Back pain is a beast.
And my personal experience with it has been a rollercoaster of discouragement, frustration, and hopelessness.
When you tell somebody you struggle with back pain, some common responses are…
“Have you tried yoga?”
“What do they think it is?” (who’s they?)
“Have you tried to find the best bed for back pain?”
While I do appreciate the suggestions, as somebody who’s been through 14+ years of back pain, trust me I’ve tried EVERYTHING.
The Cause of my Back Pain
My back pain started when I was newly married and in the trenches of nursing school in 2002. I woke up one morning somehow crooked to the left. It was impossible for me to stand straight. I had a couple chiropractic adjustments, took some ibuprofen, and was on my merry little naive way. Two weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with my first child and I didn’t give my back a second thought until after I had my adorable baby and the back pain started to creep in again. Regular adjustments at the chiropractor did help, but the pain never went away, and it got worse every time I tried to workout, so I took it easy and just focused on my adorable family.
Fast forward 2 years and I was pregnant again with my daughter. Post-birth there I was, at it again, trying to workout and feeling horrible back pain, but this time it was much worse. For the next 6 years, I did everything I could to “figure out this back thing”. I spent tens of thousands of dollars on chiropractors, massage therapists, specialists, physical therapists, pain specialists, along with a few quacks tossed in along the way.
In 2007, I found myself sitting in a surgeon’s office at the ripe old age of 26. He looked at my xrays and told me everything I’d already heard a million times — that I had two bulging discs and that surgery was the most likely option.
So we did surgery (endoscopic discectomy on L4-L5 and L5-S1), but it wasn’t the fairytale ending I was promised it would be. A couple years after the surgery the pain was back. It was slightly different, but it was back. Now I had back pain with a side of sciatica. Good times.
Despite my best efforts at watching how I lifted and taking care of my health, flare ups would happen every few months like clockwork. Life was hell, and I couldn’t enjoy my family or experience life like I wanted to. It got worse to where I could only walk a short distance – maybe 1/4 a mile – before I’d be in pain.
So back to the surgeon in 2009 I went, defeated and sobbing about how nothing was ever going to get better. Another MRI showed a small bulge but nothing too serious, yet, we decided on another back surgery. That decision ended up being an incredibly bad decision. Turns out the pain I was experiencing this second time around wasn’t coming from the disc, but from untrained & fatigued muscles around my hips & back. The surgery did nothing more than cause nerve damage, and give me the worst epidural headache which brought me back to the operating room to repair. It was a rough time for me.
I had little options left. I could live with the pain or I could do a complete disc replacement surgery.
I didn’t want to do either. My experience with surgery wasn’t a raving success and I felt that the problem was deeper than just having some “crappy discs”.
So I headed back to natural methods and did my rounds at more chiropractors, diets, devices, and really anything that sounded like it might help.
And, spoiler alert, none of them helped.
The real cause of my back pain is from my body trying to create stability in my hips and in doing so, it tightens accessory muscles & creates fatigue in those areas. My most common recurring issue is to have a pelvic upslip, where the muscles on my right side from my shoulder, all the way to my hip tighten and pull my right leg shorter. This causes stress on my sacrum & low back, which was what was causing the disc bulges, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, sciatica, and more. I can feel it the moment my pelvis rotates and my sacrum comes out. I lose the rotation in my right hip and sciatica develops within hours. What’s interesting is I can usually associate this misalignment to a moment of stress or frustration in my day, so I really have to make sure I keep my emotions in check and watch the tension build up in my body. Also, making sure I had the best bed for back pain did wonders for me.
Where I finally found improvement
One of the best things that could have happened to me was meeting the right people who’s job wasn’t to tell me everything that was wrong with my back and declare that the only way to fix it was to visit them 3 times a week for the next 6-9 months.
Instead, these people empowered me to take my life back into my own hands by teaching me how my body works and how to accept where I am, yet work towards improvement. Frustration and hopelessness at your body’s current situation, surprisingly, can aggravate your current situation. A good dose of acceptance + doing very specific mobility exercises made a huge improvement.
The first person that helped me the most was a local myopractor, Brian Trotter. A myopractor believes that untrained & fatigued muscles are the cause of misalignment, even disc bulges (opposite of chiropractors, who believe the bones are the culprits). My myopractor has always been able to get my body out of pain the fastest and can tell me exactly which muscle was the culprit, and what I could do to make it better. He never played the “come a bazillion times or else you’ll never get better” game that comes from most chiropractors. He got me out of pain the quickest and inspired me to train my body to work better.
The second person that helped me was the wonderful, Kate Galliett. I cannot say enough good things about her. She has taught me how my body isn’t trying to kill me, it’s just responding to the cues it’s been given, and that a pain free body is a mobile one. Her exercises are very unique because instead of focusing on just “strengthening your core” that you’ll find in most clinics, she has helped me focus on the mobility in all my joints and expanding my range to help my muscles work at their best. Getting my hips to have full range of motion (and strength in mid & end range positions) eased the pressure off my back because now my hips do the work they were meant to instead of using the back muscles to compensate. I still have improvement to make, but now I have full confidence in my future.
