UPDATE - MATTRESS PURCHASED - Back pain on new mattress

Hello all. My first post to this site. I wanted to ask for some advice and hope you can help.

I have been sleeping on a mattress which is way past it’s date of needing to be changed. It was to the point that every day I’d wake up with back pains. Stupid on my part to not get a new mattress sooner but that’s another topic for another day.

About a week ago I went mattress shopping and took a look at memory foam mattresses. I ended up purchasing a Sealy Optimum Inspiration as that is what felt best for me out of all the memory foam mattresses I tried.

I’ve been sleeping in it for about a week and I am sleeping. I should note that I sleep on my right side with my right arm kinda out there.

I’m not tossing and turning in the middle of the night but I am sleeping comfortably though I am experiencing chest pains in the morning. The kind of pain is not anywhere like what I had with my previous mattress and really I don’t feel it unless I cough. It’s more of like a compression type pain as if some weight were being applied to my chest for a long period of time and then were suddenly removed.

I don’t want to say this is normal but I’m also wondering if I am experiencing this because 1. I have been sleeping on a bad mattress for so long and 2 because this is a new mattress which needs to be broken in.

I have 60 days to return it (with restocking fee) if needed but I thought I’d ask here before making a decision.

As I said, I am sleeping throughout the night on this new mattress. It’s just what I feel when I wake up.

Hi Dazra

When I read your message I felt I needed to answer. I have been a physical therapist for 23 years and for the last 10 years I have done my own independent limited research on mattresses and it’s link to not only low back pain but also ribcage and upper back pain. The problem with memory foam in my opinion and through what I have personally experienced and seen with hundreds of BACK PAIN PATIENTS, that memory foam changes texture throughout the night. It responds to body heat by softening and becoming more like sleeping in a hammock. Through our research we have grown increasingly unhappy with memory foam mattresses no mater what name is stamped on it. I believe that the best mattress is the one that allows your body to wake pain-free not just in the low back but also in the ribs etc. Our bodies heal at night and if our muscles have to work all night to support our bodies because our mattress isn’t then they don’t heal and are worn out and exhausted by the time morning comes. My recommendation as a medical professional is if you want good support and less to no pain find a manufacturer that can create a custom double sided mattress for you that is an old fashioned spring coil less that 14 coil gauge and with no more than one inch pillow top with whatever material you are comfortable with because the higher the pillow top then you risk that that layer itself becomes another hammock when it starts to wear. I hope I was of some assistance to you.

Thank you for the reply. That is good info. I was hoping this mattress would work out but it looks like it may not.

Hi Dazra,

I would certainly echo the comments that MaryPT made about memory foam. I should also add that it not only changes with temperature but also with humidity and it also has a property called “creep” which means that like all viscoelastic materials it will “relax” under constant pressure and become softer just with time alone regardless of any changes in temperature or humidity.

I should also mention though that there could also be other issues involved and I would not take chest pains lightly. I would make a point of seeing your primary health care provider to make sure there isn’t any hidden causes for your pain that you may not be aware of.

You also mentioned that you weren’t “tossing and turning” over the course of the night which is good if you tend towards moving too much because of pressure or alignment issues but I should also mention that one of the drawbacks of memory foam in some cases (depending on the type of memory foam and the thickness and softness of the memory foam layers) is that it can restrict free movement on a mattress and part of healthy sleeping involves the ability to easily change position on a mattress over the course of the night to relieve pressure and maintain good circulation in various parts of the body. Without this, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and joints can stiffen or circulation can be impaired without any motion which can also cause pain and stiffness in the morning. This includes the tissues of the rib cage which are also subject to pressure.

As MaryPT also mentioned the mattress may not be suitable for you in terms of keeping you in good alignment in all your sleeping positions over the course of the night in which case your muscles will be doing the work of trying to keep your spine and joints in neutral alignment instead of the mattress. This will also affect the ability of your spine to decompress and the discs in your spine to rehydrate and regain their cushioning ability over the course of the night.

Finally … your mattress has 5" of memory foam which would be a risky construction for many people. Not only does a mattress need to keep you in good alignment along your spine but it also needs to keep you in good alignment from side to side and if you are sleeping in a “hunched” position (with your arm “out there”) or if you are twisting while you sleep then this could also cause issues and pain and discomfort in the morning. Some sleeping positions can also impair good breathing by restricting the chest cavity.

One final comment is that pressure issues are often what you feel when you are going to sleep at night but alignment issues are normally what you feel when you wake up in the morning either with or without back pain or muscle stiffness and soreness. While it’s not possible to “diagnose” the specifics of what may be causing your pain … I think the odds are good that it is an alignment issue of some type which is compressing or causing stress in the area of our pain.

A mattress has two main functions which is to provide good pressure relief and to provide neutral alignment over the course of the night in all your sleeping positions. Beyond this it needs to be “safe” in terms of materials and also to provide a good microclimate in terms of temperature and humidity control close to the body. Everything after that is preferences.

