Air mattresses can cause back pain in some users, but only when used incorrectly.
Air mattresses may cause back pain in some people, but a lot depends on the variety they are using. The predominant reason air mattresses cause back pain is that they tend to sag. And when they do, they do not align your spine as well as a regular foam mattress. Nor do they contour the shape of your body as well.
However, does that mean that keeping an air mattress inflated at all times would be a solution to the problem? Not necessarily. While keeping the mattress inflated will prevent it from sagging, sometimes you risk making it too hard, which could cause another set of issues.
On the other hand, it would be wrong to dismiss an air mattress outright, especially when it has so much to offer in terms of portability.
Whether an air mattress is good for your back or not depends on various factors, and knowing about them can help you decide better.
Why Did Traditional Air Mattresses Have a Chance of Causing Back Pain?
Traditional air mattresses did not have much to offer in terms of support. It was an empty plastic structure, inflated enough to provide a surface so one did not have to sleep on the floor. It tended to sag, the main reason why people complained of back pain while sleeping on them for a long time.
In addition, those who already suffered from joint issues or muscle problems also found the surface unyielding. It aggravated any existing pain because the spine and joints did not often align well.
The air mattresses tended to sag or were too firm when fully inflated and did not provide excellent sleep quality. While it was okay to manage a couple of nights on them, sleeping on them for a long time resulted in bone and back issues.
Do Modern Air Mattresses Provide Greater Support than Conventional Ones?
Yes, the contemporary air mattresses provide a great deal of extra support compared to the earlier variants. The earlier air mattresses were merely inflatable shells, often stiff on the back. However, you can adjust the comfort level in the modern variants by customizing the firmness. You have full control over how much air you want to pump in for the desired firmness.
In addition, modern air mattresses have air chambers that provide extra support to the spine. As a result, the major pressure points in the body, like hips and shoulders, can sink into the mattress, which was not possible in the earlier variants. They provide better spine alignment as they provide a flat surface to rest on, compared to the wobbly ones that were in use a decade back.
Are Air Mattresses Suitable for Everyone?
Although modern air mattresses provide a lot of support to the spine, it is still not suitable for everyone. For example, those who have preexisting bone or spinal issues and have been sleeping on a conventional bed for a long time must consult the doctor before switching to an air mattress, as it may aggravate the problem.
On the other hand, pregnant women who need firm cushioning on their back and hips must also avoid sleeping on an air mattress. Those who are obese and have issues with joints must also refrain from using this mattress for an extended period.
Although the level of support can be increased or decreased by inflating or deflating the mattress, those with special medical issues, as mentioned above, must try to sleep on a regular bed.
Air mattresses are also often not suitable for those who have a partner because motion transfer is one of their biggest disadvantages. Hence, if one of the partners changes sides, the motion gets transferred to the other person, and the movement may wake them up.
One solution to the problem is to buy an air mattress with two chambers. The dual-zone technology will allow you to fill the chambers separately according to the desired firmness of each partner. And it will also prevent the motion transfer to a great extent.
Air mattresses should also be avoided by those sensitive to chemicals or plastic. If you are prone to allergies, it is better to avoid air mattresses as they often use polyester with certain chemicals in them.
Some commonly used materials are Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and TPU (Thermoplastic Polyurethane). Although they are quite durable and waterproof, those who are allergic to them must consider using a cotton mattress topper to reduce contact with the air mattress.
How to Choose an Air Mattress that is Good for Your Back?
Although air mattresses are not recommended for long-term use, choosing one that provides as much support to your spine as possible is still advisable. Here are some ways that can help you choose one that is good for your back.
Choose an air mattress that has vertical chambers. Although the ones with horizontal air chambers are not entirely bad, it is best to opt for an air mattress with vertical chambers if spinal alignment is a priority.
An air mattress with vertical chambers provides better support because the chambers that feel more pressure will sink more, contouring the mattress to the body.
This structure allows the spine, hips, and shoulders to sink in and prevents back pain. These mattresses are also ideal for side sleepers as the air pockets displace air from the pressure points and provide support to the other areas.
Choose an air mattress with a convenient pump that allows you to adjust the inflation just right. Mattresses that are too firm or sag too quickly can cause back aches.
One option is to invest in an air mattress with a secondary pump, which automatically inflates the mattress when it detects a loss in pressure. Mattresses with manual pumps are also great, as you can adjust the firmness as desired.
Durable air mattresses have laminated constructions that support your back more significantly. They are also light and made from rubber, vinyl, or plastic that is easy to carry or stow away.
Modern air mattresses also come with superior valves that prevent leakage and prevent the mattress from sagging. They have firmer bodies that are most resistant to wear and tear, primarily when you use them outdoors, like on a hiking trip. Mattresses in good condition will provide you with back support for extended periods.
Permanent vs. Temporary Use
Depending on the frequency and need of using them, you must choose two air mattresses. One mattress should be reserved for more permanent use. In contrast, a lighter variant should be reserved for temporary use, like camping. That way, you will not risk overusing your mattress, and it will provide more support to your spine.
Tips to Make Your Air Mattress More Back-Friendly
No matter how good your air mattress is, you can always try some tips to make it more back-friendly. Here are some of them.
Opt for a trial and choose an inflation level that provides the proper support to your spine. You may need to try this out for a few nights to determine which inflation level is best suited for your body. You will understand this when you wake up without body or spine aches in the morning.
Re-inflate your mattress regularly to prevent sagging. Once you have figured out a level at which your spine stays straight and your body is aligned, maintain that level by inflating your mattress regularly. A built-in pump will help you do that effortlessly.
Using a mattress topper will help you make your air mattress more comfortable. It will offer an extra layer of support. A foam mattress topper can reduce the pressure on your back, and a wide range of them are available for portable beds, including air mattresses. Using the mattress topper will also keep your air mattress clean and prevent wear and tear.
You can only determine whether air mattresses are good for your back once you have gone through all the aspects. Every individual has separate sleeping requirements, and your purchase will determine the rest.
However, if you do not have any pre-existing issues and have a top-notch air mattress, then you may consider sleeping on it without risking back pain. Some air mattresses are designed to alleviate back pain. Your back will indeed thank you once you have invested in them.