Severe chronic pain being worsened by bed.... no idea how to fix!

Hi all, hopefully I’m doing this right…

I’m 5ft4 & ~155lb (mostly carried at waist/hips). I’m a side/back combo sleeper leaning naturally more towards side sleeping, but since getting an adjustable base I back-sleep more than I used to. Current mattress is a Leesa purchased early 2017. My bed is causing very severe chronic pain in my mid-upper back/ribs. I live in Canada and I’m finding my options quite limited compared to the USA. I have Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome which is a connective tissue disorder & my musculoskeletal system is very sensitive & easy to misalign either through lack of support or too much pressure (and “too much pressure” doesn’t have to be much, as I’ve found). I’m prone to pressure points on a lot of mattresses and have had several moderately firm to firm mattresses actually push my ribs out of place at night which is incredibly painful.

Here’s what I think is happening: the Leesa, as far as I can tell, is not providing enough support to my lumbar spine when I’m on my back, or to my waist when I’m on my side, & I get pressure points on my hips/upper torso (ESPECIALLY the mid & upper torso). I don’t think I’m getting enough sink into the mattress for it to give appropriate support to my waist or lumbar spine, which “float” with nothing under them. I have a soft-ish foam topper (I’m realizing it’s about the same softness as the top of the Leesa, it’s just thicker) that’s a few years older than the Leesa and if I put it on the Leesa my shoulder is no longer crushed when I’m on my side (or at least not as bad) but my hips still don’t sink in enough and my waist still is not supported; for example, if I lie down on my left side, the left side feels very stretched/flat - the left side of my waist is dropped, while the right side of my waist (the side not touching the mattress) feels compressed and my right hip feels higher than the left like it’s been pushed up towards my shoulder. If I place a rolled towel under my waist on my side this often helps me sleep much better (with or without the topper, though w/o my shoulders get angry faster), but the towel itself is not comfortable and must be constantly adjusted through the night which can kind of injure my shoulders in the process. If I’m lying on my back (with or without the topper) the towel under the lumbar spine can help a little but not quite as much. Last night I tried taking an older/flatter pillow and placing it under my upper back & lumbar spine so my butt kind of hung off the edge of that extra pillow and it helped quite a bit - once again I think on my back my hip/butt area is not sinking in enough leaving my lumbar spine floating and making my upper back sit lower than my hips & feel like it weighs a ton (even though my ribcage is quite narrow and my hips are quite wide, I’m basically a triangle). I have tried sleeping more upright with the adjustable base but it doesn’t relieve enough of the pressure on my upper back and I find I don’t have a pillow that provides the correct neck support without pushing my head too far forward once I’m upright to a certain degree (lying flatter is fine and I usually even need to put a second pillow under mine to boost it a little on my side and then remove it for back sleeping - I know I probably do need to change my pillow as well but I seem to need radically different pillow support between positions at least on my current mattress).

I keep hearing that upper back pain is the result of a mattress that’s too soft but I can’t imagine a firmer mattress solving the problem here. It’s almost like I need something softer in the sense of being more contouring/pressure relieving but also more supportive, & maybe zoned (?). I have tried sleeping on the futon in the guest room which my mom swears is the most comfortable thing ever and did not find it to be all that comfortable, not worse but not better. When I’m side sleeping I usually have one big body pillow behind and one in front to support my back and keep my hips/shoulders in a more neutral posture.

