Sleeping on softer beds may help ease low back pain

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Washington, Apr 2 : People suffering from chronic low back pain should sleep on softer types of beds that conform to the body, in order to alleviate pain and improve sleep, according to a new study.

Contrary to a common opinion, the report said that sleeping on a hard mattress might actually worsen the pain.

The study led by Dr. Kim Bergholdt of Backcenter Funen in Ringe, Denmark involved 160 patients who were asked to sleep on one of three different types of beds for one month, a waterbed, a body-conforming foam mattress, or a firm futon mattress (without springs).

Researchers found that patients who slept on the waterbed or body-conforming foam mattress had small but significant reductions in back pain scores.

Moreover the total sleep time was also better for patients sleeping on softer mattresses. The differences were small sleep time increased by less than an hour in both the waterbed and foam mattress groups.

On the other hand, patients who slept on the firm futon mattress tended to have increased pain scores and decreased sleep time

However, there are reasons to suspect that either a soft or firm mattresses might be better for patients with back pain. For example, a soft mattress might help to avoid stress on the spine by keeping the back in a neutral position, while a hard mattress might reduce twisting of the back.

The study suggests that the waterbed and foam mattress do reduce pain and improve sleep for patients with chronic low back pain.

The study appears in the April 1 issue of Spine.

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