If you have back pain, you’re not alone—unfortunately, back pain is a common complaint among all ages. There are many factors that can affect your back pain, including your mattress; the wrong type of mattress can make your pain worse and keep you awake, while a good one can help you wake up refreshed and pain-free. Sleep and back pain have a very important relationship, one that you can optimize by purchasing a good mattress.
What exactly makes a “good mattress” for back pain? A mattress that conforms to your body is key. Your mattress should also support your spinal alignment, and for optimal comfort and results, choose a mattress that’s medium firm.
In this guide, we’ll share more information about back pain and its causes. We’ll also cover some general tips on how to choose a mattress if you have back pain and then dive into our top picks for the best mattresses for back pain.
The Best Mattresses for Back Pain: Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Brooklyn Bedding Signature
Brooklyn Bedding Signature
Offers durable support in all the right places.
Why We Picked It
The Brooklyn Bedding Signature Hybrid Mattress is a good fit for those with back pain thanks to its excellent support. Memory foam is often a good choice for individuals with back pain because it conforms well to the body; since this mattress is a hybrid, it includes the comfort of memory foam in addition to the support of an innerspring coil system.
The mattress is durable, with a high-density foam and 10-year warranty (plus a 120-night trial so you can test it out). The Brooklyn Bedding Signature also includes Brooklyn’s proprietary TitaniumGel—a cooling gel infused into the foam—that moderates your body temperature throughout the night. The cool, supportive feel of the mattress are meant to help ensure you can drift off to sleep pain-free and wake up refreshed. The mattress comes in three firmness levels: soft, medium, or firm.
Keep In Mind
Off-gassing, that unpleasant “new mattress” smell, may last longer than desired. The mattress is also heavy and unwieldy, making it difficult to move.
In a Nutshell
- Excellent support
- Good conforming
- Cooling gel
Best Value: Nectar
Superior materials at an affordable price.
Why We Picked It
Looking to get the best bang for your buck? The Nectar is an affordable memory foam mattress that has free shipping, a forever warranty, and comes with two premium pillows as well. The Nectar has multiple layers of memory foam that contour to your body; the foam distributes your weight evenly and provides a comfortable sleeping surface so you’re not tossing and turning with back pain.
The Nectar mattress is a 5.5-7.5 on the firmness scale, meaning it’s a medium firmness, not too soft yet not too hard. This level of firmness is ideal for individuals with back pain because it contours without allowing you to sink too deeply and throw off alignment. The Nectar mattress also sleeps cooler than others with its gel-infused, quilted foam and breathable Tencel cover. It even has protection against dust mites.
Keep in Mind
Customers have reported that Nectar has customer service issues, so while the mattress itself is a great choice, the purchasing process might leave something to be desired.
In a Nutshell
- Contours well
- Medium firmness
Best Luxury: Saatva
Dedicated lumbar support and luxurious top layers.
Why We Picked It
Saatva’s innerspring mattress is luxurious and comfortable, offering up a mixture of support and contouring properties to help you get a good night’s sleep. The mattress “Lumbar Zone technology” to add pressure point relief and support to relieve tension in the lower back. It combines an extra layer of memory foam in this area with an active wire to reinforce the springs. The mattress is also very responsive thanks to the system of individually wrapped coils.
When you purchase the Saatva, you select a firmness level from three options, so you can customize the mattress according to what feels best (the “Firm” option is probably best for back pain). The company also offers a 120-day home trial, just in case you aren’t sure whether the Saatva is right for you.
Keep In Mind
Like other innersprings, the Saatva is more responsive (bouncy) than contouring, though its thick top layer makes it plusher than others.
In a Nutshell
- Pressure point relief
- Three firmness level options
- 120-day home trial
Best for Heavier Sleepers: WinkBed Plus
A plush, supportive mattress made especially for heavier sleepers.
Why We Picked It
The Winkbed Plus is a luxury hybrid mattress that includes both memory foam and innerspring components. A cool outer layer, anti-sag support, and a layer of stabilizing gel foam (so you won’t wake up if a partner or pet moves around) add additional value to this mattress. Best of all, the mattress has a “3-step back relief system” with zoned support to help with alignment, and a lumbar support pad provides ample support for your lower back.
In addition to its spinal support, the Winkbeds Plus offers advanced pressure point relief through its foam-based top layer, which works no matter what sleeping position you prefer. The Plus is a good choice for sleepers who are a heavier weight and experience back pain. You can try it out for 120 nights before purchasing for good.
Keep in Mind
The WinkBeds Plus is medium-firm, and although it includes memory foam, it may not be conforming enough for lighter sleepers.
In a Nutshell
- Excellent spinal support
- Pressure point relief
- Anti-sag support
How We Chose the Best Mattresses for Back Pain
We looked carefully at several different categories when we chose the best mattresses for back pain:
- Material Quality
- Edge Support
- Temperature Neutrality
- Motion Isolation
Learn more about our process here.
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain is very common. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability, and it often causes people to miss work. Some back pain is temporary while other back pain is chronic, lasting for 12 weeks or more. The major causes of back pain include the following:
- Injury or accident: Traumatic injuries caused by activities such as playing sports or getting into a car wreck can cause severe back pain.
- Long-term diseases: Arthritis, osteoporosis, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia are examples of diseases that can cause either low back pain or, in the case of osteoporosis, fractures of the vertebrae.
- Muscle strain: Strains and sprains are common causes of back pain. These occur when you tear a ligament by lifting something too heavy, overstretching, or lifting improperly.
