Are “Orthopedic” Mattresses Worth Your Money?

Are “Orthopedic” Mattresses Worth Your Money?

If you just searched the net for an “orthopedic mattress,” chances are that you’re one of many who suffer from aches and pains, and think a better mattress may be the key to your problems. Today’s Sleep Centre blog is about the term “orthopedics” — how it came about, what it means in the modern day, and how you can outsmart marketers who use this term inappropriately. 

What does “orthopedic” really mean?

Orthopedics (or orthopaedics) is the field of medicine focused on correctly aligning the skeletal system, including the spine, extremities, joints, and associated muscles and ligaments. The term was coined in the mid-1700s by a French doctor called Nicolas Andry, whose work concentrated on correcting skeletal deformities in children. He created the word “orthopaedics” from two Greek roots: orthos meaning ‘straight’ or ‘well-formed’ and paidos meaning ‘child’. His groundbreaking book L’orthopedie features the now famous “crooked tree” illustration, an artistic take on the proper way to heal a maligned shinbone. The illustration has since been adapted as the logo of many orthopedic societies.

In the modern day, the term orthopedics no longer applies specifically to the treatment of skeletal problems in children. An orthopedist is a full-fledged medical doctor who corrects skeletal abnormalities with surgery, casting, and bracing — in adults and children alike.

What is an orthopedic mattress?

Ideally, an orthopedic mattress is specially designed to support proper skeletal alignment and thereby reduce aches and pains, speed healing, and work as an overall boon for restful sleep. Unfortunately for consumers, nowhere in the world is there a legal boundary for what constitutes an orthopedic mattress. This is how marketers can afford to slap the label on any old mattress in an effort to widen their profit margins. Similarly, while an “organic” food product must be produced according to strict manufacturing standards, the term “natural” means absolutely nothing from a legal standpoint . The savvy consumer should be wary of these marketing buzzwords, keeping in mind that there are no legal consequences for manufacturers who misuse them.

How can I find a truly orthopedic mattress?

Here is a handy trick to know whether a mattress retailer is worth its salt. If you walk into a mattress store and an associate tries to sell you an orthopedic mattress without assessing your individual needs, you can safely walk out the way you came.

The truth is, for a mattress to be orthopedic, or to properly support your skeletal system, it must be tailored to individual factors like body type, sleeping style, and the presence of any musculoskeletal or sleep disorders. Sure, there are a few standard features to look out for in any good orthopedic mattress, like high-quality materials resistant to warping and sagging, and a well-zoned spring system. That said, a mattress that supports one person’s body can cause spine and joint havoc for another — not necessarily because the mattress is faulty, but because individuals vary in how much support they require.

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