wondering why my lower back is achcy in the morning only

Hi Phoenix and all of you…I was here back in september and read all your info and got great suggestions and answers…Finally bought a queen EXCALIBUR 1 sided mattress from VERLO…its been since early october that we have had this bed…my H asked the man, john, who makes the beds, to add an inch of the latex foam in event he feels the coils…we have since then gone back to the store and talked to john, saying we felt we wanted a more sinking in and pillowy feel to the bed, so he went in the back where he makes the beds and came out with a queen size gel memory foam type to put on top of the mattress itself and see if that helps…well it has, my H would like it to be more cushiony without sinking DOWN, where as i have been waking each morning with a lower/middle back ache , then as soon as i get up and move around its gone…it doesnt bother me when i get in to bed or thru the nite, i just FEEL the ache in the morning…I try to think if i felt that achyness BEFORE this gel foam too, or not…i cant be sure…it felt like the mattress for us when we chose it, we do like it…but i just dont know whats causing the backaches, could it be that its TOO sinking in and not firm for my back area? or what??? John laughed with us when there, saying he felt like we were going to never be happy with the bed…i think we need to go back to the store and lie on the bed there and feel it, then think of how ours feels and decide from there… they allow us to bring it back and they will modify it to our liking, free of charge for the 1st time in the 1st yr…if we want to modify it anytime after, we would have to pay for materials and time …i dont know, i dont know if we should remove the foam INSIDE the mattress itself or add foam INSIDE…They told us when you lay directly on the material you feel it more, then if its inside the mattress…any ideas or feedback??? thanks for your time

nancy :S

Hi nancy361,

As any doctor or health professional will tell you … figuring out the cause behind any back issue can be one of the most difficult jobs they have. In your case however it seems reasonably clear what may be happening.

If someone has lower back issues on a mattress … the first place I would look is the thickness and softness of the comfort layers. What can often happen is that the heavier parts of the body (the lumbar pelvis area) will sink down too deeply relative to the lighter parts of the body which aren’t sinking down as much. This means that someone isn’t sinking into the mattress evenly and that spinal alignment is not “neutral”. In this case the pelvis will tilt which leads to the lumbar curve not maintaining its neutral relaxed position. You probably need to be closer to the firmer support layers that "stop: the heavier lumbar/pelvis from sinking down too far.

The Excaliber by itself was probably fairly close to what you needed in terms of pressure relief and alignment and that when you added the topper for the sake of “feel” … the extra thickness and softness in combination with the softer layers in your mattress was too much and put you over the line.

The gel foam is quite soft and I suspect that in combination with the comfort layers in the Excalibur it a little too much thickness and softness than you really need. How thick is the topper?


yea im figuring that the gel memory foam topper he gave us, may be a bit too soft…but my H likes it on his side snd would actually like it more soft…i should fold it in half and give him dbl the cushion and my side sleep on the regular mattress as we bought it…but then itll raise his side up a few inches then my side…I think its about 2 inches thick , maybe 1 , but then INSIDE we have the 1 inch latex foam because H thought he may feel the coils, and didnt want that…

Hi nancy361,

Asyou probably know from much of the information on this site … the two main functions of a mattress are comfort / pressure relief and support / alignment. Part of the art and science of mattress construction is balancing these two needs because they can often contradict each other.

Pressure relief needs “enough” softness to allow the pressure points to sink in enough to relieve pressure. This is controlled by the thickness and softness of the comfort layers.

Support needs “enough” firmness to “stop” the heavier parts of the body from sinking in too far. This is controlled by the support core of the mattress (in your case the innerspring) and also by the thickness and softness of the comfort layers. If the comfort layers are too soft and thick … then no matter how firm the support core is your heavier parts will keep on going through the upper layers until they “reach” the support core while the lighter parts may be “stopped” by the comfort layers themselves before they “reach” the support core… this means that you are sinking in to the mattress unevenly and can result in the spine being flexed and held in a position which is not neutral and can be uncomfortable or even painful.

Sometimes this can be an issue with a couple who are different in their body types or sleeping positions or have weight more concentrated in different areas because they can have very different needs and preferences in a mattress and in some cases a mattress that is suitable for one may not be suitable for another. Some of the solutions in this case are discussed in the first part of post #2 here.