I’m not sure what to do about this. It’s a nasty cycle where I’ll wake up sore and then every night I get more and more sore until I’m absolute agony and can’t rest my back against any surface comfortably, at some point it eases off and I get a bit of a reprieve somehow but then it starts again. I’m not opposed to replacing my whole mattress (right now I have a twin on my twin XL adjustable base and I wanted to get a twin XL mattress to fit it at some point anyways) but it’s also been an expensive several months so if I don’t have to replace the whole mattress right away that would be ideal. I don’t know whether a different type/style of foam would work (I’ve been eyeing some of the zoned hybrid foam mattresses like the Casper Wave Hybrid, although having realized that my hip is not sinking enough I think maybe the firmness around the hip on that might not be so good after all?), or whether I should look at something like a latex or latex hybrid. I like that some of the latex mattresses out there are highly adjustable in terms of firmness and some even offer firmness zoning across the regions of the top but I’m not sure whether latex would do what I need it to generally speaking. I’ve heard latex is more supportive but also less contouring and I’ve heard mixed things about pressure relief of latex vs. foam. I like that it’s supposedly cooler and more durable than foam (I overheat easily as part of my condition and sleep with the small fuzzy furnace that is my cat, and I’m leery of foam’s long-term durability), but also it is more expensive and a lot of the options I’m finding don’t allow returns and I’m wary of making a big investment that I might be stuck with if it doesn’t work out because I just can’t afford to keep blowing money on mattresses that keep undoing all my lovely physio’s hard (and expensive) work. I don’t know that I can really go to stores and just try out a bunch of mattresses because COVID and I don’t think I’d be able to truly get a feel for them in a typical store setting - if I’m going to have an issue often it’s after 5-6 hours or so of sleeping. I’m considering my options as far as maybe trying a thick (3-4 inch) softer (20 ILD) latex topper to see if it gives more of the balance of sink/support I’m clearly not getting from the foam and maybe give me an idea of whether a latex/latex hybrid could be good for me when I do eventually replace my whole mattress but once again if it doesn’t work out I’m stuck with it and I don’t want to waste money on a topper that I could put towards a mattress :confused: The only other mattress(es?) I’ve had was the one prior to the Leesa which was as old as me and I don’t know what brand it was, what was in it, or even where my parents bought it, and then whatever mattresses came with the apartments I lived in at university which were also “mystery mattresses” (some were old enough that I think they were innerspring, some were just dirt cheap slabs of hard foam which were awful). I genuinely don’t think I’ve ever slept on a mattress I’ve loved, I think my body just tolerated sleeping on whatever for a while until it didn’t and now everything hurts. That’s probably why I kept the Leesa - anything felt better than my ancient mattress at that point. I’ve kind of gone down a rabbit-hole of mattress information but I’m completely at a loss for where to go with any of it and quite a lot of recommendations that pop up on Google or in patient groups are ones I can’t get in Canada anyways so at this point I’m really open to any/all suggestions.

Thanks for your time, I appreciate any advice and I’m sorry this wound up being so long. I just don’t want to withhold any pertinent information that may be helpful.

Hey NapFan,

Welcome to the Mattress Underground :slight_smile: ! Thanks for your question.

Goodness, NapFan; sorry to learn of your chronic pain condition, you have my deepest empathy as I cannot even imagine the frustration and fatigue this continually causes you. We as moderators of the TMU are not licensed to offer medical opinions on what mattresses and layering configurations may ease your symptoms. That said, we can still review your current environment and guide you through further questions to help with your research process. Several questions come to mind: did you notice increased discomfort after adding your Leesa twin mattress to the twin XL adjustable base/ more regularly back sleeping? Also, as you mention “undoing (your) physio’s hard work”, just wondering if your physician has any thoughts about what improvements could be made for better sleep? Many of your observations regarding general mattress firmness/ support configurations would be more applicable to “average” consumer’s comfort experiences and less so of those with underlying medical conditions.

Looking forward to your thoughts when you have time…


Not to worry, I don’t expect medical advice, I mainly bring it up in the context of being a little more sensitive to what my mattress does to me in general. I don’t know how much of a difference it makes overall in terms of picking a mattress, maybe not much other than I’ll be a little worse for wear if I get it wrong (generally my pain levels are low day to day but mattresses specifically seem to actively trigger severe pain when they aren’t working out for me, probably for the same general reasons as most people but magnified a little due to underlying issues). I haven’t had good luck with any medical professionals offering sleep suggestions (most doctors still don’t even know EDS exists although awareness is getting better, but I still know more than my doctor does on this one!), and in patient groups there still seems to be a wide variety of preferences in terms of mattress configuration, although there seems to be two rough camps: “soft mattresses don’t support me enough and I fall apart” or “firm mattresses provide too much pressure and push things out”, and I seem to fall more into the latter category. Purple seems to be a common winner in patient groups but mostly the hybrids which aren’t available here and I’ve heard a lot of folks gripe that their Purple hybrids broke down in a couple of years which makes me not inclined to wait for them to release here (and there’s no obvious timeline on that, I’ve asked them). A lot of the patient groups are extremely US-centric and not especially helpful for Canadians on these kinds of issues.