- Bulging or ruptured disc: Your spinal discs are located between your vertebrae and act as cushioning. A ruptured or herniated disc occurs when the spinal column tears open and the disc juts outward, causing low back pain.
- Irregular spine curvature: Spine curvature disorders—such as lordosis, kyphosis, and scoliosis—can cause long-term or chronic back pain.
Outside of these primary causes, there are several risk factors that can affect lower back pain. People who are not physically fit tend to have more back pain because their muscles are weak. Pregnancy often brings low back pain. Gaining weight can cause back pain due to added strain, and getting older can, too.
Some jobs also leave you more at risk for back pain than others. Repetitive movements such as regularly lifting, bending, and carrying can cause back pain, so any jobs that require these types of movements on a daily basis—such as construction jobs, warehouse jobs, or caring for patients in a hospital or nursing home—carry a high risk for back injuries.
Other careers that might cause back pain include dentistry (prolonged stooping and awkward body positioning), landscaping, and working in a grocery store or retail store. And it isn’t only active professions that are at risk—sitting for hours at a time with improper posture can cause back pain, too, so even office jobs might result in back problems.
Back Pain and Sleep
Back pain can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep; if your back hurts, you may have trouble finding a comfortable sleeping position, or you might be too focused on the pain to relax and go to sleep. The irony is that sleep can help your body heal.
Your mattress can either help your back pain or make it worse. In one study, 63 percent of people said their back pain improved after they switched to a new mattress. If you can find a mattress company that will let you try out a mattress for a few weeks before purchasing, that’s a good way to determine whether a certain mattress will work for you.
Below are a few things you can consider as you look for a mattress for back pain.
Special Considerations for Sleepers with Back Pain
The following features are especially important for those with back pain:
To ensure your spinal alignment is correct, it’s important to have a mattress with good support. The support core of a mattress refers to the bottom layers that provide support; they determine how far you sink into the mattress. The support core holds up heavier parts of the body and helps promote proper spinal alignment.
At one point, experts recommended that people with back pain should choose a very firm mattress—but that’s no longer the case. Mattresses are rated on a firmness scale that runs from one to 10, with 10 being the most firm. For back pain, you need a mattress that’s in the middle of the scale, or medium-firm. A mattress that’s too firm may be uncomfortable, and on the other hand, a mattress that is soft and cushy might feel good at first but won’t give your back the support it needs. Find a good balance and purchase a medium-firm mattress.
Pressure Point Relief
People with back pain often experience pressure point pain, or pain at specific spots in their back. A mattress that conforms well can help relieve this pain by completely eliminating pressure points while you sleep. In general, innerspring mattresses are not good for pressure point relief, while memory foam mattresses are excellent—the foam they’re made of softens under pressure, so a memory foam mattress will conform to your body much better than an innerspring mattress would. Latex mattresses are good for pressure point relief, too.
The position in which you sleep can impact how much back pain you feel both during the night and throughout the day. Sleeping on your stomach can make back pain worse, while sleeping on your side in the fetal position may help. Your sleeping position will affect what type of mattress you need. If you sleep on your side, for example, look for a mattress with good conforming properties.
Body weight and body type always plays a role in choosing a mattress, but especially so for people with back pain. Individuals who are a heavier weight might prefer a mattress that’s more firm so they don’t sink down as much.
The Best Mattress Types for Sleepers with Back Pain
People with back pain often prefer memory foam mattresses because memory foam conforms to your body, creating a more comfortable sleeping experience. All mattress types, however, have pros and cons. Here are more details on the pros and cons of each mattress type in regards to back pain.
|Memory Foam||Conforms well, equaling pain relief and spinal alignment|
Good motion isolation; avoid pain when a partner moves around
|Heat might build up in the mattress|
|Latex||Pressure point relief|
Buoyant, comfortable, and supportive
|Motion transfer may not be the best|
|Innerspring||Springy reactiveness may feel good to some sleepers with back pain||Do not have good motion isolation|
Do not conform well
|Hybrid||Are generally a medium firmness, which is ideal for sleepers with back pain||Hybrids are often expensive|
Other Strategies for Sleepers with Back Pain
Purchasing a new mattress isn’t the only strategy you can use to help alleviate your back pain. Here are a few other ideas to try:
Did you know there’s a wrong way to sleep on a pillow? It’s true: many people use their pillows to support their head, neck, and shoulders, when in reality a pillow is only meant for the head and neck. Your pillow (and the way you sleep on it) can throw off your spinal alignment, so choose a pillow that conforms well so it can improve your alignment instead.
An adjustable bed puts your upper body on a slight angle and adds some support under your knees. Sleeping in this position often helps back pain improve. If you go the adjustable bed route, though, just make sure to purchase a high-quality product, as a cheap adjustable bed might hurt more than it helps.
Your doctor might recommend physical therapy to help your back pain, especially if your pain is acute (meaning not long-term). A physical therapist can evaluate your range of motion and strength and put you on a plan to improve. In fact, for one type of back pain, physical therapy has been shown to be just as effective as surgery — and it’s certainly much less invasive.
If you’re taking a holistic treatment approach to your back pain, supplements might be part of the plan. Supplements are especially helpful for arthritis-induced pain. Common choices include Omega-3, MSM, Vitamin E, turmeric, and glucosamine sulfate. Speak with your doctor before beginning any supplements.
Although it might be the last thing you want to do, exercise can help relieve back pain in many cases; exercise can strengthen the muscles that surround and support your spine. If your doctor recommends it, you can participate in workout classes or do regular exercise sessions at home—including moves such as partial crunches, hamstring stretches, and wall sits.
You can learn more about mattress types and find the best mattress for you below: