Adjustable beds have moved beyond health care settings and become commonly used in the home. Prices have come down, there is more selection, a variety of features have been added, and new designs have been added so that they don't look like hospital beds.

See Considerations When Choosing a Mattress

Adjustable bed designs vary, but typically they allow the individual to raise or lower the upper body and legs. This positioning can be helpful in reducing back pain by shifting much of the weight off the back.

In This Article:

Adjustable Bed Base Often Sold Separately

The base for an adjustable bed is usually sold separately, though some companies sell a combined unit. Typically, the base fits a wide variety of mattresses. Box springs are not needed.

Adjustable Bed Features

Adjustments to raise or lower parts of the bed may be done by remote control. The number of adjustments vary. In general, the more options, the greater the cost (and the more things that can malfunction or break). Features available on some models include:

  • Adjustable firmness for the lumbar area
  • Massages, including a foot massage that doubles as an alarm clock
  • A timer that returns the bed to a flat position after the owner falls asleep

Adjustable beds are usually sold in single, queen, and king size. Split queen- and king-size beds allows the settings (incline) to be customized for each side of the bed. Some couples find that the space where the 2 mattresses meet is uncomfortable.

See Mattresses and Sleep Positions for Each Back Pain Diagnosis

Additional Considerations for an Adjustable Bed

Sleeping on an adjustable bed is a new experience for most individuals. These are some things to consider:

  • Those sharing a bed may find the sound of the adjustment motor loud enough to wake the other person. Some models are marketed as having quieter motors than others.
  • Consider buying a bed for a trial period. It may be advisable to purchase from a store that that offers a 30-day risk-free exchange policy. It often takes several nights or even a week to get used to a new sleeping surface.  Trying it for a few minutes in the store does not always provide an accurate feel for how comfortable the bed is for sleeping through the night.

    See How to Evaluate a Mattress

  • Frames can vary in weight from 150 to 700 pounds, without the mattress. This can make moving the bed difficult, and may be too much weight for some floors.
  • Because of the cost and many moving parts, the seller’s return policy and warranty on the base are important considerations. Some consumers have been surprised to discover that their warranty does not cover all parts. Online sellers may require that the buyer pay the cost of shipping the bed back if the consumer wants to return it.
  • Pricing and features. There is a wide range of pricing available, from a low of about $2,000 to up to about $10,000. The price doesn't necessarily correlate to quality. Some of the added pricing is for features that may or may not be important to an individual, such as massage, length of warranty, and being able to raise and lower each side of the bed separately.

    See Considerations When Buying a New Mattress


Purchase Price assistance

There are a variety of options that may help offset the purchase price of an adjustable bed. Here are a few:

  • Individuals who are not sure about buying an adjustable bed may wish to rent one from a medical supply company before committing to a purchase.
  • Some types of health insurance consider an adjustable bed a medical device and provide coverage, provided it is prescribed by a physician.
  • In some states, with a prescription from the doctor there is not sales tax for an adjustable bed.

As an alternative to an adjustable bed, pillows can be used to prop up the upper body (being careful to provide support for the lower back), along with a pillow placed beneath the knees. Various types of wedge-shaped cushion sets provide a similar raised position for the upper body and legs. These cushion sets are available at department stores and other retailers.

See Pillows for Neck Pain and Best Pillows for Different Sleeping Positions

The patient’s personal preference is the most important factor in deciding whether to buy an adjustable bed. 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.

Ron Miller is a licensed physical therapist with more than 20 years of experience specializing in spine care. He helped develop the physical therapy department at the NeuroSpine Center of Wisconsin, where he focuses on manual therapy, spinal stabilization, and therapeutic exercises.