Another issue that can sometimes crop up is that people may choose to add more softness for the sake of “feel” more than actual pressure relief or support and this too can result in thicker and softer comfort layers and toppers that may affect one half of the partnership more than the other.

One potential solution is to change out some of the layering of the bed that can help in these types of situations (and most manufacturers will have a good idea of the types of changes that may help) and another solution as you can read in the post I linked as well is to use a a split layering either in the comfort layers of the mattress or in a topper. An example would be a topper that had a zipper and that had different materials or softness levels in each half of the topper.

While I don’t know the specifics of either your mattress or your topper … I suspect that not only is he heavier but that his weight is distributed differently from yours and he may need thicker comfort layers for pressure relief and he will sink into these more evenly while you may be lighter and sinking in to the thicker comfort layers (in the mattress and the topper combined) more unevenly because only your pelvis has enough weight to “go through” them.

In general … I normally suggest “just enough” thickness and softness to relieve pressure because this is less risky for alignment. Sometimes people who go for a much softer “feel” of a mattress that don’t really need this for pressure relief won’t really sleep any better and can increase the risk of alignment issues for either them or their partner.


our bed is the EXCALIBUR queen 1 sided mattress from VERLO it has the X pocket coils…the only added thing to the inside was an inch of latex foam over the coils, thats all we asked for, then of course the topper , no zipper on it though…That MAGIC SLEEPER factory had zippers on their beds, they all should have them if they offer adjustments to it…

yes i think my heavier part is the pelvis area and his id say is his shoulder area, he is heavier then me…we have that 1 inch gel mem foam that the guy gave us to try, and put it on top of the mattress, and yes, as you stated, its sinking thru that then the topper then coil support, so for me, its a lot of sinking in thats probably causing the backache…although it tends to come and go lately…not every morning now that i feel achy…i thought id try to flip the gel topper over onto my H side and so he has 2 inches or whatever of this gel mem foam and i laid on the regular mattress… He said he would like more cushion, so i thought he might like it…He DIDNT, so i just flipped it back so it cover the bed again…just see how things go i guess…its coming up 4 months of sleeping on it, we should be used to it by now…although if you recall he slept on a waterbed for 20yrs then this, so its a big change, and he complains now and then how he misses that other bed…

Hi nancy361,

The comfort and support of a mattress is not so much about the materials and components used as it is about the design of the mattress itself and how all the different materials and components interact with each person . Some materials can be higher quality, more durable, or perform differently than others but any material of any quality can be used in a mattress that can be suitable for one person but isn’t suitable at all for someone else. Quality is more about how long a mattress will maintain it’s original performance.

I also like zip covers because of the ease that layers can be changed. There are many manufacturers though that will change out a layer in a mattress that doesn’t have a zip cover (they just open it up and tape edge it shut again) so for “fine tuning” this can be just as effective but of course it still doesn’t allow for changes or replacements that can be done by a customer themselves either initially or further down the road or if they move or are further away from the location they bought it.

The “middle” part of the body is heavier with all people and this is where most of the weight is concentrated in both men and women. The difference though is that the surface area and overall body shape and weight distribution is different. Men tend to have relatively wider shoulders and heavier upper bodies (although still lighter than their lower body) and women tend to have relatively wider hips and narrower shoulders. The shoulders also have less surface area than the hips so the pressure there is more concentrated until you sink in far enough that the larger surface area of the torso starts to take up weight as you sink in and the pressure is spread out more evenly and is taken off the shoulders.

If you imagine floating in the air in perfect alignment (just like when you are standing up straight with good posture except horizontal in your sleeping position and with a slightly flattened lumbar curve because the spine wouldn’t be under compression when you are lying down) and then slowly being lowered onto the mattress … if all the different parts of your body are “stopped” at the same time then you would have perfect alignment. If one part of your body “keeps sinking” when another part is “stopped” then you would be out of alignment.

When you are dealing with pressure relief issues (typically numbness, tingling, limbs falling asleep etc) then it’s usually about the thickness and softness of the upper layers of your mattress and the “cradle” that is formed when you sink IN to the top layers. If the more “pointy” parts of your body are bearing too much weight (what are called “bony prominences”) then you would have pressure issues because the parts of your body with more surface area would not be in firm enough contact with the mattress and would be bearing too little weight to relieve the pressure on your bony prominences.

