Best Mattress for Back Pain

Guide to Buying the Best Mattress for Your Back Pain

 

When you have back pain, it can affect your sleep and overall quality of life. Finding the best mattress to help your back pain is essential. According to research, 80% of Americans will suffer from back problems during their lives and the occurrence of lower back pain is on the rise. Your choice of mattress may help alleviate some of your aches, but a bad mattress choice can make it worse.

Did you know these facts about back pain?

  • Women are more likely to suffer back pain than men.
  • Back pain affects the ability to work, but more so for men.
  • Almost 40% of back pain sufferers struggle with daily tasks.
  • More than 35% report that back pain interferes with exercise.
  • Back pain impacts sleep for 37% of those surveyed.
  • More than 50% of low back pain sufferers work sitting all day.
  • Back pain is the most common cause of missed workdays.
  • Only 10% of people discover the root cause of their back pain.

While 90% of back pain issues are resolved within a month or two, according to research from the University of Michigan, 60-80% of people will have a recurrence within two years. According to the National Institutes of Health, chronic low back pain is on the rise and now affects roughly 10% of Americans. Whether you have occasional, recurrent, or chronic back pain, your choice of mattress matters.

This buying guide will give you the information you need to select the best mattress for back pain sufferers. Let’s start with a quick look at our top five best mattresses for back pain.

Our Top 5 Picks for Best Mattresses for Back Pain Sufferers

 

Manufacturer Model Mattress Type Firmness Price*
 Avocado Green Avocado Latex Hybrid 5.5 and 7 $1,399
 Loom and Leaf Loom and Leaf Foam 6.5 and 8 $1,099
 Nest bedding Nest Alexander Signature Hybrid Hybrid 6 and 8 $1,199
 Novosbed Novosbed Foam 5 and 7 $1,099
  Tomorrow Sleep Hybrid 4 and 6 $890

*All prices are for a Queen-sized bed before seasonal promos/discounts are applied.

How Mattress Firmness Affects Back Pain

 

Mattresses are of two parts: the comfort layer(s) and the support core. The comfort layer is the uppermost part of the bed that gives a bed the feeling of contour and comfort. The support core is the underbelly of the mattress and is what determines firmness. Mattress firmness is rated in the industry on a scale from 1 to 10 with 1 the softest and 10 the firmest mattresses.

Firmness Scale

 

What The Numbers Mean

  • On a very soft (1) mattress, you sink deeply into the bed, and there’s little support.
  • On a soft (2-3) bed, you’ll feel more support, but will still sink-in significantly.
  • On a medium (4-6) or medium-firm mattress, you’ll get support and comfort.
  • On a firm (7-9) bed, there is much more support with less cushion.
  • On a very firm (10) mattress, you’ll feel a rigid surface with little padding.

There’s a prevailing myth that if you have back pain, you need the firmest possible bed. Some people move their mattresses to the floor, slide a sheet of plywood between their mattress and foundation, or buy an extremely rigid bed at the far end of the scale, rated 9 or 10. This approach doesn’t work for most back pain sufferers, and research proves this is a faulty methodology.

Harvard University research found that people with back pain had the worst sleep when they chose very firm mattresses. Soft mattresses are also problematic for those with back pain because if you sink in too deeply, you can throw your spine out of alignment. Studies show that medium-firm mattresses are preferable and provide a better night’s sleep for those with back pain.

 

Types of Back Pain

Whether or not a mattress will help your back pain also depends on the type of back pain you have. There are myriad causes of achy backs, some of which are short-term and some that are chronic. If your back pain is a passing phase, you may not want to go to extremes when purchasing a mattress. A firmer bed may feel good when your back is achy but then be too rigid once your back is better.

Here’s a look at some of the types of back pain and how a better mattress may help:

  • Occasional – If your back aches come from overexertion like moving furniture, you probably don’t need to change your mattress firmness drastically.
  • Strains, sprains, and injury – This type of pain can be occasional or recurring, and if it’s recurring, you may want to move to a medium-firm bed.
  • Degenerative disc disease – The pain of degenerating discs can come from aging or trauma, and since it’s a chronic condition, a more supportive mattress may help.
  • Slipped or ruptured discs – Those with slipped or ruptured discs may need surgery to correct or alleviate the condition, but a bed that supports the spine can help.
  • Stenosis or sciatica – Both of these conditions can cause nerve pain in the spine and lower extremities, and a better mattress may help relieve pressure.
  • Spinal fractures and scoliosis – These back pain causes require medical intervention but choosing a mattress that supports the impacted area may also help.
  • Serious medical conditions – Conditions such as kidney stones, abdominal aortic aneurysm, etc. cause back pain and need a physician’s attention, but may also benefit from a firmer bed.

