Study debunking the long- held belief firm mattresses are beneficial for low-back pain

A new study debunking the long- held belief by many that firm mattresses are beneficial for low-back pain should prompt some consumers to re-think their choices in mattresses, according to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA). A study published in the November 15 issue of The Lancet found that people who slept on mattresses of medium firmness were twice as likely to report improvement in low-back pain symptoms than those who slept on firm mattresses. Doctors of chiropractic have long counseled patients that "comfortably supportive" mattresses are superior to very firm "table board" mattresses, said George McClelland, DC, chairman of the board of the American Chiropractic Association. "A medium-firm mattress will more readily adapt to the natural curvatures in a person's spine," he explained. Dr. McClelland and the ACA recommend the following tips for choosing mattresses: If you're not in the market for a new mattress, and your current mattress is too firm, you can soften it up by putting a 1- to 2-inch-thick padding on top of it -- usually available at mattress and bedding stores. A mattress should provide uniform support from head to toe. If there are gaps between your body and your mattress (such as at the waist), you're not getting the full support that you need. Every few months, turn your mattress clockwise, or upside down, so that body indentations are kept to a minimum. It's also good to rotate the mattress frame every so often to reduce wear and tear. If you're waking up uncomfortable, it might be time for a new mattress. There is no standard life span for a mattress; it all depends on the kind of usage it gets. Be aware that changes in your life can signal the need for a new mattress. For example, if you've lost or gained a lot of weight, if a medical condition has changed the way you sleep, or even if you have changed partners, it could mean that it's time to find a new mattress that will accommodate those changes and help you sleep more soundly. When you're purchasing a mattress, don't be embarrassed to actually lie down on it at the store to check its fit and comfort. Don't just sit on it to test it.

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