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Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain

Study Disputes Long-Held Belief by Some Doctors That Firmer Bedding Is Better

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"From my own perspective, if a mattress is soft or too hard, it's not comfortable," says orthopaedic surgeon Dana C. Mears, MD, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "Something in the middle works best for me -- a medium-firm mattress. If a mattress is too firm, you might as well be sleeping on the floor."

When buying a mattress, McClelland advises against relying on store ratings as an accurate guideline. "These numbers are all over the place," he says. "Individual companies use different rating systems, so you don't really know what you're getting." In fact, in the U.S., firm mattresses typically have a higher rating number; in Europe, a lower number goes to firmer mattresses.

His advice: "When testing for a mattress, don't push on it or bounce up and down, as many people do. What's better is to lie on it for 10 minutes or so -- on your back, on your side, every way. It shouldn't be too hard. If it is, get some padding to place on top of the mattress."

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