Choosing a Good Bed - For People With Back Problems

With up to a 1/3 of our lives spent in bed, a good base and mattress id very important. It won't cure an existing back problem and is no substitute for medical attention. However, a bed which offers correct support will prevent problems from developing or worsening.

Ask yourself these questions to establish whether or not your (or your child's) bed is providing the correct support.

Is it more than 8-10 years old;

Has the mattress gone floppy, uneven or lumpy;

Can you feel the springs easily;

Do you and your partner roll together unintentionally;

Do you wake up stiff, or with back/neck pain?


It is not recommended to have a rock hard mattress. Far from easing a back problem, a hard bed could make the condition worse than ever. On the other hand, a bed which is too soft can inhibit ease of movement, and makes the spine sag. It is important to realise that there is no standard of firmness to which the term “orthopaedic” applies. Manufacturers and retailers use it for marketing the extra firm beds in their ranges.

You will therefore need to make your own assessment of support, guided by factors such as build, weight, your preferred sleeping position and age.

Use this simple test to help you assess the correct support:

Lie down on your back and slide your hand, palm down, between the small of your back and the mattress:

Can you slide your hand through fairly easily, but without there being a large gap? Then the support is about right.

Is there a gap – too hard!

Struggle to push your hand through – too soft!


Can you get off and on the bed easily?

Is it a comfortable height for making each morning and changing the bedding?

Higher beds are easier to get into and out of if you have back problems.


Consider the width and the length. A standard double bed gives each person only 67.5cm to sleep in. If you do suffer with a back problem, a squeezed and cramped night's sleep will not help.


Quality and durability determine the price of a bed, not its firmness. You should be able to find supportive beds at all price levels.


Do try out your new bed. Lie on each bed you test for as long as you can, in the position you normally sleep in.

Take your sleeping partner with you.

Don't automatically assume that a bed described as “orthopaedic” is what you need. If your current bed is old and unsupportive it may be that that all you need is a new bed.

The above information is supplied by Mandy Knaap – Registered Physiotherapist

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