerves and causing you pain.
Chronic sciatica can cause debilitating pain and weakness in your legs, which can decrease your quality of life.
There is a wide variety of treatment options, which usually involve a combination of lifestyle changes and medication. Your doctor may recommend the following:
Acupuncture, Chiropractic care, or Physical Therapy
Therapy to better manage your reaction to pain and improve your ability to tolerate pain
Anti-inflammatories and pain medication with care
If these pain management therapies fail to provide you relief, surgery may be your next step. There are essentially two surgical options: lumbar laminectomy and discectomy.
However, not all chronic sciatica sufferers are good candidates for surgery. A medical professional will need to look at your medical records and assess your risks. Remember too, that surgery should only be considered as a kind of last resort.
Sciatica pain, depending on the cause, can last for a few weeks or even a lifetime as well as keep you from maintaining a job and your current lifestyle.
The first step to treating your pain is to find out what is causing it. In some cases, if your sciatica is managed well, your pain might disappear.
Choosing the proper recovery program for sciatica pain is essential to returning to health. Treatments for sciatica depend on the underlying cause and the severity of the pain. Working with qualified and knowledgeable health professionals who can develop a personalized plan is critical to for optimum recovery. One patient’s treatment options may be very different than those of another. The goal of a rehabilitation program is to decrease pain and increase mobility. A complete plan can include a range of options such as:
Physical therapy. In physical therapy, it is important that a trained professional evaluate and treat the condition. Stretching and strengthening movements help alleviate sciatic pain. Stretches target muscles that cause pain when they are tight and inflexible. Exercises that strengthen the core and back muscles are beneficial as well and may help prevent future flare-ups.
Water therapy. Water’s natural buoyancy helps lighten the weight of the body when moving. Activities such as lifting your legs are a great deal easier in water and there is less chance of injury. The viscosity of water provides natural resistance, allowing simple exercises to go farther in building strength.
Medication. This can include both over-the-counter or prescription medications. Also, oral steroids can reduce the inflammation that is usually part of the cause of pain.
Steroid and Anesthetic Injections. such as an epidural steroid may help reduce inflammation and temporarily eliminate the pain. These types of injections work to reduce swelling and inflammation of the nerve roots, allowing for increased comfort and mobility.
Prevention. Maintain and practice good posture, avoid bending over to lift heavy objects, squat instead. Keep your weight down by controlling food intake since obesity and diabetes are risk factors for sciatica.
Which Mattress Is Best For Sciatic Nerve Pain
As a mattress industry professional with 25 years of experience designing mattresses for both residential and institutional settings like hospitals and long term care facilities, I can help narrow down the options for the perfect mattress to help nurture and properly support your body if you are suffering from nerve pain or nerve damage.
There are many options for mattresses that can help cradle and “float” the body, and just as importantly, the way you lie in a bed also makes a difference. Generally, I recommend a family soft and yielding mattress with a supportive underlying base, upon which is stacked increasingly softer layers of natural latex and then a softer memory foam or gel/memory foam combination on the top.
This “cake recipe” is pretty standard for back pain sufferers, and allows the body to immerse and to help distribute pressure sideways, rather than down, helping to eliminate that pinpoint pressure problem.
Imagine spreading pizza dough with your hands. You push it outward, and move the dough to the side of the pan. That’s essentially the best way to support your body if you are experiencing pressure or nerve pain and memory foam is notably excellent for this kind of cradling. Having latex either on top of the memory foam or right below it also helps to distribute load laterally rather than down, and can help achieve a neutral buoyancy kind of effect, too.
It’s also nice to have an outer covering or fabric encasement that might have some softer synthetic components in it as well, as this provides even more cushion and helps to minimize pinpoint pressure.
Generally, sleeping on your back or your side will help, also. Belly sleepers may find that arching the back can actually cause more pinching of the sciatic nerve. You simple need to try several positions for at least five minutes to determine where the pain is reduced the most. Also, remaining in bed for longer than 7-8 hours can help. If you can squeeze in 9 hours, you are providing more healing time and reducing the “up time” that can worsen sciatic pain.
