There’s no solid research data that determines for certain whether or not a firm or soft mattress will truly help people whose back pain keeps them awake at night. In fact, most health experts are now saying that its the individual’s preference of mattress that would ultimately make a person sleep more comfortably.
So to mediate the argument, experts are now saying that a mattress with medium firmness would most likely offer the most back pain relief for all chronic pain suffers at night.
For example, The Lancet published the results of a randomized controlled trial that assessed 313 people who had a backache while in bed and when they got up.
Researchers have randomly placed several participants on a firm mattress, a soft mattress, then a medium firm mattress for 90 days, then evaluated the participant for pain reduction, comfort and over-all sleep quality.
As a result, the medium firm mattress was the winner. Most participants in the medium firm mattress category had considerably less back pain and better sleep quality in the study, in comparison with participants in the firm or soft mattress groups.
Here’s what the researchers had to say about that: A mattress with medium firmness will likely experience an improvement in chronic nonspecific back pain and an increase in sleep quality.
However, they went on to say that it’s still not a “one size fits all” guide to choosing the best mattress for back pain, there are several other factors that need to be considered in the decision making process, such as age, height, weight, type or causality of back pain, and many others.
Medical history should also be taken into account for any individual’s specific needs. For example, people with spinal stenosis tend to present with pain while standing or walking, but not so much when they lie down. So for this reason alone, a question of firmness would not particularly be an issue for people with that type of condition.
But for those with degenerative conditions, along with stenosis, would be a different matter altogether. If an individual presents with spinal arthritis with no stenosis, spinal disc problems, or nonspecific back pain, then they do need to consider the relative firmness or softness the mattress they intend to purchase.
Everyone needs some level of support when they sleep, however people who have had back surgeries often need less support, to a certain extent, since the tissues have been altered and may be stiffer. In this case, a soft Stearns and Foster mattress with pillow top would make them more comfortable.
Mattress springs also break down over time, which would make a bed softer and reduce the level of support. In this case, it would make more sense to get a new mattress.
A study done in Oklahoma measured pain, stiffness and quality of sleep in 22 participants in 28 days with their original mattresses, and then the same group were prescribed new mattresses and monitored again for another 28 days. When compared, they found that the newly prescribed mattresses helped to improve all three measures (pain, stiffness, and quality of sleep) considerably.
In conclusion, any new mattress purchase in general will (in most cases) help to improve pain, stiffness and quality of sleep for specific or non specific back pain suffers, regardless of their causalities or conditions.