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Advice From A Chiropractor: What You Should Know About Orthopaedic Beds

Author imageThe Mattress Warehouse

Author: Dr Zane Hall

It hurts going to bed and it hurts getting up. Your morning routine comprises of a series of stretches, trying to get all the kinks out before the day starts. And you wonder, will all the orthopaedic beds in the world make a difference? Will you ever be able to have a good night’s rest again, without waking up aching and paining? Moreover, will an orthopaedic mattress even make a difference? Practising chiropractor, Dr Zane Hall spoke to The Mattress Warehouse about everything you need to know about orthopaedic beds.

What is meant by orthopaedic beds?

There is no international standard that defines what an orthopaedic bed is. As such, many mattress manufacturers use (and misuse) the term as a marketing tool. However, it is generally accepted that an orthopaedic mattress provides you with targeted support around the hips and shoulders. Furthermore, it is supposed to relieve pressure on sensitive areas like your joints. A mattress can only achieve this if it has various support zones – usually a firmer central area to support the extra weight of your hips and shoulders, with a softer head and foot section. This advanced support structure allows your spine to be more neutral and relaxed while sleeping.

Does a bed need to be endorsed by the Chiropractic Association of SA to earn the label “orthopaedic bed”?

Beds and mattresses endorsed by the Chiropractic Association of South Africa, or the South African Society of Physiotherapists, are a good place to start your search for a bed. However, those endorsements do not necessarily mean that the products are orthopaedic beds.

What is the difference between an orthopaedic mattress and a regular mattress?

Some sources say there is no real difference between these two types of mattresses. However, regular mattresses won’t have the zoned support structure that makes up an orthopaedic mattress’s core. These different support zones are manufactured from foams with varying densities. This is often coupled with springs (or coils) that are placed so that it offers more support in the central zone.  And for added comfort and pressure relief, the firm support layers of an orthopaedic mattress are topped with softer latex or memory foam layers.

A regular mattress might not give you the same targeted support and comfort that an orthopaedic bed would.

Is it worth getting an orthopaedic bed or mattress?

You should ask yourself a couple of questions before buying a new mattress:

  • Are you sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress that is not giving you the support that you need?
  • Do you wake up with aches and pains, or do you feel stiff in the morning?
  • Did you have a bad night’s sleep because you kept on tossing and turning?

If your answer to one or all of these questions is yes, it might be worth investigating orthopaedic beds and investing in one.

What are the benefits of orthopaedic beds and mattresses?

The zoned support and additional comfort layers of orthopaedic beds can help you sleep better. And if you have chronic back pain or suffer from a back or neck injury, it may also help with pain relief. In fact, a mattress with good zonal support can help alleviate your pain if you suffer from arthritis, scoliosis, and other musculoskeletal conditions.

Even if you don’t suffer from injuries or medical conditions that affect your posture, investing in a good bed is still a great idea. You see, many studies are proving that good quality sleep improves your memory, creativity, and ability to learn new things. Moreover, a healthy sleep routine decreases stress, anxiety, and depression. Proper sleep can also help you maintain a healthy weight.

The flip side is that a lack of quality sleep can lead to all sorts of health complications. Heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease are just a few examples of detrimental medical conditions that may develop if you don’t get enough shut-eye.

So whether you are healthy and want to stay that way, or you have an ailment that you want to improve, quality sleep is critical. Now in light of that, let’s take a look at how an orthopaedic mattress can benefit you and help you to achieve those health goals. An orthopaedic bed or mattress could assist you with:

1. Spinal support

Having the proper amount of support for your hips and shoulders means that your spine is in a more neutral sleep position. In the long run, this might decrease back pain. It is also great for scoliosis and arthritis as the correct support can take the tension off affected joints and sensitive areas.

2. Relaxing relief

Properly zoned comfort layers on a mattress can provide such relief! And it allows for increased blood circulation during the night. This means sensitive areas get more oxygen, and the bad stuff gets flushed away. An orthopaedic mattress can do wonders if you suffer from:

  • Hip bursitis – basically an inflamed hip
  • Shoulder tendinitis – inflamed rotator cuff or bicep tendon (or both).
  • Gout – sore and inflamed joints
  • Fybromyalgia – muscle pain across your body coupled with constant tiredness, mood swings and memory issues.

