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Something to sleep on: choosing the right mattress for back pain - December 16, 2015

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By: Justin Huff

choosing the right mattress for back painMattresses come in many types, from spring to waterbed, foam to gel, even adjustable. And they offer different levels of firmness.

Back pain affects roughly 8 out of 10 people at some point in our lives.1 We spend about one-third of our days lying in bed, so what firmness should you look for when buying a mattress for your aching back?

Extra-firm: In a 20052 study, explains that very firm mattresses offer less cushioning for the spine’s natural curves, resulting in harmful stress to areas in the low back.

Soft: Although these conform well to the body, they may not provide enough firmness to maintain the natural curve of the spine. This can be detrimental to joints.

Medium-firm: If we think about the points above, then most people with low back pain should find relief with medium-firm mattresses. These types of mattresses will support the curves of the low back and may reduce your low back pain. A 20033 study showed that patients with medium-firm mattresses had reduced pain in bed, reduced pain upon rising, and decreased disability.

It’s also important to consider these points when determining which mattress to buy:

  • Look for a mattress that has a balance between support and comfort.
  • Cheaper is not always better
  • It may be time to buy a new mattress if you are unable to get comfortable or waking because of pain.
  • Test a mattress prior to purchasing
    • Think about how you feel after waking up at a hotel or a friend’s house
    • What feels comfortable in a store for 10 minutes may not be comfortable for an entire night.
  1. Back Pain. NIH: U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html#cat79. November 24, 2015. Accessed December 5, 2015.
  2. Normand MC, Descarreaux M, Poulin C, et al. Biomechanical effects of a lumbar support in a mattress. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2005; 49(2): 96-101.
  3. Kovacs FM, Abraira V, Peña A, et al. Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomized, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial. The Lancet. 2003; 362(9396): 1599-1604.


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