Are Futons Bad for Your Back?

Are Futons Bad for Your Back?Are futons bad for your back? Are futons good for your back? Do futons cause back problems?

These are understandably some of common questions that people ask when shopping for a futon. Futons typically have a firmer surface when compared to a regular mattress, so you might assume that they are less comfortable and cause back pain.

I have slept on a firm futon mattress for over 20 years, and I love it. However, I did some research to find out exactly what the experts think. I am do doctor, and I don’t give medical advice.

Dr Alan Mandell states that sleeping on a hard surface vs a traditional soft mattress helps keep the spine in a healthier position. Opposite of what many people think, this posture is less stressful on the body and results in less aches and pains as well as fewer muscle spasms.

Dr Mandell recommends keeping your knees slightly bent while sleeping in order to situate the lower back in flatter position. This helps distribute the body’s weight more evenly on the back of the neck, shoulder blades and lower back. See more:

Futons VS Mattresses VS Waterbeds

Kim Bergholdt, DC, of Denmark’s Funen Back Center conducted a back pain study which included 160 participants. The researchers had participants sleep on soft mattresses, hard futons or waterbeds.

Researchers concluded that soft mattresses were slightly better for relieving back pain. However, they also reported that several patients quit the study before it was complete. Furthermore, they stated having mixed results; that some people preferred firm sleeping surfaces while others preferred soft.

Sleeping Preference Varies: presents similar information from a multitude of back pain sufferers: everyone’s sleeping preference is unique. Some people reported getting relief while others got no relief from Sleep Number beds, mattress toppers, Tempur-Pedic beds and adjustable air mattresses.

Many sleepers agreed that heated beds (ie. heated water beds) and/or firm mattresses like futons, camping pads or plywood underlayment eased back pain. Regular mattress replacement or mattress flipping also seemed to help.

Body Posture May Matter More than Sleeping Surface…

Mark Sisson of Mark’s Daily Apple states that conventional wisdom supports that firmer beds are best for back pain.

That said, Esther Gokhale, author of “8 Steps to a Pain-Free Back”, says that the sleeping surface doesn’t matter as much as the way you lay down. The best posture is to actively lengthen your spine as you lay down.

What About Sleeping on Your Back?

Woman sleeping on her back, on the floorIf you suffer from back or neck pain, the Modern Health Monk suggests sleeping on your back. This is because it promotes the best alignment compared to other sleeping positions.

If you already sleep on your back and experience pain, it could be due to over-arching your back.

This can be due to tight hip flexors and sometimes can be relieved simply by bending the knees at a 90 degree angle. (Slide a pillow underneath your knees.)

Can a Bed Decompress and Re-Align the Spine?

Physiotherapist Sarah Key explains that futons are key in relieving acute back pain. “The perfect bed manages to be vigorously supportive but not too hard, so it is therapeutic as you sleep. If your bed is firm enough it will decompress your spine.”

Nathan Wiebe of agrees that sleeping on a firm, flat surface allows the spine to re-align to its natural posture much more easily.

Switching from a Mattress to a Futon…

If you decide to switch from a traditional bed to a futon mattress, The Everyday Minimalist says that the transition can be uncomfortable for a few days, because your back re-aligns while getting used to a different sleeping surface. However, after sleeping on a firm futon regularly for a period of time, you may find that it becomes uncomfortable to slouch during the day.