3. Improved muscle tone

Impaired or low muscle tone places stress on your skeletal system, especially the spine. During uninterrupted, low-stress sleep, your body releases human growth hormone, which helps with muscle repair. Moreover, protein synthesis also takes place while you sleep. And if you sleep in a relaxed, spine-neutral position, you just make it so much easier for your body to perform these functions and improve your muscle tone. This, in turn, takes stress off your spine and leads to an improved posture.

Restorative sleep is essential to improve your posture and decrease spinal discomfort if you suffer from scoliosis. As such, an orthopaedic mattress might be beneficial to you.

What is the best orthopaedic bed or mattress?

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all mattress that will work for everyone. But there are some solid guidelines you can follow that will help you choose the best orthopaedic mattress for your sleep needs. Look out for the following:

  • Materials
  • Construction
  • Comfort level
  • Budget
  • Reputable manufacturers
  • Reviews
  • Test the bed


Before you buy a new mattress or bed, make sure you do some research on what the bed is made from. Beds with targetted zone support are always made from foams with varying densities and properties. Most orthopaedic beds have memory foam comfort layers with a denser foam or spring core. If the bed is made from a single layer of foam, it cannot be classified as orthopaedic.


This goes hand in hand with materials. When you research mattress construction, look out for keywords like “zone support”, “layers”, “edge support”, “pressure relief”, and “pocket springs”. Moreover, ensure that the mattress you want to buy was stress tested before it left the factory. One of the prime examples is the Sealy Crown Jewel Zita mattress.

Sealy Crown Jewel Zita bed

The Sealy Zita Crown Jewel is a good all-round bed.

Comfort level

The position that you sleep in, as well as your build, influences the type of mattress you need. This is especially true for the comfort rating of a mattress.

What is comfort rating, you might ask? It is simply how hard or soft a mattress is.

Softer mattresses are not always the best choice because even though it feels very comfortable at first, you sink into the mattress during the night, and this places extra stress on your joints. Something you want to avoid, not encourage. Now, if you suffer from regular back pain, you might wonder…

How firm should one’s mattress be if you suffer from back pain?

If you have an average build, a medium-firm mattress is your best bet because it will offer the support you need while still feeling comfortable as well. For petite people, a medium bed with fewer pressure-relieving layers should do the trick. Whereas if you are heavyset, firmer, more supportive mattresses are generally better. However, firm mattresses should be offset with enough pressure relieving layers to ensure a comfortable night’s rest while maintaining a neutral spine position.


Regarding orthopaedic beds, you will almost always get a better bed with a bigger budget. With a bigger budget, you can afford beds that were manufactured from a wider variety of high-end materials. For instance, an adjustable bed like the Sealy Posturematic Odessa bed comes with a mattress that offers zone support and has pocket springs. Furthermore, it also comes on an adjustable bed base, so you can tweak the angle of different mattress parts to conform perfectly to your body for optimal spinal support.

When you make your bed budget, consider that you spend between 25% and 30% of your life in bed and that you should replace your mattress every seven years.

Reputable manufacturers

Do some research on bedding companies before you decide on which bed to buy. Make sure that the manufacturer of the orthopaedic bed that you want to buy comes with guarantees and warranties. Also, ensure that the retailer you decide to buy your bed from offers after-sales support.


Find customer reviews of the bed or mattress that you are interested in purchasing. It can be quite useful to see what other people think about the bed that you want to buy. Compare reviews from different sites and don’t just make a decision based on one review.

Test the bed

If you have time, go to a bed shop and lie down on the various beds that you might be interested in buying. And don’t lie down for a minute or two. Kick your shoes off and get comfortable. Spend at least ten minutes on each bed before making a decision. Also, enquire about the return policy before you make a purchase because sometimes ten minutes isn’t enough to find out how a bed will affect your sleep position.

Orthopaedic beds for sale at The Mattress Warehouse

Now that you know what qualifies as orthopaedic beds and what doesn’t, you are ready to start hunting for your next bed. Why not start your search at The Mattress Warehouse’s online catalogue? Even though you can’t test out a bed you buy online, you can test the bed for up to 100 days and return it if you aren’t happy with it.

About the author

Dr Zane Hall has been enthusiastically practising chiropractics for more than 20 years in South  Africa and the United Kingdom. He looks forward to providing technically excellent, evidence-based chiropractic physical therapy for effective and reliable relief from neuro-musculoskeletal complaints.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Mattress Warehouse.

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