When choosing a bed, if your back pain is due to a serious or chronic medical attention, you may want to ask your physician their recommendation on mattress firmness.

Next, let’s look at your sleep style and other factors, aside from your back pain, that should inform your buying decision.

Back pai

Image via Middletown Chiropractors

 

Sleep Position and Other Issues for Those With Back Pain

 

If you’ve got chronic or recurring back pain, picking out the best mattress for your condition is crucial, but there are other factors to consider when mattress shopping. For instance, some sleeping positions are better for back pain than others. Plus, if you have other medical conditions or sleep preferences, you can take these into account, so you get a mattress that meets all your needs.

 

What is your sleep position?

Side sleeping and back sleeping are recommended for those with back pain as it’s easier to keep your spine aligned in this position. Your back has a natural “S” curve, and the best bed will keep it aligned and in a neutral state. Stomach sleeping is one of the worst sleep positions for back pain because your spine will sag into your body and you may wake achy and sore, even without back problems.

 

Do you sleep with supplemental pillows?

Some people with back pain and a bad mattress may try and alleviate the pain by using mattress toppers, wedges, and extra pillows. A pillow between your knees can help with lower back pain if you’re a side sleeper or a pillow under your knees for back sleepers. However, if you’re on a bed that’s too soft or excessively firm, all the pillows in the world won’t help you get a good night’s sleep.

 

Do you sleep hot or cold at night?

Another concern is your temperature while you sleep. Some people run hot at night, and some cold. Mattress materials and firmness can help or aggravate these issues. A softer mattress or traditional memory foam comfort layer sleep hotter than other materials and can leave you sweaty. If you’re a colder sleeper, a very firm bed can leave you chilly.

 

Do you sleep alone or with someone?

If you co-sleep with a partner, their needs are also important. If you sleep in similar positions and have similar sleep temperatures, you may not need to compromise. However, if you have drastically different sleep styles, you may struggle to find a mattress that’s a fit for you both. In this case, you may want to consider a split bed where each half is constructed to that sleeper’s preferences.

 

Do you move around a lot at night?

Some people sleep like the dead and some shift constantly at night. If you have back pain, you may need to adjust during the night if you wake stiff in one position. When you or your partner move, there is motion transfer – it’s the energy displaced that can move the mattress. Firmer beds tend to have more motion transfer, but some mattress materials can mitigate this effect.

 

Do you have a high or low BMI?

People who are overweight or underweight have special needs when choosing a bed. If you’re heavier, you need a firmer sleep surface. Extra body weight can cause or aggravate back pain, so you’ll want to go firmer if you have both conditions simultaneously. Lighter weight people usually need richer comfort layers for pressure relief, but with back pain, this can be tricky.

Next, let’s look at the best mattress materials for those who suffer back pain.

 

The Best Mattress Materials for People With Back Pain

 

Mattresses can be innerspring, foam, or latex. A hybrid mattress has an innerspring support core with one (or more) of the other materials in the comfort layer(s). Innerspring beds are usually the cheapest while latex and hybrids are the costliest. However, price alone doesn’t tell you the quality of a bed. Mattress shops and department stores charge massive markups on their beds.

To get the best bang for your mattress-buying buck, shop online. There is plenty of competition in the market, and the best brands offer generous sleep trials, so you can try the bed at home, which is the only way you’ll know if it is what you need. A study by non-profit institute RTI found overwhelmingly, customers that use a mattress store lie-down to choose their bed are unhappy with their purchase.

As you look at the mattress materials info below, remember that your bed has two parts: the support core and the comfort layer(s). The support core determines firmness and how well the bed keeps your spine aligned, which is crucial for those with back pain. The comfort layers control how deeply you sink into the mattress and how it contours and hugs your body.

When looking at the best mattress for your back pain, here’s what you should know about mattress materials:

 

Foam

Mattress foam can be either memory foam or polyurethane foam (polyfoam). Standard memory foam can sleep hot, so you’ll want to look for foam that’s copper or gel-infused to sleep cooler. Polyfoam can be regular, high-density (HD), or high-resiliency (HR). Regular polyfoam is cheap and not what you want in a bed. Look for beds that only have HD or HR foams or advanced memory foam.

If you are a heavier person with back pain, a foam bed is probably not the best choice for you because it won’t be durable or supportive enough. If you are interested in a memory foam bed, you may want to look for a firmer support core and a thinner comfort layer of memory foam, so you don’t sink in too deeply and throw off your spinal alignment which can irritate back pain.

 

Innerspring

Innerspring beds have metal coils attached to each other by wire or a pocket coil design. Pocket coils are metal springs inside attached fabric envelopes. Innerspring is a support core, and this type of bed will have a comfort layer(s) of another material on top of the springs. Innerspring beds are supportive and may be a good choice for back pain, but only if the bed is high-quality.

