From one urban myth in the making to one that's fully established. A firm mattress, it's said, is better for you if you suffer from low back pain.
It seems to make sense, but is it true? Researchers from Palma de Mallorca in Spain decided to find out by testing the theory on 313 adults who had chronic low back pain, which they said worsened while lying in bed and when rising.
The participants were given either a firm or a medium-firm mattress, which they slept on every night for 90 days. (Mattress firmness is assessed by the HS scale, with 1 being the firmest and 10 the softest. Oh, the useless things you learn from E-News, but back to the story.)
Half were given a 2.3-rated, or firm, mattress, and the rest slept on a 5.6-rated one, considered to be of medium-firmness.
Patients who slept on the medium-firm mattress reported less pain in bed and on rising, and less general disability than those who had been given the firm mattress.
So, the urban myth needs modifying. A medium-firm mattress is better than a firm one, after all.
(Source: The Lancet, 2003; 362: 1599-604).