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For the 2% of America currently suffering from fibromyalgia, pain is a constant companion. Your body hurts all over, you’re exhausted and no one can tell you why. Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition where muscles, tendons and ligaments experience pain, fatigue and tender points that are sensitive to the slightest pressure. This condition can make getting comfortable in bed a serious challenge, and a lack of sleep only serves to further exacerbate daily fatigue and discomfort.
Because memory foam excels at pressure point relief, people with fibromyalgia are often curious as to whether or not this type of mattress may be beneficial. In this article, we will look at the pros and cons of using a memory foam mattress with fibromyalgia, and provide a guide of what to look for when shopping to maximize comfort.
Memory foam was conceived by NASA in the 1970s as a way to cushion astronauts from the harmful G-Forces experienced at take-off and re-entry. From there, memory foam was utilized in the medical industry to prevent pressure sores on beds and wheelchairs. Eventually these benefits carried over to consumer mattress markets, where memory foam mattresses continue gaining popularity each year and remain one of the best-rated mattress types for comfort and overall owner satisfaction.
In contrast to traditional polyurethane foams which simply compress with weight or springs which actively resist weight, memory foam has a dense, viscous nature that contours to a sleeper’s body. Because heavier areas like hips and shoulders sink in, natural alignment is preserved and the lumbar area remains supported (preventing lower back, knee, hip and shoulder strain). The cells within the memory foam material also collapse and transfer weight across the surface rather than pressing upwards against gravity, preventing painful pressure points on sensitive areas.
However, there are a few complaints voiced by some people with fibromyalgia that have tried memory foam mattresses. Some people find that thick or viscous mattresses are difficult to get on and off of, and the same goes with memory foam toppers placed over other mattresses. Others may find that the pressure points can still be felt, or that their memory foam mattress sleeps too hot. There is significant variation between the types and brands of memory foam mattresses though, so fibromyalgia and memory foam can be a good match as long as you know what to look for to avoid issues.
Here is a list of features to consider and compare when looking for a memory foam mattress for fibromyalgia relief.
The density of memory foam affects how viscous and supportive it feels, and how durable it will be over time. Low density foams (under 3.5 lbs) soften fairly quickly and may not provide enough support or pressure relief for people with fibromyalgia. High density foams (over 5.0 lbs) may feel too thick which can make moving in bed and getting out of bed more difficult. High density foams, while durable, are also associated with greater heat retention. Medium density foams, those between 3.5 and 5.0 lbs, provide the ideal mix of support and density for pain relief and ease of movement.
One of the key things to pay attention to when choosing a memory foam mattress for fibromyalgia is the thickness of the actual memory foam layer. There should be enough memory foam in the mattress to fully contour to your body, or you can ‘bottom out’ on the support layer and experience pressure points. If you are petite or a back/stomach sleeper, 3-4 inches of memory foam should be sufficient. If you are larger-framed or a side sleeper, look for 4-6 inches of memory foam.
In addition to thickness and density, the memory foam should be as close as possible to the surface in order to receive maximum pressure relieving benefits. Beds that have more than 1” of padding or non-memory foam may reduce comfort and may also compress faster.
According to reports of people online, the best firmness for people with fibromyalgia is medium-firm. Logically speaking, you don’t want a mattress so hard that it causes pressure points, but you also don’t want a mattress so soft that your back is unsupported. The benefit of materials like memory foam is that the concerns can be balanced without compromising comfort for support or vice versa.
Slow-response memory foams can take up to 60 seconds to return to their original shape or recontour. This can create a feeling of being trapped in quicksand when trying to move, especially when combined with temperature-sensitive foams that use heat to contour. Fast-response foams are usually temperature neutral and quickly respond to changes in movement, requiring less effort for changing position or getting out of bed.
Because there can so much variation in mattresses and in personal symptoms, the best mattress for fibromyalgia is ultimately going to be the mattress that feels best for your body. Make sure you select a mattress with your particular needs in mind, and always make sure you have a long enough return period to ensure the bed suits your body on good days and bad days. Keeping in mind mattress specifications and individual needs will enable people with fibromyalgia to choose a memory foam mattress that helps prevent pain, provides support and improves sleep.
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