A mattress pad primarily intended for use with a standard hospital bed frame to reduce the development of decubitus ulcers or bed sores in patients using the pad. The pad is multi-layered and includes a cover or casing containing interior strata of a plastic film layer atop a fluid bladder layer supported on an underlying layer of foam. The pad is specially designed to reduce lateral and normal pressures and forces on the patient which can lead to the development of such ulcers. The reduction of the lateral shearing forces is accomplished in a number of ways including by oversizing the plastic film layer and fluid bladder layer on the underlying layer of foam and by positioning microbeads between the plastic film layer and fluid bladder layer to dramatically reduce the frictional drag or lateral shearing forces between the layers. Similarly, the normal pressures and forces are reduced and controlled in a number of manners including oversizing, modifying the configuration, filling, and size of the discrete fluid pouches of the fluid bladder layer, and varying the spring characteristics of the support columns in the underlying foam layer by hollowing them out to differing degrees, adjusting their spacing, and selectively tying adjacent columns together.