The Best Mattress Brands For Sciatic Nerve Pain
We looked at the current lineup of mattress options out there that can be ordered online, and wanted to offer brands that were included in our list of Trusted Dealers. The most popular mattresses for sciatic pain should include memory foam as we mentioned, and also some natural latex, which helps to create a level of buoyancy that prevents you from collapsing in to the mattress, being unable to turn.
With sciatic pain, especially if you believe that it originated from extended sitting, lying flat on your back and continuing to mash your hamstrings and buttock are, even while lying down in bed, is not going to give you much relief. You need to be able to comfortably like on your side to relieve the pressure, and to be able to easily flip flop to the opposite side.
10 TIPS FOR SLEEPING WITH SCIATICA
The most important factor when it comes to sleeping and helping to calm or heal the sciatic nerve, which can be become extremely inflamed after being pinched or crushed, is to buy a mattress that offers appropriate mattress support for spinal alignment and pressure relief.
When it comes to managing your sciatica pain, you’ll need a variety of solutions or treatments working in tandem to eliminate the pain, or even just to see a reduction in the level of chronic pain you may experience.
You may need to try a few remedies or treatments of your own even if you do own the perfect mattress for, and keep mixing up your sleeping position in order to control your pain. Here are a few tips and pointers for you to consider:
1. Take a Warm Bath Before Bed
This may sound too easy and not very convincing, but many people who suffer from sciatic nerve pain swear by a hot bath and find it extremely therapeutic and helpful. A warm bath can soothe and help to relax muscles that have become seized up around your sciatic nerve roots, and will encourage the release of pain relieving endorphins, too.
The temperature should be very warm, but not uncomfortably hot. You want to avoid raising your body temperature, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. Water that is precisely tuned to be comfortable, and warm enough to soother, can help you become sleepy and very relaxed, so much so, that you can reduce the pinching that might be the cause of your sciatic nerve pain. Be consistent about warm bath time and duration.
Heat therapy is another treatment regimen for chronic pain management that is very effective. If you’re not a fan of baths, you can apply heat in other ways, try using a heating pad. You can even try a back wrap that delivers a constant level of heat for a limited amount of time, and these disposal devices are advantageous because you are targeting very focused areas like the lower back.
2. Do Some Light Stretching
Many people who struggle with sciatica have achieved great results by incorporating light stretching into their bedtime routine. Sometimes, sciatica is aggravated by tight muscles surrounding the sciatic nerve and stretching can help relax the muscles and minimize irritation and pain. It also can help by decompressing the vertebrae and opening up the spaces, which allows blood flow into these areas to help reduce inflammation and pressure.
Make sure you use a cushioned mat, and get on the floor. Gently bring your knees into your chest, doing pelvic tilts and drawing each knee to your opposite shoulder. Make sure to proceed gently and slowly, don’t stretch beyond a level of slight discomfort- it should hurt a little bit- but severe pain means you’re overdoing it, which can make the situation worse. For best results, do these stretches at bedtime and again upon awakening in the morning.
3. Buy A Neck Pillow
If you invest in a good neck pillow that helps maintain spine alignment throughout the night, as well as keeping you from tossing and turning too much (though you should be able to freely move without difficulty) it will help reduce lower back pain as well. Excessively soft pillows provide little support and can destroy good spine alignment habits. By keeping your cervical spine aligned, you can also reduce lower back pain.
4. Try Sciatica Massage Therapy Treatments
Massage therapy can be highly beneficial and can help alleviate some symptoms of sciatica. A licensed massage therapist has extensive training in working the proper ares of the back to reduce inflammation and to calm muscles in the lower back that contribute to back pain and muscle tension.
You can massage the small of your back with your palms, using downward motions toward your buttocks — or you can lie on the floor and use your knuckles under your back to apply pressure against your lower back. I advise using a roller, a cylindrical tube usually with foam or another soft material wrapping the outside.
