Affordable mattress type for upper back and neck pain
February 28, 2012 6:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for an affordable mattress type for upper back and neck pain. I'm a bit clueless regarding types of mattresses.

I'm currently a student and this winter I've been sleeping on a fairly thin foam mattress. I've been getting increasing upper back and neck pain, so I'm thinking of buying something better for my back. It needs to be very affordable, as I'm only living in the Netherlands until july, and I'm living off student loans.

I don't know the benefits of different types of mattresses, and googling is not very helpful as I can't seem to find any site that isn't link-bait or trying to sell me something.

So the question is twofold: cheapest option that is good for my back, and which types of mattresses help the most with upper back and neck pain. Other information and insights greatly appreciated, though.
posted by svenni to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Do you sleep with a pillow? If I sleep with the wrong kind I get neck and upper back pain. Your pillow may be too fat or hard. When I had a bad mattress, back pain, and little money I ended up sleeping on the wood floor and it improved things considerably. I doubled up a quilt.
posted by mareli at 6:22 AM on February 28, 2012

cheapest option that is good for my back, and which types of mattresses help the most with upper back and neck pain.

You're making a huge assumption, which is that your mattress is either the culprit in your pain, or that changing it is the best way to address it. That isn't at all evident, despite mattress company marketing to the contrary. It may be your pillow, as mareli says. It may be that you are sitting hunched at your desk and your body relaxes enough at night to become painful. It may be that you have a muscle imbalance that is aggravated during sleep. It may be that you need to strengthen your upper back.

Were I you I would try to tease out the causes a bit before spending a bunch of money on a mattress.

(A bunch of folks may weigh in to tell you what mattress helped them, but that is not the same things as answering the question "which types of mattresses help the most with upper back and neck pain?" The cause(s) of their pain may have been totally different, therefore they might be helped by a different mattress than would be appropriate for you. In other words, it's totally plausible that hard mattresses help with pain caused by one thing, while soft mattresses help with pain caused by something else.)
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Continuing the derail into "maybe it's your pillow:" the only thing that helps my neck pain long-term is sleeping on an ergonomic memory-foam pillow. You might try that first, as it will cost less than a new mattress.
posted by The corpse in the library at 7:04 AM on February 28, 2012

Agree with the pillow advice. You also might consider memory foam mattress topper. I know someone who bought one to go on an old uncomfortable mattress and it did help. Could be an affordable way to go for a temporary issue. Then you could look at mattresses once you're in a more permanent situation.
posted by f_panda at 7:32 AM on February 28, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also came here to say: it's your pillow. I live and die by the ergonomic pillows.
posted by Eicats at 7:36 AM on February 28, 2012

...but to answer your original question, I like the pillowtop mattresses. Anything too hard just aggrevates my back that much more. Unfortunately, the cheapest options are the most uncomfortable.
posted by Eicats at 7:37 AM on February 28, 2012

Another thought is that sitting for a long time doing such things as playing with your laptop or reading or similar pursuits you may be engaging in as a student can cause all kinds of problems if your 'workstation' is not aligned properly, especially if you're using a laptop and are looking down at the consider how you can set up your computer properly and perhaps stretching before investing in anything.
posted by koahiatamadl at 7:58 AM on February 28, 2012

I've done some research on mattresses for work, and what you need to do is go to a mattress store and try them out (like, 20 minutes on anything that seems promising). Also tell the person your problem and ask for recommendations. Sales reps vary in quality, but at least in the U.S., the majority seem to be more interested in finding the right mattress for you and not just getting a sale (because they'd rather get you the right mattress and not sell you something that you hate and return -- big hassle for them). Also, tell them your financial situation. They might have some ideas (for example, in the U.S., a lot of mattress chains own other chains, and might have a discount store they can refer you to and still get half the commission on).
posted by DoubleLune at 8:41 AM on February 28, 2012

Nthing pillow. Buckwheat hulls for me. Lots cheaper than a mattress, too.
posted by probably not that Karen Blair at 9:49 AM on February 28, 2012

Response by poster: I ended up changing pillows as you suggested, and it seems to be working. Thanks for all your answers.
posted by svenni at 1:02 PM on March 29, 2012

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