How to Sleep on a Firm Mattress to Avoid Back Pain


For years, doctors have been recommending sleeping on a firm mattress in order to avoid back pain, especially since lying flat on a hard surface seems to alleviate the problem. Recent studies, however, have shown that a medium mattress may be more effective in reducing back pain.

  • Determine whether or not a firm mattress will actually help you to avoid back pain while you sleep. While recent European studies seem to indicate that you will be twice as likely to decrease back pain with a medium mattress, you may still respond to a firmer mattress. The causes for back pain are numerous, and the studies have not yet isolated these factors.

  • Rotate and replace your mattress regularly, based upon the manufacturer's recommendations (usually 10 to 15 years). You should rotate or flip your mattress at least twice a year to avoid the permanent indentations you have made in the mattress while you sleep. Such indentations can cause back pain.

  • Sleep on either your side or your back. When you sleep on your stomach, you may be putting a lot of pressure on your lower back since your head is raised and turned for long periods. A firm mattress may actually complicate this, since your hips may not sink far enough to reduce the pressure on your lumbar area.

  • Find the right pillow to avoid back pain when you sleep on a firm mattress. A pillow that is too soft will not provide adequate support to your head, and a pillow that is too firm will elevate your head at an unnatural angle. Both types of pillows can cause the spine to curve uncomfortably during sleep, potentially causing back pain.

  • Ask your doctor or chiropractor to recommend a firm mattress that will help you to avoid back pain. In light of recent studies about back pain and firm mattresses, you may receive differing opinions on the subject. However, this can open a dialogue between you and your health-care professional, so that you can establish a baseline for your back pain and learn how to effectively treat it.

Tips & Warnings

  • An adjustable air mattress, for which the firmness setting can be adjusted via remote control, may be an effective way to find out what type of mattress will help you to avoid back pain.
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