When you are dealing with alignment issues (often lower back issues) … then it’s usually about some part of your body sinking DOWN into the mattress too far relative to the others. This can be the result of either support layers (such as an innerspring) being too soft or about comfort layers that are too thick and soft which can allow some parts of the body to “travel” too far. It can also be from comfort layers that are too thin or firm or support layers that are too firm where the “gaps” in your sleeping profile (such as under the lumbar curve or waist) aren’t being filled in and supported which can also allow the more recessed parts of the body to sag or “travel” too far. These can both lead to pain and discomfort in either the back or joints when either the spine or joints are outside of their “neutral” alignment.

You can imagine the difference between sinking in and sinking down by using a hammock as an example. If you lie on a hammock your middle parts will sink “DOWN” further than the upper and lower parts of your body even though you are not sinking “IN” to the surface of the hammock at all. Sinking "IN is all about the depth or your pressure relieving cradle while sinking DOWN is all about whether one part is “traveling” too far relative to the others.

The goal is always to identify the source of discomfort you are having so that you make the right adjustment in the right layer or layers. If you change the wrong layer then you may not solve the underlying problem and you may even introduce another “symptom” that is not connected to the first.

Most manufacturers will have good experience with this and have a good idea of which layers to change to solve the issue you are facing and which type of adjustments in which layers will have the best chance of success. For pressure issues then the comfort layers generally need to be adjusted so that the depth of the cradle under the pressure point is increased. For alignment issues then either the thickness or firmness of the comfort layers need to be adjusted or the support layer needs to be adjusted so that all the different parts of your body are sinking “DOWN” evenly relative to each other in all your different sleeping positions.

Your role in this would be to describe your experience and any symptoms on the mattress as accurately as possible (whether they seem to be pressure issues or alignment issues and the location of any “symptoms” you are experiencing) to help the manufacturer understand what the source of the issue you are facing may be and what type of changes has the best odds of solving it.

If you have a lower back issue for example this generally indicates that the lumbar is out of alignment and that either the pelvis is sinking DOWN too far and tilting or that there isn’t quite enough support in the waist or small of the back to maintain the natural curvature of the spine. Either one of these can result in lower back issues. For example a mattress where the comfort layers aren’t thick or firm enough to “fill in” the gaps can lead to sleeping out of alignment and alignment issues and symptoms. On the other end of the scale … a mattress where the pelvis is “allowed” to sink DOWN too far because the comfort layers are too thick and soft and allows the pelvis to keep on going before it is “stopped” by the support layer can also lead to alignment issues and symptoms. Sometimes there could also be rotational alignment issues where the body “twists” to avoid pressure points. In other words … a mattress that is either too firm or too soft can both lead to alignment issues for certain people.

So the first step is always to try to decide on whether you are experiencing pressure or alignment issues (and in your case it seems clear that it’s alignment) and then to work out a way that either the heavier parts of your body that are sinking in too far can be “stopped” more quickly or the lighter parts of your body that aren’t sinking down far enough can be “allowed” to sink in more deeply without affecting the heavier parts as well. This is all part of the 'art and science" of mattress design and is part of the reason why working with an “expert” can be so valuable. Your “job” is to describe the symptoms as accurately and specifically as you can … their role is to use their knowledge and experience to the best of their ability to help you decide on the types of changes that have the best odds of solving the issue you are facing.

All of this is also affected by many other factors including the physical condition of each person, how much weight they carry in each part of their body relative to the others (which affects how evenly they sink down into the mattress), the surface area of each part of the body in each sleeping position, the body shape and relative width of each part of the body and how well it is aligned in each sleeping position, muscle tone, personal sleeping habits, variations of each sleeping position, and other factors as well. As you also mentioned, what the body has become used to over many years can also play a significant role … for better or for worse. If the body has a “learned alignment” that comes from sleeping for many years on a certain surface … then it can take a long time for the muscles and ligaments to stretch and loosen enough to make a new position more comfortable … even if it’s “better” in terms of alignment or “theory”.

So the goal is to “cut to the bottom line” and keep everything as simple as possible and to think in terms of pressure relief and alignment and which specific area or part of the body is having the issue or “symptom” and in which sleeping position it seems to be happening the most so that the manufacturer can better understand what you are facing and the possible cause behind it and suggest a solution with the best possible odds of success.