A roller can be super beneficial for relieving sciatic pain, and I swear by them. We found a company called Rollga, that makes a variety of foam rollers with different kinds of foam, different levels of firmness, and different styles designed to target different muscle groups that can greatly improve and reduce sciatic nerve pain.
You can also reach out to massage therapists in your area and ask about their techniques and services for treating sciatica.
5. Raise Your Knees Above Your Body When Resting Or Sleeping
Sciatica often flares when any of the sciatic nerve roots in your lower back are compressed or irritated either through injury, compression, or simply lack of exercise and movement. By sleeping with your knees elevated, you can minimize pressure on your lumbar discs, which can provide pressure relief and help you sleep more comfortably.
While lying on your back, you can simply slide a pillow under your knees for support. If one pillow isn’t enough, you can keep adding more until you reach a level of elevation that feels most comfortable for you.
Because we recommend sleeping on your side, you can still elevate your knees in much the same way — simply prop pillows underneath your top knee so your hips form a straight line, up and down. Some sufferers put a larger body pillow between their knees to reduce pain and to sleep comfortably.
6. Sleep On A Mattress That Is Supportive On the Bottom, And Notably Softer On Top
The old school prescription for the ideal sleep surface for sciatica sufferers was the hardest mattress you could find. Unforgiving and painful, this was terrible advice, thought earlier mattresses were notoriously firm. Today’s mattresses offer integrated support with a firmer foundation layer and softer, more yielding materials built into the top layers that you are in close contact with. You can scroll down to se your suggestions for the perfect mattress to help you with sciatic nerve pain.
7. Use Pain Patches or Anesthetic Creams
Pain relief patches or creams, including those containing capsaicin or menthol, often provide tremendous relief from sciatic nerve pain. Incredibly, the relief can last as long as eight hours, giving you a full night’s relief from sciatic pain. You simple apply the patch or work in the cream to your lower back or legs before hitting the hay, just make sure your let the cream dry so you don’t rub it off on your sheets.
8. Avoid Your Painful Side
A lot of people with sciatic nerve pain experience more pain on one side than the other. By frequently tossing and turning, especially on mattresses that are too firm, we end up on our more painful side. Some sciatica nerve pain sufferers place a tennis ball in the pocket of their pajama pants to condition themselves from rolling onto their painful side. The hard tennis ball will let you know to remain on the other side.
9. Ice Packs Are Often Beneficial
A few minutes before bedtime, you can also crack open a cold pack (available at any pharmacy or big box store) and apply the pack directly to your lower back and buttocks in order to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. You need to keep the ice pack in place for at least 20 minutes to achieve benefit.
Can Sciatica Be Caused by a Bad Mattress?
While it’s unlikely that a mattress is the root cause of sciatic nerve pain, a bad mattress can certainly make the problem worse and reduce the effects of any treatments or therapy you might be using. A sleeping surface that is too firm often contributes to the discomfort and may even make your symptoms worse.
Your spine needs plenty of support, but you need the nestlike and pressure reducing softness on top because it doesn’t take much to injure sciatic nerve roots repeatedly, causing them to become inflamed again and again.
In general, if you’re a back sleeper, buy a slightly firmer mattress that encourages spinal alignment. Our mattress selections below all fall in the “medium” category and will work for sciatic pain treatment. For side sleepers, you definitely want to consider a softer bed, perhaps with alternating memory foam and latex layers, but you still need a mattress that supports your hips and shoulders.
And for belly sleepers, a moderately firm mattress mattress can offer adequate support without that sinking sensation that can arch your back and cause more compression.
CAREFULLY CHOSEN FROM HUNDREDS OF OPTIONS, OUR CURATED LIST OF TRUSTED MATTRESS DEALERS
The secret to calming sciatic nerve pain is to support your spine, especially your lower back, and purchase a mattress that is best suited relieving back pain.