Which mattress? It would seem that it is horses for courses. One mattress type will suit one person well and another not so well.
Mattress makers offer a dizzying array of options. There are foam and conventional coil mattresses, combinations of these, and water beds. There are firm, medium, and soft mattresses.
Researching mattresses can stump experts, precisely because so many variables are involved. Still, orthopedists may have to face questions about these selections from their patients, particularly those wondering whether a new mattress will reduce their back pain.
It might. In one study, researchers from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater provided 59 apparently healthy people whose beds were at least 5 years old with new beds featuring medium-firm mattresses with foam-encased springs. After 28 nights, all of the study participants said they were experiencing less back pain and shoulder stiffness—and better sleep quality, comfort, and efficiency—on the new beds.
“It appears that the two aims of a mattress, to exhibit low maximum pressures and little spinal distortion, may be at cross purposes,” investigators concluded. “Design features that minimise spinal distortion may maximise maximum pressure.”
It seems that “subjective ratings of mattress comfort are dependent on a wider set of factors than contact pressure alone”.
Putting these findings together, it would seem we should recommend mattresses that do not distort their patients’ spines, distribute weight evenly, and are medium-firm in density.
What advice for your patient?
So it may be hard for them to know how much their spines curve and how well their weight is distributed when they lie on a mattress.
But, these factors and the subjective sensation of comfort correlate.
So the top tip is that if it feels comfortable when you lie on it, then that will do!
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