Joint Pain (Hip, Knee, Back)

Hi Phoenix: I’ve read your mattress forum with great interest.

Previous research suggests that we go with a latex core with adjustable/replaceable layers. Your suggestions do nothing but reinforce that conclusion.

While price is always an object, we’re more interested in getting a mattress that will be comfortable and supportive, minimizing or eliminating the pains that are now very apparent because of my degenerative lower spinal issues.

We’re both seasoned citizens contemplating retirement within the next year. My weight and height are: 260 lbs., and 5’9". My wife is 160 and 5’3. I’m active, barrel chested, wide at the shoulders and hips. More than most, I carry much of my weight in my thighs and legs.

Both my wife and I are predominately side sleepers. Because of a stomach condition, my wife has acid reflux issues, and sleeps with a wedge. Because of this, she has considered an adjustable bed, but has concluded that she is fine using a foam wedge. Fortunately, her back isn’t an issue like mine, so a new, more supportive Queen size mattress is more for me than her.

My assumption is that we should be looking for a Latex core mattress that will allow layer removal and replacements. This should help us find a match that will work, if the one “first out of the box” doesn’t suffice.

As assumed by the shoppers that frequent sites such as this, we’re interested in obtaining the best product for the least amount of money. That is, finding a mattress with the best combinations of materials that will provided a good nights rest over the next couple of decades, while not having to second mortgage the house. Pointing us in what you believe to be the best directions for our needs would be appreciated.

BTW, we’re near Indianapolis, IN.

Hello Mike … and welcome :slight_smile:

Your choice regarding latex is IMO a good one for several reasons. The first of these is because of its ability to conform to body shape and relieve pressure as well or better than other materials. The second is because of its higher level of progressive resistance than other foams which in turn allows for better spinal alignment in different positions. The third is because of its greater durability than other materials. While it is a more expensive material than others, it is generally worth serious consideration. For lower budgets … I would keep the latex comfort layer but replace the support layer with either a high quality innerspring or high quality polyfoam (at a minimum 1.8 lbs density but preferably higher than this). Some people prefer the feel of an innerspring mattress and this would be another reason for a latex comfort layer over an innerspring even though an innerspring has few if any advantages in its “specs” and is usually less durable and supportive than an appropriate latex foam core.

Having said that … the specific layering of latex in terms of both thickness of the layers and the ILD (softness firmness) of the layers and how they work together can be different for each individual. This is the “art” of mattress construction and testing. While “theory” can certainly be a good starting point and even be very close to “correct” in many cases … actual testing of different mattress constructions is an important part of choosing a mattress construction.

For a heavier individual … firmer layers are perceived as being “softer” than the same layer would feel for a lighter individual which means that overall the mattress would tend towards higher ILD’s (firmness levels). This is because a firmer layer will create a similar depth of cradle (the part that conforms to your body shape) for a heavier individual than a softer layer will create for a lighter individual. Weight distribution plays a role in this as well.

What this means in practical terms is that the “ideal” layering for your side of the mattress may need firmer foam than the ideal layering for your wife’s side of the bed. Fortunately … most “build your own” or DIY (Do it yourself) mattress manufacturers can accomodate this “split” side to side layering.

As side sleepers … the starting point for a comfort layer is usually about 3". Heavier weights and larger body sizes can be accommodated either with slightly more thickness or slightly firmer foam. In your case the ideal comfort layer could well be firmer than for your wife. For example you may find that an ILD of 24 or perhaps even 28 is great while she feels best with an ILD of 19. Similarly the support layer could be firmer for you than they would for her. In a 3 layer mattress … the lowest and usually firmest layer is the least “influential” and could be the same firmness for both of you. In a mattress with three 3" layers, a possible construction for you could be made up of medium firm extra firm layers while your wife may feel best with soft firm extra firm or soft medium extra firm. These different firmnesses may give each of you a similar level of pressure relief and spinal alignment even though they have different layers.

I’m not sure if the wedge your wife uses raises both sides of the mattress but if it does … side sleeping on a raised mattress can be a contributing factor in spinal, hip, and even knee pain. Even for her, the more time she spends on her back with the mattress in the raised position … the better the alignment would be. If she has trouble sleeping more on her back or falling asleep on her back … one way to practice falling asleep in this position is to listen to calming music or meditative types of music while lying on your back with headphones. There can be less of a tendency to fall asleep in the back position so someone who wants to fall asleep will often turn to their side but if the focus is kept on listening to the music with the headphones on, rather than “turning over to fall asleep”, sleep will “just happen” while on the back. Practicing this can increase the ability or the comfort level of falling asleep or even staying asleep on the back. A slightly raised position while on the back can relieve spinal pressure so alignment is not an issue with the head raised while sleeping on the back particularly if the knees are slightly raised as well (such as having a pillow underneath them).

A pillow between the knees while side sleeping may also help to reduce knee and hip pressure and pain as it relieves “sideways pressure” on these joints. If your mattress has a wedge on one side, depending on the size of the wedge, it may affect your sleeping alignment on your side of the bed as well. The more you are able to sleep on the “flat part of the mattress” … while side sleeping, the better it will be for your spinal alignment. If it is necessary … you could also consider having a “split queen” mattress made for you although without an adjustable split queen base … this would create a somewhat fixed raised side and lowered side. Split queen adjustable bases are also available such as here although they would certainly add to the cost of an overall sleeping system. Which represents your best option would depend on budget, how much your side of the mattress is raised while you are sleeping and the effect of this raising on your joints and back, and how important automatic adjustability was to each of you.