The Importance of Sleep in Pain Recovery
The importance of a really good night’s sleep was brought to my attention by my thyroid specialist. He is currently helping me recover from hypothyroidism and a part of that was to really focus on getting a good night’s sleep. Years of chronic pain (and trying to figure this whole thing out!) had done a number on my stress levels and my thyroid function. Balancing hormones and eating a healthy diet was just one part of the equation, I also had to make sure I was getting a good night’s sleep.
And most importantly, for my muscles & discs to fully repair, I needed to make sure that I was sleeping on a bed that supported that. I needed to find the best bed for back pain.
So, mattress-shopping I went.
My current mattress was pretty dismal. It definitely was NOT the best bed for back pain. I was on a standard spring bed that I’d topped with a memory foam pad. I was tossing and turning each night and waking up stiff, so I knew I needed something better, but which would be the best bed for back pain?
I started by asking friends & family. Lots of people recommended shopping at Costco or Amazon, so I looked around there. And while I did find some off-brand foam mattresses, I could never get on board with the toxic synthetics that came with them.
My thyroid doctor wanted me to reduce my exposure to hormone disruptors and wanted me to try my best to avoid chemicals in my home. Yeah, easier said than done, right?
I shifted my search to a mattress that would be non-toxic but also great for back pain.
Was that even possible?
The Best Bed for Back Pain
I don’t know if you’ve ever been online mattress shopping, but for me the choices were daunting, the prices were exorbitant, and the idea of shipping something that huge to my house and having no clue how I’d return it if I hated it was enough to make me give up.
After months of searching for a non-toxic AND back-friendly mattress, I finally settled on an Intellibed mattress.
And holy @&^%, it changed my life.
Maybe it was because I’d slept on a cheap mattresses my whole life, no — I’m certain of it. This was hands down the best bed for back pain. No stiffness or tossing & turning. I’m experiencing the kind of sleep I had as a kid where I felt like I slept in the same position all night. Remember that?
Pros vs. Cons of an Intellibed Mattress
Mattress shopping is a doozy (especially non-toxic/best bed for back pain shopping), so hopefully my research will save you some work. (There’s also a lot of good info about Intellibed on this article here.)
- I’ll just come out and say it. The mattress wasn’t cheap. With my history of pain, though, and with the list of pros below, you’ll see why it was worth it.
- It took about a week to get used to. The first night I snuggled into it, I had a bit of a heart attack thinking this wasn’t going to be good for my back at all.
- I’m not a fan of the pillows. I don’t know why, I just couldn’t get comfortable on them after months of trying. My husband, however, loves his pillow.
- First morning I woke up, hands down, I felt better than I’d ever had. Past mornings had me slowly getting out of bed, but now I spring right out of bed like a spring chicken.
- As far as spinal alignment and pressure relief goes, Intellibed is rated at the top. They initially sought out chiropractors & completed studies to test out the effectiveness of their mattress. I loved this bit of info when I learned it, because I love that their purpose was pain-relief from the beginning. The science behind why their mattresses work better for those of us with bad backs is that inside each mattress is this Intelli-gel, which collapses under a certain amount of pressure. So, when you lay on it, you’ll notice that it will give under your hips & shoulders, but fill up the space in your waist & legs. It essentially equalizes the pressure down your entire body which keeps all the pressure off your joints & spine, which makes it the best bed for back pain.
- They don’t break down & they have a 30 year warranty.
- They have a 60-day trial period. You can sleep on it for 60 days to really decide if you love it.
- They cover the RETURN SHIPPING, if you decide to return it. That was a big relief for me.
- THIS IS A BIG ONE — it has a neutral temperature, which means you sleep nice & cool. Seriously, this was the biggest setback in all the other mattresses I found. Living in Arizona means we get hotter than hell for half of the year. I had to know I wasn’t going to overheat. The worst thing to me is sleeping in a sweaty, hot bed.
- The bed is NON-TOXIC. It has stainless steel springs & every part of it is certified free of flame retardants & those common chemicals you’ll find in standard mattresses. There is no off-gassing of hormone-disrupting chemicals I need to worry about now. (I was mostly worried about PBDE compounds I’d be breathing in while I sleep — no thank you!)
- Finally, what sold it for me were the incredible reviews for Intellibed. They could not be matched by any other company.
(FYI, the bed I got from Intellibed was the Posture Perfect Lo-Motion)
Taking care of your back (and your sleep)
Making my sleep a priority was long overdue for me. I really needed to do this for me, to take care of my thyroid, hormones, and help my back fully recover each night. Our bodies are meant to recover at night, and we need to do all we can to support that.
I truly have been amazed at what a difference it’s been sleeping on this bed now for 6 months. This is definitely the best bed for back pain, in my opinion.
If you’re suffering with back pain, my heart goes out to you. Going through pain and feeling so discouraged is something I know too well. I hope you can find relief and experience life like you used to.