I didn’t notice any increased discomfort after adding the adjustable base. I actually bought it mainly because I was experiencing so much pain prior to getting it and I’d found that kind of jimmying my way into something like a zero-g position with a craptonne of pillows provided some slight relief (although doing so every night was impractical and fidgety, I literally needed about 9 pillows and 2 rolled towels even then there wasn’t quite enough support under my legs). The adjustable base has helped a lot of smaller issues - whenever I set my bed 100% flat now I realize how much my body Does Not Like That (at least on my back). I’ve found I REALLY like sleeping with my feet quite elevated & head moderately elevated on my back (usually my head being a little lower than the pre-set Zero-G mode). But when the vicious cycle of upper back pain started up again after adding the adjustable base I realized that even though I was solving some problems, the new base still wasn’t quite addressing whatever the huge underlying cause of these excruciating mid-upper back/rib pains is. More experimentation with the base and extra support pillows/towels has led me to the conclusion I expressed in my original post, that my hip isn’t sinking enough causing lack of lumbar support and misalignment of the spine and I may not be getting enough pressure relief overall. So the adjustable base wasn’t a total bust and has helped me learn a lot, I’m glad I have it! But I missed the mark on The Big Issue, if that makes sense.

Hey NapFan,

Thanks for your reply :slight_smile: .

Purple is certainly a popular choice here in the U.S. and well-known for its use of buckling column gel in its comfort layer. I’m curious about your mention of “I’ve heard a lot of folks gripe that their Purple hybrids broke down in a couple of years”, what sorts of “breaking down” issues are the patient group members describing? For those following your research who may have interest in this buckling column gel construction, I break down some of Phoenix’s thoughts in post #2 “Lightweight side sleepers” that may be of interest.

NapFan, I failed to ask before which Leesa twin mattress do you have? According to their site, they use memory foam as a comfort layer and people are often either big fans of or totally against its feel and heat retention properties, you can learn more on that topic from Phoenix’s article, “Memory Foam- Pros and Cons”. What other sorts of mattresses have you slept comfortably on in the past (if any) and have you considered trying latex?

Looking forward to hearing more on your thoughts.


Hi Sensei, thanks for the response. I’ll attempt to clarify. Mostly what I’m hearing is people complaining about the mattresses completely losing support after a year or two - people say they’re great for a bit but then start to cause significant pain after the return window expires but well prior to what people expect for a mattress in that price point. I’ve even seen some people experience significant visible sagging that Purple was not keen to address. Maybe this is rare and it just seems to be a more common complaint online as the nature of web reviews is for them to skew strongly positive or negative with most people who feel neutral not inclined to bother writing about it, or maybe it’s more common in the original Purple where there’s more foam and less grid but I don’t know that I can wait long enough for something like the Purple 3 to release here to try it anyways. The original Purple is not as favoured, but that’s the only one on offer here for the forseeable future.

At the time I purchased the Leesa which was in… May of 2017, I think, they only had one model on offer which was their “original” so that’s what I’ve got. I seem to recall hearing that they changed the type of foam they used in the comfort layer around 2018, so I think what I have is the “old version” of the original all-foam Leesa. I don’t mind memory foam as a material (I think?), a little bit of sink does help me feel like I’m more stable on my side. I’m a “nester” so that can feel quite cozy for me rather than claustrophobic. But I do find the Leesa gets hot, and I do need to be able to shift positions in the night without hurting myself so too much sink could be restrictive. I have a 3 inch memory foam topper that I put on my old mattress and have also used on the Leesa (the problems I have with the Leesa persist with or without it sadly) which feels about the same firmness as the upper layer of the Leesa and it can help relieve some shoulder compression but doesn’t support my middle enough and still leaves my upper spine feeling like I fell hard onto my back at high velocity in the morning if I sleep on my back. I can deal with the heat as a tradeoff if the other aspects of memory foam are promising, but sometimes with memory foam I feel like I sink until I can’t sink anymore and then I just hurt where I bottom out rather than feeling actual pressure relief, if that makes sense, and in the recessed areas of my body I don’t feel like I always get enough support. I don’t know if this indicates that memory foam is maybe not for me, or if I’ve just had bad experiences with memory foam products that were poor quality or not well configured for my body.

