Buying a bed that is healthy for your spine

Buying a bed that is healthy for your spine

My name is Sarah McDowell, I’m a physiotherapist currently working for The Police Treatment Centres, and at Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic.  I have over 10 years experience treating varying musculoskeletal conditions that people suffer with.  My career to date has been varied, from treating 90 year olds in the NHS with hip pain, to firearms police officers with back pain, to Olympic bobsleigh athletes with neck and shoulder pain at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.  Through all of this experience one thing is certain; a good night’s sleep is paramount.  There are several factors which contribute to this, and the upcoming articles will examine the benefits of different types of bedsteads, mattresses and pillows in relation to your anatomy, aches, pains and sleep patterns. Revival Beds reached out to me to deliver their valued customers with physiological guidance on bed, mattress, pillow and bedding choices to improve health and well being in the all important area of sleep.

Firstly it is important to note that we spend approximately a third of our lives in bed, so it is crucial to consider our comfort and the quality of bed you are sleeping on. The Sleep Council suggest that you get what you pay for, ‘the better the construction, the better the support and comfort and the longer the bed will last.’  This advice I’m sure will be similar to advice you may have been given by your physiotherapist, that it is important to have good support, maintain a neutral spine and avoid pressure points at your shoulders and hips for example by thinking about the mattress material, pillows and the bed size.

Sarah McDowell - physiotherapist at the police treatment centres

Sarah McDowell – Olympics holding camp on Calgary 2010

Sarah McDowell with Steve Redgrave

Sarah McDowell with Sir Steve Redgrave

Your Spine

Thinking specifically about the spine, it is broken into 3 sections; the neck (cervical spine), the mid back (thoracic spine) and the low back (lumbar spine).  It is made up of vertebra (the bony bits), discs (they go between the vertebra to act as suspension), ligaments (non elastic soft tissue joining bone to bone to stabilise), muscles which stabilise at local vertebral levels and more globally allowing the limbs to move, and finally the nerves and spinal cord (communication system).

Back ache and pain

Aches and pains in your spine can be caused by any one or a combination of the structures mentioned above.  Knowing the cause of your back pain will help to determine the best solution when considering a bed.  For example, if you have osteoarthritis (wear and tear) of the little joints (facets) in your low back, you may find lying on your back on a firm surface painful, but quite tolerable on a medium firm surface.

The following series of articles endeavours to simplify the information available and help you to decide what type of bed would be best for you, considering any ailments you might have to ensure you get a good quality night’s sleep. We will cover:

  • Different causes of spine pain and the best bed for back pain
  • Best mattresses for back pain
  • How to sleep better (what is ‘sleep hygiene’)
  • What to do if your bed is causing you back pain

The different causes of spine pain and thus the best solutions for sleep will be discussed further in the next article.

Until next time, sleep well……

Olympics 2010

Olympics 2010 – Whisler

Sarah McDowell at the 2010 Olympics, Whistler

Sarah McDowell at Lake Placid, USA bobsleigh track with GB Bobsleigh during the World Cup series in 2009