In terms of actually finding the best construction for your needs, I usually recommend “price no object” mattress testing at local stores. What this means that your goal is to find the best type of construction as per the “Five steps to your perfect mattress” pages of this website. Once you know the type of construction that provides the best pressure relief and spinal alignment for your body types and sleeping positions, then it is simply a matter of duplicating that construction through an independent manufacturer either locally or through one who ships a DIY mattress anywhere in the country. If you know the construction details of a mattress that “works” for you … then it is usually fairly easy to duplicate or “match up” at a far lower cost. If you do your testing at a local manufacturer who has the perfect construction and also has great value … then of course you have the best of both worlds and can buy the actual mattress that you have tested as being “perfect”.

While there are not a lot of local manufacturers right in Indianapolis (most are in other parts of Indiana), there are a couple that may be near enough for mattress testing. They are … Local manufacturer in Muncie and Anderson. Local manufacturer in Kokomo and Carmel. Local manufacturer in Lafayette.

All 3 of these are part of the same family that started making mattresses in 1947 but they are not connected to each other.

also This is a wholesale manufacturer that makes Restonic but they have a retail outlet finder and there may be a store near you where you can test them. Clare bedding makes “all latex” versions of Restonic (some regional Restonic manufacturers use polyfoam over the latex)

Furniture Row® Store Locations - Store Hours & Addresses They carry 2 latex mattresses with 1" of polyfoam in the comfort layer (the maximum amount of polyfoam I would consider in a comfort layer except for the lowest budgets)

Sears may also carry latex mattresses including Natura (which makes a wide range of Talalay and Dunlop latex mattresses).

Some other national brands that make latex mattresses that may be available in mattress stores near you and would be worth trying for testing purposes if they are include “Pure Latex Bliss” and the “Simmons natural care elite” (not the natural care)

I hope this helps and if you have any other questions or need more specifics … don’t hesitate to ask :slight_smile:


Thanks so much Phoenix,

The detail in your response was simply outstanding – bravo!

We spend so much of lives in bed, and know so little about what constitutes the best sleeping surface.
Your site advises how to make judgments and buying decisions about the best sleeping surface for the dollar to be spent and for the individual’s proportions and preferences.

In essence, for most folks, building your own mattress layer by layer is the best method of getting a mattress to fit one’s needs and budget.

Shopping for a mattress has been one of the most difficult consumer efforts each and every time that we’re tried (approx. 4-times over the years).

Mattress companies and retail outlets do a great job of intentionally providing the consumer with minimal and oftentimes divergent, confusing information. The same mattress made by the same company has several different names depending upon the store that is selling it. So, comparison shopping is all but impossible. One needs to count springs and materials to make an educated guess as to whether mattress A at store G compares to mattress D at store B. And then it’s hard to be sure if you’re looking at the same thing at two different stores.

In fact, while doing research online for this purchase, I did visit Englander’s web site. I was hoping to find descriptions of their latex mattress construction, including a cross section of their models and their materials, but no such shopping aid was found. I did find a “natural” latex product mentioned, but the type of latex contained in the mattress (Talalay, Dupont etc.), wasn’t specified. So, certainly the content of each layer wasn’t specified, latex or otherwise. Thus, models weren’t cited, and if they were, one wouldn’t have been able to judge what their differences were etc. Why must one drive all over the area trying to find this information out from sales associates with dubious capabilities and many different motivations? The obvious conclusion is that the manufacturers don’t want the consumer armed with this sort of detailed information.

With that rant aside, I wish we had this sort of information decades ago, but alas, forums like this were not imaginable. However, it is available now, and thanks so much for making it so.

There is an analogy between shopping for a mattress and comfortable seating. A couple of years ago, I was looking for a comfortable, supportive recliner for my audio room. Several of the folks on the audiophile website that I frequent, mentioned the “stressless” chair.

This brand of seating is manufactured by Ekornes in Norway. We went to a store in town and tried out their many styles over many hours and several days. Instead of a reclining chair we opted for a reclining sofa. Although quite expensive, it has been the most comfortable seating that we’ve ever purchased!

Unlike the western style seating that we’re used to, there is no initial sink in feeling. It’s comfortable but not plush. It doesn’t have all the padding and air that are normally associated with comfort. It is simply supportive in all areas: the spine and hips etc. And this comfortable supportiveness lasts for however many hours one remains seated. Kinda’ like automobile seats have changed over the years from plush to highly supportive and as such, more comfortable for more hours.

We have leather recliners made by LZ-Boy and Flexsteel, but they are not the same. They don’t remain comfortable and stress free over time, like the Ekornes seating does. There are Scandinavian type imitators which typically charge less, but unfortunately we didn’t find one as comfortable as the real deal. So in this case it appears you get what you pay.

Like moving to a latex – non-innerspring – mattress, the seating coming from other parts of the world has a different slant on support and comfort and from our experience, is a much better design, with much longer lasting comfort. We hope we find the same philosophy true with latex.

Thanks again for your help and advice. I hope the website and forum continue to grow. As long as the information being provided is what we’ve experienced, I’m sure that it will.

Best Regards,


Oops, I see that my post was anonymous. Apparently, I didn’t log on. It was from me, Mike, the original poster.


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