It’s true that a mattress will go through an initial “break in” period where the foam will lose some of its “false loft” and soften and the cover will loosen and become more pliant. You will also go through an adjustment period with any new sleeping surface … especially if it is very different from what you were used to and the body needs time to “unlearn” it’s old sleeping posture and get used to a new one. Both of these normally take a few weeks (usually less than 30 days) and it can be important to give any new mattress enough time that you can be reasonably sure that what you are feeling is a good indication of your longer term experience as well.

Having said that … your “symptoms” are not typical of an adjustment period and while I am very hesitant to guess because I know nothing about your body type or any other relevant information about you … I would think that the odds are good that your mattress may already be too thick and soft in the comfort layers and that you may need to make a firmer choice. If you do choose to exchange your mattress … then post #1 here includes some links to guidelines for testing for pressure relief and alignment more carefully and objectively so you can avoid the “temptation” to choose a mattress based on the subjective perceptions of “showroom comfort” and “feel” alone which can lead to issues in your “real life” sleeping experiences.

Your job is to determine as carefully as possible whether your issues are pressure related or an alignment issue (which is much more likely) and then with careful and objective testing to choose a mattress that is more suitable for your needs if it turns out that what you have isn’t working for you.


Thank you so much for taking the time to post the comments you did. It’s a refreshing change to see a health professional taking a serious interest in mattress construction and materials and their effect on the many health issues that you deal with on a daily basis. I see so many uninformed comments and in particular many “referrals” towards memory foam mattresses from many health professionals in the mistaken belief that somehow they are intrinsically “better for back issues” that are not based on any real knowledge and information or don’t take into account some of the risks that memory foam can involve in some types of constructions (particularly thicker layers).

While I may not necessarily agree with innersprings being the only suitable support layer … I think we share a common belief that good alignment over the course of the night is an essential aspect of healthy and regenerative sleep.

Thanks again for taking the time to post your insights and comments … I appreciate it :slight_smile:


MaryPT - Another thought is since this is a brand new bed, is it possible that it is causing the discomfort until it’s been broken in?

Pheonix - Thank you for your post. I’ve done some more research off this site and I live in the Chicago area. I see that quality sleep shop is a recommended person to purchase from. I will have to visit their store to see what they offer.

I wish I had done this research before hand as now I’ll likely have to pay a restocking fee. Lesson learned.

I believe that within 2-3 nights at the most you should be able to determine if this is the appropriate amount of support or not. The problem is that you have been sleeping on a wrong mattress as you stated for years and usually on the right side. If your old mattress was sagging, which I guess it was, that means your thoracic spine was in a left side bending position for prolonged periods of time which MAY eventually over time cause a mechanical dysfunction similar to scoliosis. Now when you get a mattress that has a firmer support your body will take time to adjust but if you have enough “give” in the upper layer then you should experience less discomfort. Also to answer the concern about rib cage pain, I really mean side of the ribs, not chest pain, which is usually brought on by prolonged positioning or pressure. Rib cage pain in the morning always indicated inappropriate body alignment. I would strongly recommend that you change positions throughout the night. It only takes 21 days to retrain the brain on new habits. SOme of my patients set an alarm every two hours to make sure they keep changing their position throughout the night to avoid excessive pressure on one specific area. Check out a good physical therapist or trainer in your area for some good stretching probably after a quick consultation with your primary care physician.

I really appreciate your website. I just ran across it yesterday as I was trying to find an alternative to the $3500 mattress that one of my patients had to pay (based on my recommendation to go to custom comfort mattress company which have very high quality mattresses but very pricey) I felt that there must be factories out there that can create a mattress that was cheaper with the specs that I recommend for my patients. I have tried so hard to find some further insight into the mattress industry. It interests me so much because eventually I would like to be able to able to make the best recommendations for my patients that is comfortable for their backs and pockets also.One of the reasons that I have been recommending the inner spring mattress was because of personal experience with other materials. I have a medical condition myself called spinal stenosis which is a marked narrowing of the spinal canal. It allows me to sense very mild changes in support. I have stayed in so many different hotel chains and I can tell you which ones have much superior support than others. So a few years back I payed about $2000 dollars for a 9 inch latex mattress from a local manufacturer. Within 2 days I was waking up in the middle of the night in agony. I called the factory and they agreed to change it to a more firmer latex. A few weeks later I ended up giving it away to someone who had the same exact experience and ended up dumping the whole thing. My experience has led me to this fear of latex.
I still have much to learn and will continue reading your very valuable website that has excellent insight and experience. I wanted to know how you feel about removable pillow tops so that when they wear out (which they do quite faster than the rest of the mattress) then they could just be replaced and not the whole mattress.

Hi dazra,

[quote]Pheonix - Thank you for your post. I’ve done some more research off this site and I live in the Chicago area. I see that quality sleep shop is a recommended person to purchase from. I will have to visit their store to see what they offer.

I wish I had done this research before hand as now I’ll likely have to pay a restocking fee. Lesson learned. [/quote]

While of course a restocking fee is never desirable … even with this you will be much better off in terms of the quality and value of your mattress if you end up making a purchase from Quality Sleep than if you were to exchange it for another major brand with unknown materials and you will also have the help and guidance of a manufacturer that really “knows their stuff”.