However, innerspring beds have other issues. They are known for noise and motion transfer. If you co-sleep with someone and they move, the bed could ripple and wake you or shift your position to be less comfortable. Some innerspring beds may be too inflexible for comfort for back pain sufferers. It’s helpful to read reviews on a specific mattress written by people with back pain.

 

Latex

Latex is a top of the line, luxury mattress materials, and so is one of the costliest types of bed. If you have back pain, a latex bed can be well worth the money because of its support, durability, and comfort. Latex can be synthetic or natural. Some latex beds may blend synthetic and natural latex. Natural latex is made from rubber tree sap while a chemical process creates synthetic latex.

Latex sleeps cooler than foam beds and is firmer. Latex offers high point elasticity which means it comforts and hugs your body to relieve pressure points without an excessive sinking-in sensation. Latex is supportive and comes in a variety of firmness levels. Latex is an excellent choice of bed for those with back pain that can afford to invest a little more in their bed.

 

Hybrid

Hybrid mattresses are a top choice because they offer the benefits of multiple materials while mitigating the drawbacks. Hybrid beds have a pocket coil support coil, and some even have a dual pocket coil layer with a foam layer between them. The comfort layer(s) of a hybrid can be latex, foam, or both. Hybrids are typically high-quality beds and come at a higher price point.

Hybrid beds can be a top choice for people with back pain because the pocket coils provide adequate supportive while the quality comfort layers offer contour and comfort. Many hybrids come with a medium-firm option that’s ideal for back pain sufferers. With a hybrid, you need to assess all components for quality to make sure you’re getting a good value for the cost.

Now that you know what’s inside a bed, check out the reviews of our top five best mattresses for back pain.

Top 5 Picks for Best Mattresses for Back Pain

 

Your sleep preferences are uniquely yours, and your choice of bed is subjective to what feels good to you. With your special back pain concerns, you should make the best choice after doing your homework and reading reviews. From there, sleep on the mattress at home during the manufacturer’s sleep night trial to make sure the bed meets your needs.

Read our reviews below of top mattresses for back pain including their components, pros and cons of that bed, and why it ranked on our top five list.

Avocado

 

Materials

The Avocado Green is a latex hybrid made of organic materials that are sourced sustainably. The support core is an 8” layer of ergonomic pocket coils in three zones to minimize motion transfer. The comfort layer is 2” of durable Dunlop latex foam. The cover has a 1” layer of certified natural New Zealand wool, and the cover is organic cotton, bot designed to wick moisture and sleep cooler.

The Pros

The mattress comes with two firmness options, 5.5 and 7. Those with back pain may prefer the firmer model. If you’re heavier, the firmer model is the way to go. Shipping is free with Avocado Green, and there is a 100-night sleep trial with a 25-year warranty. One nice perk to this bed is that it comes with durable handles, which are a rarity, and can make moving the bed much easier.

The Cons

The Avocado Green hybrid comes with a $1,399 price tag, but the quality justifies the price. There is an optional 2” European pillowtop for greater comfort for an additional $400 which significantly raises the cost. However, most back pain sufferers won’t need this extra layer. Expect a two to three-week wait for the bed because they are made on-demand just for you.

Why Avocado Stands Out

Avocado was the top-rated innerspring core mattress brand for 2018 according to Consumer Reports, and their customers love them. The latex contours without excessive sinking in, the pocket coil core offers the support needed by those with back pain and the edge support is good, so you won’t feel sag if you sleep on the side of the bed. Avocado might be the bed to ease your aches and pains.

 

Avocado Green

Loom and Leaf

Materials

Loom and Leaf is a foam mattress that comes in relaxed firm (rated 6.5) and firm (rated 8). The four-layer design begins with a 5.5” support core of HD foam with airflow channels for enhanced cooling. Above that is a 2” transition loft pad. The comfort layers are 2.5” of premium memory foam and 2” of cooling gel-swirl memory foam under a thin spinal cooling gel layer and an organic cotton cover.

The Pros

If you sleep hot, the Loom and Leaf is a great choice because the gel layer uses the same tech as beds in hospital burn units for exceptional cooling. The design minimizes motion transfer and offers support and contour without sinking-in deeply. If you’re lighter weight or your back problems aren’t extreme, the relaxed firm might work. If you’re heavier or have serious back problems, the firmer may be better.

The Cons

Loom and Leaf is a newer product, so it’s still building a reputation in the market, but reviews are good so far. Also, it’s made by Saatva which is a mattress market leader. The price point is moderate at $1,099 but a bargain for the quality foam components. If you’ve got a BMI of 30 or more or weigh more than 250 pounds, the relaxed firm will probably not offer enough support, especially if you have back pain.

