Can Choice of Mattress Affect Back Pain?

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You have decided its time for a new mattress. Buying a replacement seems simple enough, right? Wrong. Over the years mattresses have become a topic of much debate especially for those of you suffering with chronic low back pain. Which type of mattress is better? Will type X, Y or Z decrease my back pain? These are all questions that have been posted to the medical community with few and varied responses.

The first thing you can do is look at the quality of the available mattresses. The rows and rows of mattresses at your local retailer can be intimidating. It is crucial though that you take the time to learn about the specifics associated with your mattress of choice. Not all mattresses are created equal.

There has been a lack of substantial research related to back pain and mattress type. Furthermore, the research that has been conducted is frequently paid for or sponsored by mattress retailers or manufacturers. Commercials and organizations promoting sleep education often reference these studies to support their claims. The sparse data surrounding the potential impact of mattress type on back pain has created a buzz and gradually gained momentum amongst various healthcare professionals. A questionnaire submitted to the Atlanta Orthopedic Association demonstrated that the majority of those physicians surveyed believed that the mattress did indeed play a part in the treatment of back pain and that a firm mattress is the most popular mattress being recommended.

Additional large, quality research studies on this topic are needed as there are no standardized guidelines as to which mattresses work best for all types of back pain. The majority of the studies that have been conducted are small with varied mattress types for comparison. However, one study involving 313 patients with chronic non-specific low back pain reported that a mattress with a medium degree of firmness had shown to improve back pain.

A key element in mattress selection is making sure that your spine is supported in its natural curvature and that any pressure on bony prominences is relieved. The next time you are in need of a new mattress arm yourself with as much information about the product at hand. Try them out one at a time and compare. Listen to your back; it will guide you to the perfect fit.


Levy, H., & Hutton, W. (1996). Mattresses and Sleep for Patients with Low Back Pain: A Survey of orthopaedic Surgeons. Journal of the Southern Orthopaedic Association , 5 (3), 185-187.

Bergholdt, K., Fabricius, R., & Bendix, T. (2008). Better Backs by Better Beds? Spine , 33 (7), 703-708.

Kovacs, F., Abraira, V., Pena, A., Martin-Rodrigues, J., Sanchez-Vera, M., Ferrer, E., et al. (2003, November 15). Effect of firmness on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial. The LANCET , 1599-1604.

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