–By Todd Anthes
There is an old adage, it is not “if” you are going to injure your back, it’s “when.” Okay, I made that up. Granted I am not a sleep professional that you see advertised in the media, but I am someone who has recently suffered with some difficult back pain that has impacted my sport.
Running, biking, and strength training can definitely put some stress on your back. And I contend that in most situations, rest and recuperation will restore your back to its normal state. This takes a bit more time an intention with a master’s athlete, but my back pain was not abating, and come to find out, I had unknowingly injected a variant into the process know – our bed.
A little over a year ago we needed to replace our mattress. So, my wife and I went mattress shopping. In this regard, what was going to make her happy was what was going to make me happy. We purchased a very expensive name-brand memory foam mattress. I must say that I was not particularly fond of the mattress from the get-go; when I laid on my back, I felt like a turtle that had been flipped over. I did not enjoy this feeling, but hey, the bed was soft and the mattress salesman was very persuasive as to the benefits and quality of the mattress.
Over the past year I have stressed/injured my back, namely through racing, hard workouts, and even a long day doing yardwork. And my back was not springing back. I consulted my physical therapist and was worked with her for an extended time period. As part of this process, one day she asked me if my back hurt worse when I woke up, or at the end of the day. Without fail, my back hurt the worst in the morning when I awoke, but got better throughout the day. The short story is that my therapist said I should examine my mattress, specifically if it was firm enough.
My baseline test for determining what firmness would work for me involved me sleeping on the floor for a few nights. I found that this did not make my back pain any worse; in fact, it was marginally better. Armed with this knowledge, my next step was to find a much firmer mattress that would accommodate the needs of my wife and me. Initially I suggested to her that we use two twin extra-long mattresses, one to my wife’s liking and one to mine. However, we settled on a single mattress that is firm on one side and much softer on the other. If you would have asked me about such a product before this, I would have looked incredulous.
Fast-forward a month or so after my new firm sided mattress, and a new low-profile pillow; after an extended time period where my back was giving me fits, I now feel that my back is properly recovering and I am able to regain some semblance of regular training.