Review of Adjustable Beds

People with back pain should be especially choosy about the type of bed and mattress they sleep on. While there is very little research in general about what types of mattresses and beds are best for the back—and no real medical research about adjustable beds—we do get a lot of questions about whether or not an adjustable bed is a better option than a flat mattress for people with back pain.

This article provides a brief review of how an adjustable bed works and some theoretical advantages that some patients might find beneficial.

How an Adjustable Bed Works

As the name suggests, an adjustable bed (also called a Semi-Fowler bed, as it places the patient in a semi-Fowler position) can be adjusted to a number of different positions.

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For individuals with certain types of back problems, sleeping on an adjustable bed that is at a slight incline (e.g. 30 to 45 degrees) may be comfortable, with the upper body positioned higher up than the lower body (as when sitting in a recliner) and some support under the knees to bend the knees at a slight angle. The combination of upper body incline and the knee support can help take some of the stress off the lower back.

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Provided that the patient is comfortable sleeping in this manner through the night, this position can support the curves osf the spine and relieve pressure on the entire body.

Patient's Preference Should Determine the Choice of Bed and Mattress

It is important to remember that the patient’s personal preference for sleep comfort and back support should ultimately determine which type of bed or mattress is best. There is no single type of bed or mattress that works for all patients, and there is no real medical evidence that supports that an adjustable bed is a preferable option. The bottom line is that whichever bed or mattress allows a patient to sleep comfortably and without additional pain or stiffness is the best choice for that individual.

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