Why Loom and Leaf Stands Out

Buyers compare the feel of the Loom and Leaf to the much costlier Tempur-Pedic bed which costs close to $5k. The company provides free white glove delivery, set up, and old mattress removal which is great if your back is achy, so you won’t have to move it yourself and aggravate your spinal issues. The bed sleeps cool, contours, and supports and could be just the bed to help your back pain.

Loom and Leaf Mattress

Nest Alexander Signature Hybrid

 

Materials

The Nest Alexander Signature Hybrid is a five-layer bed starting with a core of 8” pocket coils with edge support. Over that is 1” SmartFlow support foam for cooling. The medium bed has 1.5” copper-infused foam, then 1.5” TitanChil® cooling foam, topped with 1.5” gel-infused memory foam. The firmer model has slow recovery foam instead of copper foam. The cover is Thermic phase-change fabric for cooling.

The Pros

The bed comes in medium (rated 6) and luxury firm (rated 8). For lighter weight people with back problems, the medium may be good, but if you’re heavier or already know you want a firmer surface, the luxury firm might be a better choice. The Alexander Signature sleeps like a costlier mattress with enough sink-in for contour, but not so much that you’ll hammock or throw your spine out of alignment.

The Cons

At a price of $1,199, the Nest is one of the costlier of our top picks list but is a deal for the quality materials you get. Looking at their website, you might notice they rate mattress firmness on a scale opposite the industry standard so their luxury firm, which rates at 8, shows on their site as 1.5-2. It can be confusing, but if you go by our firmness ratings, you can compare easily to other products.

Why Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Stands Out

The Alexander Signature by Nest Bedding is comfortable and even their firmer model rates well with side sleepers who usually prefer a plusher surface. Buyers appreciate this bed and have given it high marks and stellar reviews. If you have back pain, the luxury firm might be a perfect mattress that gives you the support you need.

NEST Alexander Signature

Novosbed

 

Materials

The Novosbed is a premium memory foam bed with three layers. The support core is 7” of premium support foam designed to eliminate motion transfer. The next layer is 2” of premium memory foam that varies in density depending on the firmness option you choose. Above that is another 2” comfort layer made of airflow memory foam for coolness, contour, and comfort.

The Pros

The cover on the Novosbed is moisture-wicking, washable Tencel®. The memory foam is high density of good quality and the upper airflow foam encourages airflow and keeps the bed from sleeping as hot as other memory foam mattresses. With two options of medium (5) and firm (7), those with back pain can choose their firmness level to fit their sleep style and health concerns best.

The Cons

There may be a slight off-gassing aroma, but that won’t stay long. The edge support isn’t as firm as some other mattresses on our best picks list, but that’s common with all-foam beds. Although Novosbed has a 120-night sleep trial, there’s a 60-night break-in period before you can request a refund if the mattress doesn’t work out for you and they first try and work with you to make the bed sleep better for you.

Why Novosbed Stands Out

At a price point of just $1,099, it’s a good value for the money. A big selling point for people with back pain is the Comfort+ program. After 30 nights, if the bed isn’t quite what you want, Novosbed will work with you to adjust the bed to your liking by sending you different layers you can add to the bed to make it firmer or softer. This lets you try the bed, then adjust it if needed to help your back pain.

Novosbed Mattress

Tomorrow Sleep Hybrid

 

Materials

Tomorrow Sleep’s hybrid construction varies by firmness, but we’ll look at the medium-firm. There is a 6” pocket coil core encased in HD polyfoam for edge support. Above that is a 1.5” layer of bounce foam that prevents excess sink-in and over that is a ½” layer of gel-infused foam for cooling and pressure relief. On top is 1” dense memory foam for contour and pressure relief with a phase change cover.

The Pros

At a price point of $890, Tomorrow Sleep’s hybrid is an affordable yet high-quality mattress for those with back pain. The pocket coils offer excellent support, and the thinner, dense comfort layers relieve pressure without letting you sink in deeply which can throw off spinal alignment. The bed sleeps cool, works with any base, and the foam perimeter offers solid edge support.

The Cons

Although there is a medium-soft option, you should stick to medium-firm if you have back pain unless you’re very lightweight. Some buyers noticed a slight off-gassing scent at first that quickly dissipated. It takes a bit longer to decompress and reach full loft than some other online brands. Also, the company is quite new, so it’s still establishing a track record, but has solid reviews from buyers.

Why Tomorrow Sleep Stands Out

Although Tomorrow Sleep is a young company, it’s owned by mattress legacy firm Serta, so there are 100+ years of sleep research behind the brand. The company publishes all the materials specifications so that you can see the quality. Plus, it comes with a 365-night sleep trial, so if you have back pain, that’s plenty of time to assess whether this hybrid will perform as you want and ease your aching back.

Tomorrow Sleep