Posted on

Fact or Myth? A Firm Mattress is good for your back!

Over the years a fair few shoppers come to us asking if we sell orthopaedic mattresses. Usually it’s because they’ve been told they are good for bad backs because they are firmer.

Orthopaedic mattresses

Whilst orthopaedic springs were firmer when they were introduced many years ago, technology has advanced in the mattress industry and pocket springs, orthopaedic pocket springs and posture foam are a few of the firmer support systems widely used in the industry today by quality retailers.
Furthermore, depending on the quality of the manufacturer, you may find a tradition open coil mattress firmer than an orthopedic mattress that is made with thin springs. Also, generally in the UK orthopaedic springs are sold in 12.5 gauge (firmer) and 13.5 gauges (softer) too.

How it all started

Many years ago it may have been good advice by a doctor to tell a patient to get a firm mattress to help with problems such as back pain especially if the doctor felt the patient wasn’t getting adequate support. When orthopaedic mattresses were introduced as firmer support it only follows that they would be recommended for bad backs too.

The logic behind the claim

In short, inadequate support causes aches and pains and can be bad for your posture so it follows a firmer mattress would be better.
However, that does not mean you need to buy a firm mattress to get a good nights sleep, in fact you may have trouble sleeping at all if you can’t get on with it.

A better understanding about mattresses

Think of a mattress as having 2 parts. Support and Comfort.
The support part is the bottom section of the mattress. When buying a mattress you need to ensure you are getting adequate support and as everyone is different, the choice of support will vary too. A 20 stone adult will need a much more supportive system than a 8 stone teenager or a 3 year old child. The heavier the weight going onto the mattress the more support required. A 2000 pocket spring mattress offers superior support for heavier people whilst a open coil mattress is more than adequate for a young child.
Whilst the comfort part of the mattress is also derived from the support, it’s the layer of material covering the support (the top of the mattress) that your body sleeps against and ultimately its this layer that gives the feeling of softness or firmness.
These days there is a wide range of toppings for a mattress including memory foam, gel infused latex, natural fillings such as cotton, horse hair, cashmere, and new technologies such as zero gravity… to name a few.
It’s important to note, just like the support system, quality of manufacturer will make a difference to your sleep. A memory foam mattress could have 1cm of memory foam on it or 10cm’s.


Just because a mattress feels firm it DOES NOT follow it will be good for your back, especially if it doesn’t provide adequate support. A mattress that supports your weight will be good for your back and last a lot longer.
As for comfort, this is really personal choice and can easily be achieved with the right topping making the mattress FEEL soft, medium, medium firm or firm to suit your personal choice.

Fact or Myth?

Myth – although back in the day when the firmness of a mattress was derived solely from the spring system it probably did the trick for many people.
Today you can sleep on a soft mattress that is supportive and will be good for your back.
Buying a quality mattress from a experienced retailer that’s knowledgeable and has a good reputation will go a long way in ensuring you get a great sleep for many years to come.
Robert Palmer
La La Land Beds & Mattress