Can Sleeping on a Latex Mattress Help the Symptoms of Degenerative Disc Disease?
What is Degenerative Disc Disease?
To understand degenerative disc disease you need to understand the anatomy of the spine. The human spinal column is made up of individual vertebrae that extend from the base of the spine (commonly called the tailbone) all the way through lower back, middle back, upper back, and neck to the base of the skull.
The "discs" referred to in degenerative disc disease are soft, round, spongy "cushions" known as intervertebral discs. There is one disc between each vertebra in the spinal column, acting as a shock absorber so the bones in the spine don't rub against one another.
Over time, small damage to the strong, fibrous outer tissue of the disc (the annulus fibrosas) can allow fluid to leak from the soft, spongy shock-absorbing tissue of the inner disc (the nucleus pulposas). Repeated small damages to the disc over the course of a lifetime can add up to major spinal problems later in life.
A damaged disc can't provide normal support to the vertebrae. A spine that suffers degenerative disc problems loses normal bend, torsion, and range of motion in a portion of the spine and usually causes serious pain. Degenerative disc disease can affect the interstices between any vertebrae, but lumbar (lower back) and neck problems are most common.
How Does Your Mattress Help Your Back Problems?
According to the Laser Spine Institute, sleeping in any position that puts stress on your spine for eight out of every 24 hours can exacerbate spinal pain and disc problems. The Institute recommends finding a medium-firm mattress that balances support with enough give to keep your spine in proper alignment. They also recommend a mattress that cradles the lumbar region, holding hips comfortably for side sleepers and properly supporting the back or stomach in supine sleepers.
100% natural latex is an excellent choice to fulfill all of the Laser Spine Institute's mattress recommendations. Natural botanical latex foam supports the body but gives easily for a soft-to-the-touch, body-contouring feel that avoids painful pressure points. You can order latex foam mattresses along the continuum from very soft to very firm, so you can find the perfect medium-firm mattress that gives you pain-free sleep.
Latex will give under the hips to avoid pressure points, but still conform to your body to actively support the waist and lumbar vertebrae. You'll find that your spine stays in natural alignment all night, even if you shift positions. Latex "springs back" immediately to gently cradle your sore spots as you move.
Comfortable Sleep is Possible ...
With the proper support and medical treatment, you can still get a good night's sleep with degenerative disc disease. Comfort, alignment, and pain management are the three keys to sleeping will with disc problems.
Dr. Richard A. Staehler, on Spine-Health.com, recommends sleeping on the stomach to alleviate the pain of pressure on the intervertebral discs. In difficult cases, he recommends a pillow under the hips to further alleviate pressure.
A medium-firm latex mattress will cradle your body comfortably while still providing the support necessary for comfortable stomach sleeping. Only serious cases of degenerative disc disease will need extra help on the right latex mattress but if you find that you do need a pillow to take all pressure off your hips, latex offers a mixture of support and cradling comfort that will adapt easily to such unusual sleeping positions.
Why Should You Find Out Whether You Have Degenerative Disc Disease?
A backache can become much more than an inconvenience if left untreated over time. Degenerative disc disease can be ameliorated but not reversed, so catching it early and minimizing the damage can make a big difference in your quality of life and quality of sleep.
If your doctor or back specialist determines that you have degenerative disc disease, in most cases "conservative treatments" like pain relievers, proper support during sleep and when sitting, exercise, and physical therapy are all that's needed to relieve the pain and stop (or at least slow) the degeneration. If, however, degenerative disc disease is allowed to progress untreated over long periods, it may lead to complications that will need surgery.
If you have degenerative disc disease, consult with your physician to identify a treatment regimen. Use a quality mattress to protect your back as you sleep and help minimize further damage from pressure on the intervertebral discs. Care for your spine now, and you'll avoid worse complications later in life.