I will note that I have never had a mattress I’ve genuinely loved since my body got cranky, they’ve all felt too firm and caused some kind of pain (usually in the mid-to-upper back/ribs just like the Leesa, never the low back), and the Leesa is the only mattress I’ve ever picked out myself. I’ve slept on a few others but had no hand in choosing them and most of the time no idea what was in them because either they were bulk-purchased by whatever student apartment building I was living in and weren’t even a noticeable brand name or else it was one my parents bought when I was 2 and I slept on until I bought the Leesa. All of them have been too firm for me; my old one that my parents acquired when I moved out of my crib was probably an innerspring which I guess more due to the age of it, and the ones in my apartments have mostly felt like very cheap hard foam that softened extremely unevenly over time and were generally terrible.

I am strongly considering giving latex a go but I’m uncertain as to whether it would do what I need it to? I like that latex is supposed to be more durable & sleep cooler vs. memory foam as well as provide more support. I also find the adjustable/modular nature of many latex mattresses EXTREMELY appealing. What I’m not sure on is whether latex would be pressure-relieving enough or contour enough to my spine to get good support (I’ve heard very mixed things about how latex compares to foam on pressure relief/contouring) or whether even a softer ILD latex would be soft enough, particularly because I only seem to be able to find Dunlop latex here and my understanding is that the Dunlop feels a bit firmer. It also makes me a bit nervous that it would likely be a more substantial investment and most latex companies that I’ve found here (although I haven’t found many) don’t have return policies (and in some cases twin/twin XL models don’t even qualify for comfort adjustment guarantees either) so if it was a bust it would be a big bust. I understand why these companies don’t generally take returns and it’s sound enough reasoning, but it does increase the risk factor quite a bit on my end.

I can confirm at least in my experience the purple hybrid(.2) becoming uncomfortable after 1 year(up to that point it is actually quite comfortable/ sleeps cool). The reason it becomes uncomfortable after 1 year is because they use polyfoam under the hyperelastic polymer on top of the coils. This polyfoam layer compresses for me within 1 year resulting in the polymer sitting directly on top of the coils with no cushioning making the mattress too firm. I also have it on adjustable base which im sure expedites the breakdown process. They are good at least in my experience about sending replacement mattresses though. I’m on my 4th one in 4 years. They also use polyfoam edge support which separates from the hyperelastic polymer creating an uneven surface area. The hypet elastic polymer itself holds up well so for this reason I’m doing a DIY version of the purple hybrid replacing all the polyfoam parts with latex and using my own coil system. I’m using the polymer I took off from my previous purple hybrid.

I tried the purple premier. 3 in home and the purple .4 in store and they were both too soft for me.

Hey NapFan,

Thanks for your response.

As you likely know, the Leesa Original mattress is a foam mattress of a single firmness, “medium firm”, with memory foam being the comfort layer. This “one firmness fits most” approach is common in Bed in a Box mattresses as manufacturer research suggests that over many types of sleepers, body builds and materials preferences, as well as price budgets, these mattress designs tend to reflect on average a product that fits a majority of consumers’ needs. That said, there are exceptions to this approach as each person has their own unique preferences in terms of comfort, feel, support and pressure-relieving needs.

Memory foam will “sleep hot”; it is less breathable, in the same way that it’s more difficult to breathe through a thick fabric and under compression, the air both leaves and comes back against more resistance than most other foams. This is part of why it is slower than other materials to compress and return. Memory foam also softens in response to heat and humidity from your body or room temperature as it changes from a more elastic material into a more viscous material and the length of time it is continuously compressed can also affect how much the memory foam softens as well. This change or “melting” also takes time when you lie on it and it also takes time to change back to elasticity and return to its shape when you get up. These two factors are the main reasons that lead to the slower compression and recovery (the memory quality) of memory foam. It also needs a good support layer underneath it.

[quote]I’ve found here (although I haven’t found many) don’t have return policies (and in some cases twin/twin XL models don’t even qualify for comfort adjustment guarantees either) so if it was a bust it would be a big bust. I understand why these companies don’t generally take returns and it’s sound enough reasoning, but it does increase the risk factor quite a bit on my end.
Could you elaborate a little more here regarding no return policies/ comfort exchanges for twin/ twin XL mattresses, NapFan? Do you have specific manufacturers in mind? I’m not familiar with one who treats these sizes differently from a customer satisfaction standpoint. Hope you’re closer to finding a solution to your improving your comfort situation and good luck :wink: .


Hi - what did you end up purchasing? I have similar stats, the same condition, and same issues with beds. Thanks!

