March 14, 2015 - Marshall Coyle
What type of mattress is best for low back pain? – (HARVARD MEDICAL)
HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL REPORTS March 12, 2015
What type of mattress is best for people with low back pain?
Back pain is one of the top reasons that people begin to lose mobility in middle age. Pain can keep people from engaging in physical activity, making it more difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight and keep up their strength, stamina, and balance as they age. So treating and managing back pain that results from injuries or health problems is crucial for staying on the path of a healthy and active life.
Considering that most people spend roughly a third of their lives lying in bed, choosing the right mattress is essential for managing low back pain. It can make the difference in whether you can sleep at night and function the next day. In the past, doctors often recommended very firm mattresses. But one study, based on a waiting-room survey of 268 people with low back pain, found that those who slept on orthopedic (very hard) mattresses had the poorest sleep quality. There was no difference in sleep quality between those who used medium-firm and firm mattresses. Soft mattresses, on the other hand, can also be problematic. While a soft mattress that conforms to your body’s natural curves may help the joints align favorably, you might also sink in so deeply that your joints twist and become painful during the night. Innerspring mattresses have been found far superior to solid foam for all sleep positions.
Hybrid innerspring/Latex Foam have the most potential to relieve long-term back pain, but some synthetic foams have proven almost as good. Solid latex when used on a flexible coil box spring is also a wise choice, but no synthetics can match the comfort and support provided by latex of suitable firmness when supported by a spring suspension core. Of course, you can also go to a mattress showroom and test a variety of models. But keep in mind that what feels comfortable for a few minutes in a store might not translate into a good night’s sleep. An experienced salesperson or advisor can usually help you find the most appropriate mattress when provided with your information for body mass index, specific pain scenario, and your sleeping habits. This can be done through the internet, or in store and has proven more reliable than brief in-store comfort testing.
For more on how to preserve your mobility so you can stay active, buy Mobility and Independence, a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.
This Back Pain report has been edited to fit.
March 12, 2015