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You have provided the best explanation of lower back pain and mattress construction I’ve come across, thank you! I’m struggling, though: I don’t realllllly understand how to know if the issue is too soft (sinking down) or too thin/hard (not allowing lighter parts sink to match). Those seem conflicting and how can we tell? And between my mother (85) and myself, we’ve been through 5 mattresses in 2 years, they ALL start to “sag” in the middle or at the edge where she sits. I know that is about durability, but I don’t know how to match the conflicting issues of too soft/too hard comfort levels for spine ache and durability when I talk to a salesperson. They really have no clue. We are so frustrated and desparate (as we are about to return our latest attempts, we need new ones). We THINK we need FIRM (support layer) with some softer comfort layer, innerspring, alergic to latex. But how do we actually get that and the durability of lasting longer than a few months? All the specs about construction just get lost in the millions of options.

Hi LJsleep.

I thought I answered your post but now I see that you actually posted twice very closely. I’ll do my best to answer your questions.

It looks like you need a hard reset with your research and start with reading through the tutorial post here which has all the basic information, steps, and guidelines you will need to make the best possible choices … and know how and why to avoid the worst ones which would include the major brands such as Serta or any mattress where you aren’t able to find out the quality of the materials inside it. The “sagging” you are experiencing is most likely a compression/breakdown of the quilt panel and comfort layer foam due to lower quality density memory foams and/or polyfoams.

I don’t have enough information about your body type, sleeping positions or more specific descriptions of your symptoms or what parts of your body you are experiencing to make any meaningful comments but the first step is always to determine whether your “symptoms” are from pressure issues, alignment issues, or “feel” issues … all of which could have different solutions.

To learn “to tell” the difference about pressure relief and support, you can read 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”. “Support” is often misunderstood because the goal of a “supportive” mattress is to keep the spine and joints in good alignment and this requires the type of contouring support that allows some parts of the body to sink in more and some parts of the body to sink in less and this will vary on an individual basis. Also some of the forum posts that talk about fine-tuning a mattress and may help you recognize or “diagnose” the underlying cause of different types of “symptoms”, pain, or discomfort that may be connected to a mattress include …
Post #2 (this is the primary reference post for different “symptoms” that people may experience when they sleep on a mattress)
Post #45 (this is particularly worth reading as well)
You may also wish to read Post #3 here which will walk you through how to track down the cause of the back pains you and your mom are experiencing.

One of the ways people assess their body’s posture on the mattress is to take a picture of themselves lying on the mattress surface. Most pictures of this type show the person lying on his/her side. It is not very accurate but if taken at 90 degrees from the edge and as flush with the surface as possible it may reveal the alignment issues and give you a good indication of what is going on. While side sleeping may not be your primary sleeping position, it may shed some insight into your body’s angle as it interacts with the mattress. Given the needs you describe (durability, edge support, top layer comfort over deep support), you would probably do well with an innerspring / pocket coil hybrid mattress design.

Short of doing research and learning a bit about mattresses the next best option is to find a manufacturer or outlet that provides accurate information about their mattresses and the materials in it and is also skilled at fitting" their mattresses to your needs and preferences. Once you have done this … then choosing a mattress with their knowledge and guidance that fits your height, weight, body shape, sleeping positions, and preferences is much simpler. Of course the more testing you have done locally on mattresses that have a known construction… the easier it is to use your testing as a prototype for the type of mattress that would work best for you.

Latex allergies have been extensively discussed on TMU and a quick search (just click here) would bring up many posts. Allergy to Latex may be a confusing subject and complex to diagnose, in fact, many people that have other sensitivities attribute it to latex allergies. I would check what type of allergy you have because even though you might have a sensitivity to unprocessed rubber such as the one found in latex gloves….the latex used in a mattress is vulcanized and this process reduces the number of allergens in the rubber so that even some people with latex allergies would not have a sensitivity to a latex mattress. Without getting too technical the antigen proteins are responsible for creating an allergic reaction and when the rubber is heated to a much higher temperature to form the latex foam the antigen structure in the protein changes.

I know that this is quite a bit of reading but unfortunately there is no shortcut to it to make sure that you find a suitable mattress for you and your mom.


I agree.
I have saved so many pages my library is overflowing, but I have learned so much!
I’ll probably be hanging out on this site even after I buy my mattress!
So informative. And kind.