While many patients report the advantage or disadvantage of certain mattresses, studies have been inconclusive. The authors of the study compared three different types of mattresses in persons with chronic low back pain. They investigated their effect on back pain, leg pain, activities of daily living, and hours of sleep.
The three mattresses used were a waterbed, built with layers of fibers to stabilize water movement, a body conforming mattress that is made of a temperature-sensitive pressure relieving material, and a futon with a foam core surrounded by layers of cotton making the mattress firm.
One hundred twenty subjects were placed into one of the three mattress groups matched by age, sex, duration and severity of low back pain-related days off and daily physical workload. They were given a one month trial using the specific mattress. Quite a large number of subjects dropped out during the trial, most due to more pain. Of interest, the drop out rate was three times greater in the futon mattress group than the body contour mattress group, and six times greater than the waterbed group.
The results of the study demonstrate that of those who remained in the study, the subjects using the waterbed and body conforming mattresses became slightly better. There was no statistical difference between these two types of mattresses. While there were some subjects who felt better with the futon mattress, it generally influenced back problems negatively.
K. Bergholdt, R. Fabricius, T. Bendix. Better backs by better beds? SPINE 2008. Vol. 33, No. 7. Pp. 703-708.