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 bed 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.
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.
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.
With other mattresses, compressed air or springs within the mattress respond to your body weight by pushing back against you. The skin and blood vessels are caught in the middle, squeezed between the gravity force of your own body and the upwards force of the mattress.
This causes pressure points, which constricts circulation at the area of contact. For fibromyalgia sufferers who have so many tender points (shoulder, hip, back and so on), these pressure points are a source of constant pain and consequently, of poor sleep.
- A memory foam mattress has no spring-back force (there’s no air pressure or spring pressure to push back against you). This is because air flows from one open cell to another, spreading existing air pressure to adjoining cells until completely eliminated.
- Heat-responsive memory foam mattresses soften at body temperature. Coupled with the body contouring effect of memory foam’s open-cell structure, they end up cradling every curve in your body which properly distributes body weight and relieves pressure points.
- The accurate body-contouring ability leads to less skin being exposed to air which causes cooling. This is the main reason why memory foam sleeps rather hot. For fibro sufferers, however, increased heat may actually help relieve aches and sores.
Here is a list of features to consider and compare when looking for a memory foam mattress for fibromyalgia relief.
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.
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.