Don't know where to go next"

Hi Phoenix,
I’ve looked at your site off and on over several months. I am female, 67, about 5’7", 297lb, most of it in my hips and thighs.(exactly like my mom and grandmother). I have a fairly severe lower back scoliosis, with disc deterioration, sciatic-type nerve pain, low-back stiffness. What I’ve found most comfortable over the past few years is a very cheap, firm 5-inch innerspring mattress, covered by 4 " of polyurethane foam, medium.

But it’s not working anymore. Probably hasn’t been for a long time. So I’ve been looking, and looking. Had decided latex was the way to go, researching yours and other sites. Went to A Better Bed in Fresno, CA, the name of which I got off your website. We had agreed to a 6" Dunlop core, with 3 in. Talalay on top, 24 ILD, both natural. Ended up with only 2 in Talalay, not really sure what ILD; bed was way too firm. Considered just putting polyurethane layer on top, but seller said I should try 20 ILD Talalay. I asked for 4 in. I got it; two on bottom, two on top Why, I couldn’t say. I don’t think Bill is functioning well. Bed felt no different. I honestly don’t know what ILD the Talalay was. It went back, with a lot of negotiation.

Went to Sears, tried about everything. Only thing that felt good was Stearns and Foster, with about 8 layers, a lot of it some form of memory gel, 2 or 3 in. latex, unclear what kind, and a silk and cashmere “infused” topper. Don’t know what infused means, but the bed felt wonderful. They wanted $2200 for it. So I know S & F has a lousy reputation in terms of beds holding up, and think it would probably be a mistake. Thinking maybe it felt great mostly because of the topper. And all those layers.

Now I’m thinking maybe I’d be best off to build my own bed. It seems most people find the latex by far the best for bad backs. But I wonder if even the 20 ILD will be too firm for me. If it just had 3 in of Talalay and a wool topper, would that be enough. Maybe I should put polyurethane on top of the Talalay and the wood topper on top of that. Would that defeat the benefit of the Talalay?


Hi ritatown,

The first place I would begin is the mattress shopping tutorial here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines that can help you with “how” to make the best possible choices … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones.

I would keep in mind that the specific design of a mattress and how well it matches your own unique needs and preferences in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) is much more important than the type of material you use. There isn’t one material that is “better for bad backs” than another in other words because it depends more on the design of the mattress.

Your circumstances and health issues would likely make finding a new mattress more complex and challenging than the norm so before you consider designing and building your own mattress I would read option 3 in post #15 here and the posts it links to so that you have realistic expectations of success and the steep learning curve, trial and error, and costs that may be involved before you begin. If you have a “spirit of adventure” and the the DIY process itself and what you learn along the way is more important than any cost savings (which you may or may not realize) and you have no sense of urgency and are unlikely to become frustrated with some of the unsuccessful designs that you initially put together as you progress towards your ideal design then it may be worthwhile but it certainly isn’t the simplest or easiest approach to buying a mattress.

You may have already seen this but just in case you haven’t the better options and possibilities I’m aware of in the Fresno area are listed in post #2 here (including A Better Bed). There is also a longer list for the Monterey/Salinas/San Jose/Santa Cruz areas in post #2 here but these would involve a longer drive.

I’m not sure why your mattress was different from what you ordered but if the only issue is that a mattress is too firm then it may be worthwhile adding a topper based on the suggestions in post #2 here and the topper guidelines it links to.

I would also keep in mind that only you can feel what you feel on a mattress and when you are making a local purchase then your own careful and objective testing using the testing guidelines in the tutorial post will be the most reliable way to know whether a mattress is suitable for you. There are too many unknowns, variables, and personal preferences involved for anyone to be able to predict which mattress you would do best with based on specs (either yours or a mattress) or on “theory at a distance” (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here).

There are also some suggestions in post #3 here and the posts it links to that may be helpful for for larger body types or higher weight ranges.

If none of your local options are attractive to you and if you are open to an online purchase (which I would assume you are since you were already considering a DIY mattress that you can’t test in person ahead of time) … then the tutorial post includes several links to the better online options I’m aware of that would also be well worth considering and talking to on the phone.