Best Mattresses For Bad Backs

020612_1549_0018_lslssleepWe all know for sure that the best mattresses for bad backs are certainly not soft or outworn mattresses. In fact, generally, we often think of something firm, whenever we are looking for a mattress that will offer the best sleeping comfort. However, although for many years firm mattresses are commonly believed to be beneficial for low back pain in particular, you might want to think again!

In the past, it was common for doctors to recommend very firm mattresses —sometimes called “orthopedic mattresses”— because they were widely recommended by orthopedic surgeons. However, this recommendation was based solely on opinion, simple because at that time virtually no research had been done to confirm this.

What Recent Studies Revealed

In one recent study for example — where some participants were made to sleep on medium-firm mattresses and the others on firm mattresses, for three months — those individuals who slept on medium-firm mattresses reported less pain when lying in bed as well as less pain-related disability compared with those who were sleeping on the firm mattresses.

In another (survey type) study in which patients with low back pain were asked to share their experience while sleeping on medium, firm and very hard mattresses. They reported that they have experienced poor quality of sleep while sleeping on very hard mattresses, but have experienced no difference in sleep quality when it comes to medium or firm mattresses.

Based on a 2003 randomised, double-blind, controlled study appearing in “The Lancet” Journal of Clinical Lipidology — in which the researchers were trying to assess the effect of different firmnesses of mattresses on chronic non-specific low-back pain — patients who were made to sleep on medium-firm mattresses had better outcome for pain in bed, pain on rising and disability, when compared to those who slept on firm mattresses. Throughout the study period, patients with medium-firm mattresses also allegedly had less daytime low-back pain, pain while lying in bed, and pain on rising, than did patients with firm mattresses.

The outcome of this study have led researchers to the conclusion that a mattress of medium firmness improves pain and disability among patients with chronic non-specific low- back pain.

Why Soft Mattresses Should Be Avoided

It’s believed that a softer mattress that conforms to your body’s natural curves — such as “a memory foam” — may help your joints align favorably. However, you might also sink in so deeply that your joints twist and become painful during the night.

Other Factor To Take Into Consideration

Sometimes is not so much as the firmness of the mattress, but rather people’s sleeping habit or position. One Dr. Komaroff, a physician and professor at Harvard Medical School suggests that it’s best to sleep on your side if you can, in a fetal position(knees bend toward your chest a bit). A pillow that props your head up too high or causes it to droop, should be avoided. Using a pillow that keeps your head level with your spine is highly recommended.

Tips On Choosing A Mattress

He further suggests that before you purchase a mattress, you should try different types of mattresses and see which seems best for you. Also, if you happen to travel, or sleep somewhere else on occasion, other than in your own home, it’s recommended that you take note of how comfortable you feel after sleeping in that “new” bed. Another advice offered, is that you try placing a firm piece of board under your mattress, or even place your mattress on the floor just to simulate that feeling of a firm bed.

Other Recommendation

Wallace, recommends that choosing a firm mattress that will prevent the lumbar spine from sinking deeply into the bed, should be the primary concern of patients experiencing low back pain, as this will irritate the joints and nerves. However, she is not saying you should get a mattress that’s hard as a rock.


No doubt, the answer to the question as to what are the best mattresses for bad backs can be a bit controversial. However, based on the above research findings, it appears as if soft mattresses and very firm mattresses are definitely not the best choices for your bad back.

1)Wallace I. D.C.Sleep and Health Journal
2)Journal of Clinical Lipidology; 2003
3)Komoroff, Harvard Medical School

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