Mattress Recommendations for Chronic Low Back Pain

By Diana Post, M.D.
Content provided by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School

Diana Post, M.D., is an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Department of Medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital.


What kind of mattress do you recommend for a person suffering from chronic low back pain?


There have not been good studies looking into what type of mattress is best for people with back pain.

I don't believe there is just one type that is best. It is a very individual choice. In the past, doctors often recommended very firm mattresses. However, a study suggested that people who suffer from chronic back pain actually prefer a medium-firm mattress more often than a very firm one.

I usually suggest that people with back pain try sleeping on many different mattresses and beds to see if they can find a type that feels best. If you go to a hotel, or sleep at someone else's house, make note of how you feel after sleeping on the "new" bed.

Sometimes all you need is a plywood board under your current mattress. Try this before buying a new mattress. Also, try sleeping on a mattress on the floor. This will give the feeling of a "firm" bed. You might then have a better idea of what type of mattress you and your back prefer! Then you should go to a mattress showroom and try the mattresses before buying a new one.

Last Annual Review Date: April 16 2010 Copyright: © Harvard Health Publications

Reference: Arthritis section on Better Medicine

Did You Know?

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25% of US adults experience at least 1 day of back pain in a 3-month period.