orthopedic vs memory foam mattress
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Orthopedic vs Memory Foam: Which Bed Is Better?

    Last Updated
    September 13, 2022
    min read

    Choosing the right type of mattress may seem trivial to some. The right mattress can do wonders for alleviating body pain and can mean the difference between a restful vs. an unsatisfactory sleep. 

    The main difference between an Orthopedic and memory foam mattress is an Orthopedic mattress is specifically designed to offer joint support. Although the term “Orthopedic” can be used loosely and is often difficult to distinguish between other mattresses.

    In this article, we’ll be comparing the differences between an orthopedic mattress and a memory foam mattress. To the uninitiated, these two types of mattresses may seem like the same thing, but they’re not – keep reading to discover how.

    Purple mattresses have a GelFlex Grid which offers you the softness and support you need.

    What Is An Orthopedic Bed?

    Orthopedic mattresses, or orthopedic mattresses in the UK, are designed specifically to support the body, particularly the joints and spine. Its name comes from a branch of surgery that covers conditions relating to the musculoskeletal system. It is generally on the more firm side, which is designed specifically for pain alleviation.

    This mattress type leans more on the firmer side, with comfort in mind. Its firmness supports your body weight in a way that also encourages proper spine alignment. This results in better pressure relief on your joints and back.

    Do note, however, that the mattress industry does not follow any particular standard when it comes to materials that are legally deemed “orthopedic”. Many mattress manufacturers use this as a marketing term to increase their sales. So, it’s important that you do your own research on any bed that claims to provide musculoskeletal health benefits.

    What Is A Memory Foam Bed?

    A memory foam bed is made out of a blend of polyurethane. Interestingly enough, this type of bed was invented by NASA in the 70s specifically for airplane cushioning. Since then it has become a widespread option for mattresses.

    By using chemicals with polyurethane, this mattress has the ability to contour around pressure before going back to its original shape once pressure is released. This allows it to adapt to your body shape and relieve any unnecessary strain on your joints and limbs.

    The foam mattress has undergone quite a few changes in its chemical composition. Earlier users had complaints of lower sleep quality due to the mattress making it a bit too hot to sleep. Fortunately, modern mattress manufacturers like Purple have corrected these issues.

    Orthopedic vs Memory Foam Bed: Benefits & Disadvantages

    Benefits Of An Orthopedic Bed

    • Provides healthy support for the back and spine: The firmness of an orthopedic mattress keeps your body fully supported when lying down – it props you up in a way that is more natural for your body.. This discourages your body from going into positions that are potentially harmful when sustained for a prolonged amount of time. 
    • Promotes proper posture: Orthopedic beds provide excellent benefits like proper spine alignment, impacting your posture. Its firmness helps straighten your back as if you were standing upright. Some orthopedics even recommend certain types of medically approved orthopedic mattresses to their patients.

    Drawbacks Of An Orthopedic Bed

    • Firmness may not be for everyone: Even though there are certain orthopedic mattresses that are proven to be beneficial to your back and spine, the firmness may be uncomfortable for some sleepers. After all, just because it’s healthier doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll feel great – it’s all down to preference, really.
    • Quite pricey: Since orthopedic mattresses require materials that are much more resilient than other types, the cost of purchasing one can get relatively steep.

    Benefits Of A Memory Foam Bed

    • Pressure points: The way this mattress hugs the angles of your body helps to alleviate pressure. This is especially beneficial if you suffer from any chronic back or neck pain. As the bed softens along the natural shape and lines of your body, you’ll feel like you’re sleeping in a more relaxed position.
    • Hypoallergenic: Memory foam beds are quite dense in terms of material. This makes it much more difficult for bacteria to grow and does not leave much space for dust mites to take hold. So, if you suffer from any allergies or asthma, this type of bed will be highly beneficial for you.
    • Minimal movement when sleeping with a partner: The materials used in manufacturing memory foam make it feel much more sturdy overall. If you sleep with a partner who frequently tosses and turns at night, memory foam will help minimize those movements.

    Drawbacks Of A Memory Foam Bed

    • May increase body temperature: Since memory foam basically “locks” your body into place, it may not be as good for air circulation. This could lead to higher body temperature overall and could affect your sleep quality if your room tends to be hot at night.
    • It May lose its original shape over time: There isn’t a standardized mixture of the chemicals that comprise memory foam. Mattress manufacturers typically have their own unique blend, so the quality will vary depending on the brand. Some low-quality memory foam mattresses may sag over time, so make sure you do your research before purchasing one.

    Who Should Get An Orthopedic Bed?

    According to a study by Georgetown University, about 83 million days of work are lost due to back pain every year. The number of people who report suffering from back pain has also been steadily increasing since the late 1990s. 

    While some joint and muscle aches are caused by genetics or aging, this wear-and-tear on your body can also be a result of a more sedentary lifestyle. For example, if you work in an office all day, you are likely to be holding the same sitting position for a prolonged amount of time. This can cause stiffness throughout your body, resulting in pain and aches.

    If you get frequent body aches whether through genetics or lifestyle, look into purchasing an orthopedic bed to help with the pain and your posture long-term.

    It’s also worth noting that more and more people are starting to see the benefits of orthopedic mattresses. This can be seen in the projection of sales, which is expected to grow over 2% from now to the next decade.

    Who Should Get A Memory Foam Bed?

    Memory foam mattresses can offer a variety of options from firm to soft. For those that sleep hot, memory foam may not be an ideal option.

    Orthopedic vs Memory Foam Bed: Which One Is Best For Me?

    It’s hard to gauge which type of mattress is better by just judging the differences between memory foam and orthopedic beds. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and each is designed to address rather specific problems in sleeping.

    If you are still unsure, consider a mattress that gives you the best of both worlds, like Purple mattresses. This revolutionary bed features a material called GelFlex™ Grid. This, combined with responsive support coils and a cushioning transition foam, also gives it orthopedic properties.

    Frequently Asked Questions About Orthopedic vs Memory Foam Bed

    Are memory foam mattresses orthopedic?

    Mattress manufacturers don’t follow any industry standard when it comes to orthopedic materials. When looking out for an orthopedic mattress, do your research on the manufacturer. This is because memory foam as a material, while not inherently orthopedic, could exhibit properties that can be orthopedically beneficial.


    About the authors

    Cecilia Gillen

    Cecilia brings over five years of writing experience primarily centered around lifestyle and health topics. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Media and Journalism from the University of South Dakota. She’s both an advocate for sleep and a night owl at heart.