The popular belief that the ideal remedy for a bad back is to lie on a plank, or a mattress that feels like one, has been handed out by orthopaedic surgeons for decades.

The popular belief that the ideal remedy for a bad back is to lie on a plank, or a mattress that feels like one, has been handed out by orthopaedic surgeons for decades. But researchers, who put people to sleep on two types of mattress, have now pulled the stuffing out of it.

The 313 patients in the study, all of whom suffered from lower back pain, had their own mattresses replaced with either a firm mattress or a slightly softer one. On a European scale of mattress firmness, ranging from one (hard) to 10 (soft), the firm mattress scored 2.3 and the medium-firm 5.6.

The patients were not told which mattress they were lying on. They were asked to record the amount of pain they felt while in bed and when getting up, and to compare their disability before and after the three-month study. Overall, those given the softer mattresses were twice as likely to say their pain had improved. They also took fewer pain killers, the researchers say in the British Medical Journal.

Francisco Kovacs, of Kovacs Foundation, a medical research institution, said: "Our findings stress that recommendations for daily living, such as what mattress to use, may have a relevant effect on the clinical course of low back pain."

Back pain is Britain's biggest cause of disability and accounts for an estimated 180 million lost working days a year.

Comments