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Medium-firm mattresses are best for back-pain sufferers

Sharecare.com, a wellness website, estimates that some 65 million Americans suffer from back pain. If you're one of them, can the right mattress choice help ease your suffering?

Absolutely, sleep experts say. And while most don't recommend specific brands or models, they do recommend that back-pain sufferers follow a few general tips.

The first is to choose a medium-firm mattress. Lisa Zamosky, a writer reporting for WebMD.com, reports that researchers in Spain studied people with long-term back pain. They found that on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale, those who slept on a medium-firm mattress (5.6 on the scale) had less pain than those who slept on a softer mattress.

User feedback analyzed on SleepLikeTheDead.com also finds that a medium-firm mattress is best for sore backs. According to this website, a medium firmness provides both support and conformity, which appears essential to relieving or preventing back pain; by contrast, a firm mattress won't offer enough conformity, while a soft mattress won't provide enough support.

Fortunately for back-pain sufferers, many high-quality mattress brands, such as Simmons Beautyrest, Sealy Posturepedic and Tempur-Pedic, come in a range of firmness levels. For those who want the ability to tweak the firmness level of their mattress from time to time, an adjustable air-chamber mattress from makers like Comfortaire or Sleep Number may be the best purchase.

Keep in mind, however, that according to user feedback analyzed by SleepLikeTheDead.com, memory foam, air, and latex mattresses are best at reducing pain, because they are more supportive, less likely to sag, and more likely to have good conformity. By contrast, innerspring mattresses tend to be associated with more pain. Site editors emphasize, however, that these generalities do not hold true in all cases, and individual brands or models may go against these findings.

A second tip is to be sure to replace your mattress before it gets worn out. Older mattresses -- particularly innerspring styles with thick padding or pillow tops -- are prone to sagging, which can increase your pain. According to editors of Spine-Health.com, putting boards under a sagging mattress is a short-term fix at best.

Finally, for some back-pain sufferers, Spine-Health.com suggests that an adjustable bed may provide relief. The website notes that ideally the upper body should be positioned at an incline of 30 to 45 degrees, and the knees should be supported so they slightly bend. "The combination of upper body incline and the knee support can help take some of the stress off the lower back," according to this website. Many brands, including Sealy Posturepedic, Serta iSeries, Serta iComfort, Simmons Beautyrest, Tempur-Pedic, Comfortaire and Sleep Number, offer adjustable foundations for their mattresses, although these can be significantly more expensive than flat foundations.

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Simmons Beautyrest Queen Classic Plush Firm Eurotop Mattress and Boxspring
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Sleep Number i10 King Bed Set by Sleep Number
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Comfortaire OC400 Air Supported Unassembled Sleep System Mattress, Queen
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Serta Perfect Day iSeries Applause Firm (Vantage Firm) with Low Profile Box Spring (Queen)
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