At least you have a refund option available which puts you in a much better position than so many other consumers that are forced to exchange their mattress for another one from the same store where there are few if any good options available.

I’m looking forward to hearing about your experiences at Quality Sleep.


Hi MaryPT,

I certainly understand this … but I tend to focus on the suitability of a design rather than the specific material because any material in the right design can provide what I call good PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) which is the “bottom line” and the most important function of a mattress. While different materials certainly have different properties and some will prefer one over another … IMO any material in an “appropriate” amount can be part of a suitable mattress design that can provide for the needs and preferences of different people.

Most of the “suitability” of a mattress comes from its design and how the materials are used and interact together … not just the types of materials themselves. For example for some people a suitable support layer with a 3" comfort layer may work well but for others this same support layer may work much better for their body type or sleeping style with only a 1" or 2" comfort layer … either of which would produce a very different mattress.

There is some general information about different materials and mattress designs and how they may interact with different types of people and sleeping styles in the mattresses section of the site (you can just hover over the link to see the individual articles).

There is also more about primary or “deep” support and secondary or “surface” support and their relationship to firmness and pressure relief and the “roles” of different layers in a mattress in post #2 here and in post #4 here that may also be helpful in clarifying the difference between “support” and “pressure relief” and “feel” that may be useful as well.

Since you are a health professional interested in sleeping posture especially … this book has some of the best information I’ve ever read about the characteristics of an “ideal” sleeping surface" for different types of people and I would highly recommend it.

A few forum posts which may also be of interest to you include …

https://forum.mattressunderground.com/t/futons-looking-at-otis This is a primary reference post that I often refer people to.

https://forum.mattressunderground.com/t/sealy-embody-introspection (particularly worth reading as well)















I know that this is a long list and some of the information in these is somewhat redundant but I did a quick scan for some information that I hoped may be of some interest to you for some “leisure time reading” :slight_smile:

Thanks again for taking the time to share your insights :slight_smile:


Thank you for all the information. I took a trip to a Verlo mattress store yesterday to sample what they had. The sales person was very nice and informative. I will take a trip today to quality sleep to see what they have.

Just to provide a small update, the 6 days that I slept in the Sealy Optimum Inspiration mattress have really caused some havoc to my back. I ended up going back to my original mattress and it was like sleeping on a cloud.

I’ll post an update with what I purchase and my review of it later on.

Hi dazra,

It’s amazing how much the subjective feel of a mattress can change depending on what you compare it to.

This is also one of the “tricks” in some mattress showrooms where the order that you are “encouraged” to test mattresses can affect your perceptions of both comfort and quality … at least while you are there. Of course this doesn’t necessarily translate into long term perceptions of PPP (Pressure relief, Posture and alignment, and Personal preferences) in real life use but by the time you discover this you’ve already bought a mattress.


I took a trip to the Quality Sleep store this weekend. The staff was very friendly and provided me with some great information. I didn’t make a purchase as I had tried several beds over several hours and felt a little too mixed to make a decision at that point. While I did feel that all the mattresses were very firm it’s likely that I’m used to my current soft mattress.

I’ve narrowed it down to two mattresses which I’ll have to go back and test them out again. Once I’ve picked out the mattress I like best, I think I’ll leave and come back another day to compare that mattress to another till I finally find one I like.

More updates to follow.

Hi dazra,

Thanks for the feedback :slight_smile:

I think you’re wise to take an extra day or two before deciding because as you mentioned when you test a lot of mattresses in a single day it can be much harder to compare them and choose the one that is best for you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and personal preferences) because everything can blur together.

I’m looking forward to your ongoing feedback and hearing about what you end up choosing :slight_smile:


So as I stated my plan was to go to Quality Sleep, try two mattresses and pick one that I liked. Leave the store then come back and repeat till I had one I liked. Unfortunately my bed and pillow were not going to have it that way and sleeping became unbearable. I ended up having to put several blankets under me just to give some additional support.

So I went back to quality sleep shop and I compered the initial mattress I had liked to another one. Turns out the mattress was exactly what Mary had recommended. I didn’t go shopping for a mattress looking for exactly what Mary had mentioned but it just turns out that it happened to be one that felt really good.

Here is a link to the mattress:

It is the two sided version.

I’ve been sleeping on it for about 3 weeks now and its great. It’s firm and supportive yet still just a bit soft. I will admit the first 2-3 nights were terrible sleeping but I attribute that to having a new pillow and bed to adjust to.

I also researched some pillows and from sleeplikethedead.com I found a latex pillow sold at Sears called Dream Solutions. It feels very bouncy. You adjust your head and it bounces but after getting used to it, it offers great support.

I highly recommend Quality Sleep shop. If anyone is in northern Illinois and shopping for a new mattress, go check them out.

Tim and Kathy were great and knowledgeable. They offered great advice.

Thanks to Phoenix and Mary for the advice.

Hi dazra,

Thanks for the update and for letting us know what you ended up choosing.

The Emily is a high quality mattress and there are a lot of people I know where a pocket coil/latex hybrid is their favorite design. There are several others on the forum that have purchased it and been very happy with it as well (including here and here).

You certainly made a great choice … and congratulations on your new mattress :slight_smile: