The 5 Best Mattresses for Back Pain
When back pain plagues you, a good choice in the mattress can make all the difference. Research from the University of North Carolina found that low back pain is on the rise across all age groups, genders, and ethnicities. Back pain is the most common reason for work absences and the second most common cause of disability.
Here are some other startling facts about back pain.
- More than 31 million Americans suffer back pain every day
- Close to 80% of people will experience back problems in their life
- Most back pain is not related to a serious condition
- Americans spend more than $50 billion annually coping with back pain
- Close to 75% of people treat back pain with pain medication
Your back pain might be caused by or aggravated by sleeping on a bad mattress. If you’ve got back pain and are ready to replace your bed, this guide can help you pick a mattress to ease your aches and get a better night’s sleep.
Our Picks for the Best Firm Mattress
|Category Winner||Mattress Company||Model||What Type?||How Much? (Queen)|
|Best Memory Foam||Amerisleep AS2||Memory Foam||$1,299|
|Best Hybrid||Nest Alexander Signature Hybrid||Hybrid||$1,199|
|Best Budget||GhostBed Classic||Foam||$895|
|Best Luxury||PlushBeds Botanical Bliss||Latex||$1,599-$2,199|
Mattress Recommendations for Back Pain
The Best Memory Foam – Amerisleep AS2 Mattress
Amerisleep’s AS2 mattress is medium firm and has Bio-Core™ foam support core with an edge support system. Next is ergonomic transition foam with supportive zones to benefit your back. The comfort layer is Bio-Pur™ breathable memory foam, and the cover is a thermoreactive Celliant® material.
Pros and Cons:
The pros of Amerisleep is its high-tech orthopedic memory foam that recovers fast, supports, and cools. Their Celliant® cover converts body heat to infrared which promotes healing. The main con of Amerisleep mattresses is they sometimes run long on delivery due to high demand.
Why Amerisleep's AS2 Is Our Best Memory Foam Choice:
The foam density on the AS2 is excellent and indicates both performance and durability. Buyers with back pain vouch for the bed’s ability to reduce pain and offer better quality sleep. The medium-firm support is excellent, and the tech means this memory foam bed stands out for comfort and cooling.
The Best Latex – Zenhaven Mattress
The Zenhaven is made with all-natural latex that’s sustainably sourced. There are five layers in a flippable design. The bed is all Talalay latex with two cores and two outer comfort layers. One side is firmer, and one is plusher. The comfort layer zones help optimize spinal support.
Pros and Cons:
The pros of the Zenhaven is the flippable design. If you’re uncertain whether you need firmer or plush, you can try one side and then flip to try the other. The latex sleeps cool and is responsive. The main con of the bed is the cost at a price point of almost $1,900 that won’t fit every budget.
Why Zenhaven Is Our Best Latex Choice:
The zoned support in the comfort layers gives support to keep your spine aligned in all sleep positions while also provided much-needed pressure relief for side sleepers at the hips and shoulders. Back pain sufferers should try the bed on the firm side first and give it a few weeks for the full sleep experience.
The Best Hybrid – Nest Alexander Signature Hybrid Mattress
The Nest Signature Hybrid has a thick layer of pocket coils as its core with a layer of support foam. Next is three layers of memory foam. Copper-infused Energex foam cools and heals. TitanChil foam provides endurance and cooling, and on top, there’s gel memory foam and a phase change cover.
Pros and Cons:
The pros of this bed are the support from the pocket coils that benefit back pain and the layers of memory foam that work together to contour and relieve pressure while also sleeping cool. We don’t have a lot negatives when it comes to the Nest Signature Hybrid, though it is a newer mattress so we can’t speak to its long-term track record.
Why the Alexander Signature Hybrid Is Our Best Hybrid Choice:
This thick mattress offers everything you need for back pain. The coils move independently for optimal support while the memory foam layers contour and keep your spine aligned without gaps between your back and the bed. The cooling tech overcomes issues of hot sleep to let you wake with less pain.
The Best Value – GhostBed Classic Mattress
GhostBed has three types of foam: polyfoam, memory foam, and latex foam. The support core is a thick layer of high-density polyfoam. The two comfort layers are high-density large-cell gel memory foam under aerated cooling latex for support and pressure relief.
Pros and Cons:
The pros of the medium-firm GhostBed are high-quality materials that speak to support, comfort, and durability. It performs well for all sleep positions. The major negative to this bed is that it doesn’t have the best edge support, which is common with all-foam mattresses.
Why the GhostBed Classic Is Our Best Value Choice:
GhostBed’s foams are high-density and use new tech for breathability, cooling, and support. Latex as the top layer means you won’t sleep hot and will get both support and pressure relief demanded by back pain sufferers. At less than $900, you can get a good night’s sleep with less back pain on a budget.
The Best Luxury Mattress – PlushBeds Botanical Bliss Mattress
PlushBeds’ Botanical Bliss line is an all-natural mattress that comes in three lofts (9”, 10”, and 12”). All have a Dunlop latex support core. The difference is the Talalay latex comfort layers that come in 2” or 3” in the two shorter models. The tallest has a dual comfort layer of latex that total 5” thick.
Pros and Cons:
The pros of the Bliss are the all-natural latex and New Zealand wool and organic cotton cover. The Dunlop core provides optimal support for back pain while the Talalay comfort layers relieve pressure amazingly well. The main con to this line is the price point that ranges from $1,600 to over $2,000.
Why the Botanical Bliss Is Our Best Luxury Choice:
By using both types of latex in their mattress, PlushBeds maximizes the sleep comfort for back pain sufferers. Latex supports without excess pressure and always sleeps cool. The bed has many healthful certifications. The medium-firm in the 10” loft is a top buy for those with back pain.
The Best Overall – Saatva Mattress
The innerspring design of Saatva is unique because it has two layers of coils. The base is hourglass coils, and there’s a comfort layer of pocket coils as well. A thin layer of lumbar supporting memory foam goes over the pocket coils, and the bed comes with a Eurotop comfort layer of eco-friendly polyfoam.
Pros and Cons:
The pros of Saatva are the top-rated support for back pain. The luxury firm works well for most while heavy sleepers should look to the firm, as should stomach sleepers. The only con to this excellent bed is that it can take more than two weeks from purchase to delivery.
Why the Saatva Is Our Best Overall Choice:
The Saatva gives a luxury sleep experience and support needed to relieve back pain. Plus, they offer free white-glove delivery, so you won’t need to strain yourself to get the bed in place. The dual spring design offers optimal support while the Eurotop provides pressure relief without excess softness.
How Back Pain Affects Your Sleep
With good sleep, your body heals and recovers from the strains of everyday life and back pain. According to Harvard University’s Healthy Sleep research, you need deep sleep to release growth hormone which facilitates cell repair and growth. If your sleep is of poor quality and disrupted, your health can suffer. Not sleeping well can aggravate back pain and, unfortunately, back pain can keep you from sleeping well, so your choice of mattress is critical to breaking the cycle.
Connection between sleep surface and spinal curvature
Your spine has a natural “s” curve in its resting position. A supportive sleep surface should keep your spine aligned. If you’re lying on your side, you can check for proper support by holding a yardstick parallel to your spine. Your spine should be perfectly straight from neck to bottom on a supportive sleep surface.
For stomach and back sleepers, your spine should reflect the “s” curve while lying down. Sleeping on your back distributes your weight evenly, and your spine should be level from neck to back. Stomach sleeping is the most challenging for spinal alignment because your body weight can pull your spine down and out of its neutral position.
It’s vital that you choose a mattress with a sleep surface that supports your spine properly for your preferred sleep posture.
Potential sources of back pain
The Mayo Clinic suggests risk factors for back pain including:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excess weight
- Physical strain
- Psychological conditions
Back pain can be either acute or chronic. Acute back pain is usually the result of an accident or injury and is short-term, lasting just a couple of months. Chronic back pain is more problematic and lingers for months (or years). Chronic pain can continue even after the cause is alleviated.
Connection between sleep surface and origin of back pain
Sleeping on an inadequate sleep surface can aggravate a back condition or cause one. Choosing a mattress that will support your spine can ease chronic back pain and may reverse back pain issues caused by a bad bed.
