Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam mattresses might be of help, when all else fails.

What is Memory Foam?

Designed originally by NASA for their space programme, memory foam is a visco elastic product that yields when heavier parts of the body like the hips and shoulders lie on it, but gives support for the back, for example, helping to keep your spine aligned.

Used now primarily for the bed room, Memory Foam is becoming increasingly popular. Manufactured in different thicknesses, using foams with differing firmness ratings for heavy and light bodies.

This page was last updated by Dr Barrie Lewis on 21st December, 2018.

Choose the right mattress for your back, obviously. Don't just look at the price. That means testing the mattress, ideally for a couple nights.

Here's a little tip. If you're in the market for a new bed, whenever you sleep on a strange mattress, rate it; is it excellent, good, okay, or bad. Check the brand, and keep notes.

Remember you're going to sleep on it for eight hours a night, times twenty odd years. There's no rush. Choosing the right bed, even if it costs more, means it hurts only once.

One of the advantages of memory is the firmness at the edges, so you don't roll off, with mother Earth rising up to greet you. And no need to turn the mattress, a frequent cause of lower back pain; the inner spring variety are heavy.

Here's a little anecdote. We have a timeshare week at a well known trout fishing resort in the Drakensberg in South Africa. If you've read a frog in my throat, you'll know it's one of my hobbies. It's been a good investment, and for twenty years we have enjoyed a break from the daily grind at the Chiropractic Coalface. Don't get me wrong; I love my work as a DC, but the responsibility is enormous, the pressure huge.

My second book of anecdotes, Bats in my Belfry opens at Castleburn with an exhausted Bernard Preston, Bernie, me, ready to leave the profession because the chiropractic shoe is pinching his foot. He hasn't had a proper holiday in years.

My point? The annual escape to Castleburn for a week of total chill became vital.

Low back pain

Until two years ago, when from the first night I, a chiropractor, who knows about spinal health, I ought to after 32+ years in the business, woke up in the early hours with severe low back pain. It must have been lifting heavy suitcases, several unaccustomed hours per day fishing for the wily trout; and so it was every night. No, I did not know about memory foam mattresses.

Back home, all was well. Back in my own bed, no pain.

Then last year, an exact replica of the previous year. Severe back pain every morning at 5am. She who must be obeyed slept on oblivious. She liked the bed.

Contact with management confirmed the obvious. There had been numerous complaints about the inner sprung mattresses. All were to be replaced with memory foam mattresses in the new year... I wonder what 2013 at chill out holds in store?

They have been going through them one year at a time, and I've had two more years of pain; only when on holiday.

Memory foam mattresses

Memory foam mattresses have various firmness ratings and are allergy and mite resistant.

Medical insurance is desperately worried about the escalating cost of low back pain ... not only to insurers, but also lost productivity.

The economic burden of a disease is far more than the chiropractor's and surgeon's fees. Adding the direct and indirect costs, the opportunistic costs, hospitalisation, scans....

All in all, a good bed, buying the best suited to your back, makes good economic sense. And that may mean better mattresses though there is no perfect bed for every shaped body. Be prepared to try several different beds.

Help for sciatica pain

Low back pain is quite enough, thank you very much. However, should the injury impact on the Femoral nerve or the Sciatic nerve, everything becomes far more difficult. With or without memory foam mattresses after playing silly buggers, or sometimes just a long journey, help for sciatica pain might be needed.

Another condition often affected by the bed is groin and upper thigh pain. A too hard mattress will often aggravate them; sleeping with a pillow between the thighs may help.

The wisdom of the Dutch

Double base set bed

There is no perfect bed, and I have to say that despite market trends, the Dutch preference for providing a different mattress for he and she, within one double bed, still gets first prize. The bed that gives you a perfect night's sleep may give your spouse agony!

Two shes in a double bed? A Family Affair ... only 99c on your Kindle, tablet or smartphone. Women and intimacy... my fourth book.

Lower back exercises

Lower back exercises every morning BEFORE emerging from under the duvet is half the solution, whether you have memory foam mattresses or not.

Useful links

› Memory foam mattresses

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

Do you have a problem that is not getting better?

Are you looking for a different slant on your pain?

Do you want to pose a question?

Interesting questions from visitors

CLS writes:

Greetings, Dr B.

You helped me quite some time back with a soothing and professional response which turned out to be exactly correct. I now consult a local chiropractor. You write a superb newsletter, too.

Your own unresolved problem. Pose a question

Knowing that up to 70 percent of the time the correct diagnosis is made with no examination, no special tests, no xrays, but just from the history, there is a fair chance I can add some insight to your unresolved problem. But at least 30% of the time, I may be quite wrong. Give plenty of detail if you want a sensible reply.

You visited this chiropractic help site no doubt because you have a problem that is not resolving and want to know more about what a DC does.

The quickest and most interesting way is to read one of my eBooks of anecdotes. Described by a reader as gems, both funny and healthful from the life and work of a chiropractor, you will love them. Priced right at $2.99, though Kindle fiddles the amount without telling me.