I am tall and have been prone to back problems throughout my life. In my early 50s, I began experiencing back problems if I did not have a mattress with just the right amount of firmness. If the mattress was too soft my back would get a little more painful each day until it became a significant problem after two or three weeks. If the mattress was too firm, my hips would become sore.
My investigation of mattresses quickly revealed that latex and memory foam mattresses were usually the best for people with back problems. These were expensive mattresses that were available with different degrees of firmness. I did not know which firmness would be best for me and did want to invest in a mattress that may not work. Also, I was skeptical that any foam mattress would retain its initial firmness for years.
Latex mattresses had the advantage that the firmness could be adjusted. I found a store that sold latex mattresses that had a zipped cover that could be removed to replace the pieces of latex. Their typical mattress was a 2-inch piece of latex on top of a 6-inch piece. The firmness of each piece could be varied and the store offered to switch the pieces to adjust firmness once after a mattress was purchased. In addition, each half of a queen size bed could be set to a different firmness.
I was not confident that the standard latex mattress offered adequate flexibility for me and asked the sales clerk if I could get a mattress with three 2-inch pieces of latex rather than the 6-inch piece. The store called the factory and they said this would be fine and the standard warranty would apply. I purchased the mattress with a variety of pieces of latex that allowed me to make adjustments that were optimal for my back.
This mattress has worked well for me. With some exploration I was able to set a good firmness. Having 4 pieces to adjust provided more options than a standard latex mattress and that turned out to be important for me. Also, the latex pieces did become softer after use, but this could be corrected by shifting the pieces around. At one point I bought another piece of 2-inch latex, which was much less expensive than buying a new mattress.
The marketing claim that latex (and probably any foam mattress) will last 10 to 20 years is not correct because these products inevitably develop softness and impressions from wear. Careful reading of the warranties on latex mattresses usually reveals that a loss of firmness due to wear is not covered. For people prone to back problems that require a narrow range of firmness, mattress adjustment or replacement will likely be needed every 3 to 5 years.
I originally purchased the latex mattress at the Foam Source store in Boulder, Colorado several years ago, but my recent efforts to obtain some replacement latex pieces found that the manager appeared to not be interested is working with special orders like I needed. I can no longer recommend that store for people with back problems that require special orders. However, latex mattresses with adjustable firmness are available at many other stores and some are more responsive to special needs. For example, Sleep EZ Factory carries latex mattresses with adjustable firmness and sells the individual components of the mattresses separately. They were responsive to my inquiry about a special order.
[Version of 3/26/2013]
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