Some concerns with older mattresses include:
- Hammocking – When a mattress is older or not supportive enough, it can hammock, meaning it sags and your spine sinks down into it throwing you out of alignment.
- Sagging – Even a good mattress can break down and sag eventually. If your bed has saggy spots deeper than an inch, it can hurt your back every night you sleep on it.
Old beds are one issue, but a new mattress that’s a bad fit can be just as problematic. A bed that is too soft or too firm can cause back pain. Beds that are too soft can let you sink in too deeply causing spinal sag. Too firm beds can push your spine out of alignment.
Sleep positions and back pain
The most common sleep position is side sleeping. This can be comfortable for those with back pain so long as the sleep surface is supportive enough for your body size. Back sleeping is another excellent position for those with back pain.
Stomach sleeping is one of the worst positions for back pain because it’s difficult to get proper support in this position. No matter which sleep position you choose, if you have a supportive sleep surface and good pillows, you should be able to lessen back pain.
How Can Your Mattress Relieve Pain?
There’s a prevailing myth that a very firm bed is best for back pain. However, research from the National Institutes of Health found that back pain sufferers using a firm surface sleep fewer hours and wake in greater pain. In fact, a medium-firm mattress performs better for those with back pain.
Potential sources of back pain Factors to consider in a mattress for back pain
- Spinal alignment – You want a bed that will adequately support you and keeps your spine aligned. If you’re heavier (250+ pounds), you’ll need to be careful and choose a mattress with supplemental support.
- Firmness – For most people, a medium-firm bed is optimal for back pain, as evidenced by the NIH study linked above. If you’re lighter, you may want a slightly less firm bed. If you’re heavier, consider firm over medium-firm.
- Pressure point relief – For side sleepers, pressure point relief is a concern. A mattress should cushion your shoulder and hip where you press into the bed. Firmer beds offer less pressure relief, so it pays to research thoroughly to get both support and relief.
- Cooling – If you’re a hot sleeper, your choice of mattress firmness and materials determines whether you’ll wake up sweaty. The firmer a bed, the cooler you’ll sleep, and softer beds tend to sleep hotter because you sink into them.
Knowing how mattress materials perform with back pain is critical to making a wise choice for your health. Here’s a look at the options and what they offer.
Innerspring beds are the oldest type of mattress but have come a long way since their inception. Pocket coils are the latest evolution and can be a top choice for back pain sufferers, particularly those carrying extra weight.
With innerspring, it’s vital to evaluate the comfort layer to ensure you don’t sacrifice pressure point relief to get extra support. Innerspring beds tend to break down faster than other materials, so that’s another consideration.
Other Shopping Considerations
If you suffer from back pain, your choice of mattress material is important, but there are other factors to consider before you rush out and buy a bed.
Answer these crucial questions.
What’s your sleep position?
If you have chronic back pain, you may want to reconsider your sleep position. Back and side sleeping are better choices with back pain, while stomach sleeping is one of the worst sleep postures if you wake with an achy back. Firmer beds are better for back and stomach sleepers while side sleepers need additional pressure relief in the comfort layer.
How much do you weigh?
If you have a high BMI (25+), you’ll need more support in your mattress. If you are heavier, but it’s healthy weight, you will still want a bed with greater durability because you’ll put it through more wear and tear. Pear-shaped sleepers need more support in the middle of the bed and may want to consider a mattress supplemental cross-section support.
Do you sleep alone or with a partner?
If you sleep alone, your needs and preferences are all that matter. But if you co-sleep with a partner, you’ll need to consider them. If you and your partner have drastically different sleep postures, body weight, and needs, you may want to look at a split design where each half of the bed is uniquely architected for one sleeper.
Do you sleep hot?
Sleeping hot can be frustrating if you wake sweaty during the night disrupting your sleep. A firmer bed can help because you won’t sink in too deeply and radiate your body heat back on you. Also consider cooling materials such as latex, copper-infused gel, or an innerspring or hybrid bed for additional airflow and cooling sensation.