From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Goldilocks Was Right: For Back Pain, Medium Mattress Is Just Right

Researchers in Spain could be giving a nod to Mother Goose with a new study that proves what Goldilocks has been saying all along: the medium firmness mattress is “just right,” at least for patients with chronic low back pain.

In a study published in The Lancet medical journal, over 300 study participants with chronic, unexplained low-back pain that occurred when they were either lying in bed or upon getting out of bed, were given mattresses to test out to determine what relief different mattresses could provide. Half of the participants were given firm mattresses while the other half were given medium mattresses to sleep on.

After three months of using the new mattresses, 82 percent of the participants who slept on medium firmness mattresses reported low back pain improvements while only 68 percent of the subjects on firm mattresses reported improvements. Researchers indicated that since some participants may have been able to tell they were sleeping on firm mattresses and biased into believing that a firm mattress would better solve their low back pain, the results could be interpreted to mean that a medium firmness mattress was really twice as beneficial for relieving low back pain.

Dr. Scott Boden, professor of orthopedics and director of the Emory Spine Center at Emory University in Atlanta, told the Associated Press that while the relationship between mattress firmness and low back pain hasn’t been widely studied in the past, this study “[c]learly [indicates] mattresses can make a difference for individuals, but the question remains whether or not there’s one formula that’s going to work for everyone.”

“[E]veryone has to figure out what works best for them,” said Boden, “but mattresses could be something, if you have chronic back ache, that you should pay attention to.” Boden, incidentally, had no affiliation to the Spanish study.

In September 2003, Ergoweb Inc.’s publication, The Ergonomics Report