MATTRESS CHOICE AND LOWER BACK PAIN
Our beds and quality of sleep are important to us. Assuming we live until we are 80 years old we will spend roughly 26 years of those sleeping! As such an appropriate mattress that offers effective support as you sleep can play a significant role in your lifetime. I frequently get asked whether a hard or soft mattress is the best mattress for lower back pain. The essential question is how much support from a mattress do we actually need? Perceived wisdom suggests that the firmer the mattress, the better it is for us. Typically we purely rely on general anecdotal evidence or unsubstantiated claims and clever marketing strategies from some of the leading bed manufacturers.
(If we live until 80 years old we spend roughly 26 years sleeping)
If you look hard enough however there is actually some good quality research that has helped unveil some basic truths and dispel some these basic myths. In 2003 in Spain and 2006 (Journal of Chiropractic Medicine) two studies examined the effects of mattresses on chronic lower back pain. Both studies demonstrated that people sleeping on new medium firm mattresses reported much less pain and stiffness than those sleeping on either a firm or soft mattress. The premise is that a medium-firm mattress offers adequate support while distributing pressure points on the body.
Essentially the main requirement of a mattress is to hold you body in a neutral alignment and supports your four main contact points (head, shoulders, pelvis and heels) and enbales an appropriate curvature. If the mattress is too firm it will exert too much pressure on contact points and if it is too soft too little support is offered.
I am also frequently get asked ‘when should I change my mattress?’. A 2008 study in Applied Ergonomics showed that age of and quality of bedding does actually also have major effect on back pain. People in new beds experienced much less discomfort compared to sleeping on their own older beds. The average age of the older beds was 9.5 years and also of interest was that the study concluded that for the cheapest category of beds, lower back pain was significantly more prominent than for the medium and higher priced beds