Hi Markad,

I wound up purchasing a latex mattress from Dormio, their “gold” line, I believe. I’ve had it for… well, looking back at this thread probably close to a year now.

There are maybe one or two drawbacks that I’ve noticed since I’ve had it. The biggest is that when I tested the bed in the store, it felt heavenly - very buoyant, very pressure relieving, and it contoured to my body without the really dead-weight “sink” I get on memory foam. It was the first thing I’d ever laid on that made me realize that something could be soft AND supportive. I was worried about latex as I’d heard it’s firmer than memory foam, but “firm” latex doesn’t feel HARD to me the way most beds do, if that makes sense - it was such a pleasant surprise to feel the difference in the latex. Now the mattress I have in my house DOES feel like that… but only when it’s “naked”. The mattress has 4 interchangeable layers of latex of different firmnesses that fit into a zip-on case; unfortunately the case is not washable, so they strongly recommended a mattress protector. I purchased one from them, it’s not too thick and has a bit of wool padded into the top but not a lot. I use very stretchy jersey sheets because I like how they feel, but also they flex without popping off on my adjustable bed frame and I was hoping they wouldn’t introduce too much “surface tension” that would prevent that nice buoyant-but-cradled sensation. Unfortunately though between the recommended mattress protector and the sheets (and I’m not sure which is the bigger culprit or if it’s just the combination of both and the friction between the multiple added “things” on the mattress), there is just a little too much surface tension so I’m not supported quite the same and it isn’t as comfortable. It just can’t quite contour as nicely to my body and it feels “harder” if that makes sense, despite being configured in the softest possible arrangement of the inner latex (softer than what I tested in the store, and it’s softened further as it’s broken in). That kind of leads into drawback #2 which is that there’s definitely been some slight sinkage of the center of the mattress and I can kind of get a tiny bit of that sensation of “bottoming out” into the firmer latex sometimes in a few spots. The way it’s broken in has also kind of mis-aligned the way my neck meets my pillow and now the (very expensive) pillow I bought from them that was perfect at first is too tall and strains my neck uncomfortably, so I will probably be back to the drawing board on a pillow again in the future. The way it’s broken in isn’t awful or anything, but it isn’t quite as nice as when I got it. I have rotated/flipped the interior latex a few times to try and prevent/mitigate this, although I suspect part of this just comes with the territory of having a twin bed and needing multiple body pillows for support and thus really not having anywhere to move - all the weight is in the same spot all the time and there’s really nothing I can do about that.

I am considering buying another “soft” layer of latex and removing the “firm” one entirely at some point, which would bring it more into the feel of the other Dormio mattress I was considering at the time. The other one I was considering (forget which model it was tbh, sorry) was extremely soft throughout and felt the best of the many I tried on my side but much too soft on my back and was not adjustable. I kind of go through phases where back or side sleeping is more comfortable so that wasn’t a great permanent choice for me, but if I can purchase another extra layer or two of softer latex so I can rotate as I need it, that’ll likely do me, and that’s precisely why I chose what I chose. For now though, it’s by and large meeting my needs - I’m not going to say it’s a magic cure that’s solved all my pain forever, I don’t think there’s a mattress on earth that could do that, but I would say it’s reduced my pain by ~70-80% over what my pain levels were on the Leesa, and considering that I’ve not been to physio in over a year with the pandemic going on and my skeleton is a mess, I could be doing MUCH worse right now. My bed is by and large a safe and kind place to be again, and that’s a huge blessing. The people at Dormio were also incredibly helpful, fantastic customer service, very knowledgeable, and I’m ultimately happy with the decision I made in terms of pros/cons. I may try and experiment a little to see if I can find a way around that surface tension issue but really that’s been my biggest problem thus far, and any minor tweaks I have to make to it down the line will be much cheaper than buying a whole new mattress again.

Thanks for that detailed reply! Glad to hear you’ve found improvement and hope you can fine tune to the perfect mix. I’m familiar with the issue of a perfect pillow becoming too high once the bed breaks in and gets slightly lower at the neck… it’s why I own several expensive pillows of different thicknesses and materials. As far as the surface tension issue, I’d find the thinnest possible mattress protector (I have one now, but not sure the brand) and wonder if it might help to use an oversized (full not twin) unfitted bottom sheet and let it drape loosely vs tucked in or with elastic. Thanks again.