There are many potential factors behind a case of chronic back pain—poor posture, muscle strain, obesity, stress, and various medical conditions. And your mattress can influence whether you start the day with more or less pain than you had when you fell asleep.
In this guide, we outline how to find the best mattresses for back pain relief. We go over common causes of back pain, features that can ease pain and other sleep accessories, and methods that can help you reduce your pain.
Our Recommendation: Zoma Mattress
The first layer is 2 inches of soft, contouring gel memory foam. The gel infusions keep you from sleeping hot, while the memory foam takes the pressure off of your body, easing aches and pains as you sleep.
This layer also includes our unique Triangulex™ technology. The memory foam layer is solid in the middle to add support where it’s most needed but contains triangle-shaped segments at the shoulder and leg areas for extra comfort.
The second layer is 2 inches of a bouncy latex-like foam called Reactiv™. The material promotes muscle recovery with its responsiveness and acts as a transition between the top and bottom layers.
The third layer is 7 inches of durable foam called Support+. This core is the foundation of your bed, giving it stability and structure.
Finally, the polyester-elastane mattress cover adds breathability by creating air channels in the cover as it stretches.
Our Zoma Mattress sells at $750 for a queen mattress, a great bargain for a great night’s sleep. The Zoma Mattress also comes with a risk-free 100-night sleep trial and a 10-year warranty. If you decide the mattress isn’t the right one for you during your sleep trial, we will have your bed picked up and recycled free of charge.
What Can Cause Back Pain?
There is no one cause for chronic back pain, and we’re more likely to develop it as we get older, as our lifestyle choices add up, and our bodies begin to age.
Some of the many possible causes of back pain outside of sleep include:
- Poor posture or physical condition
- Straining your muscles or ligaments
- Repeated stretches of sitting for a long time
- Improper lifting of heavy objects
- Ruptured or bulging discs in your spine
- Stress and anxiety
- Underlying conditions such as skeletal irregularities, arthritis or osteoporosis
Is My Mattress to Blame for My Back Pain?
If you’ve had a bad morning where you’ve woken up with back pain, you won’t be surprised to hear that a bad mattress and poor sleep habits can cause or worsen chronic back pain. A night spent tossing and turning on an uncomfortable bed can aggravate any existing injuries or aches.
Aside from waking up with pain, you can tell your mattress is due for a replacement if:
- It’s sagging or has developed lumps
- You’re waking up tired even after a full night of sleep
- Your allergy symptoms worsen in the morning
You may also wake up in pain if your mattress does not match your sleep style. Side sleepers need a softer mattress than back sleepers, and stomach sleepers need a firmer mattress than back sleepers. We go into more detail about the various sleep styles further down.
Back pain can become a vicious cycle, as sleeping poorly can mean waking up in pain, while being in pain can keep you from falling asleep and remaining undisturbed. But you can take charge of it by changing how you sleep and your overall sleep habits, for better overall health.
Talk to an Expert
It’s a good idea to start with a visit to your doctor or a licensed chiropractor to discuss your exact symptoms and if you should seek chiropractic care to correct them.
Ask what you can do to lessen and alleviate your back problems, which may include weight limits on what you can carry or changes to your exercise and diet. An expert should be able to help you narrow down what factors in your life are contributing to your back pain and suggest ways to reduce their influence.
Ask also what advice they have for your sleep positions and their opinion on what mattresses to consider. They may have heard from other patients what did and did not work for them.
Please note, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately if your back pain is accompanied by symptoms such as fever, unexplained weight loss, or bladder issues.
What to Look for in a Mattress
So what should you look for in a mattress to relieve your back pain?
Consider the type of mattress you want. There are four main types to consider: memory foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrid.
Each of these types includes different materials and comes with a set of pros and cons. There are more kinds of mattresses on the market, of course, but any other variety of beds, such as a futon or an airbed, is unlikely to provide the support and pain relief needed for a better night of sleep.
Of the four, memory foam and latex tend to rank the highest with customers suffering from back pain —each can contour to your body’s curves, particularly the ones in your spine.
There are four curves to your spine —one in your neck, one in the middle of your back, and two at the bottom. Your perfect mattress should meet and mold to all four of these curves for proper spinal alignment.
Once you’ve decided on a material, you can then think about the desired firmness of your mattress. You may have the idea that when it comes to treating back pain, a firmer bed is better. However, that’s not entirely true.
There is research suggesting the best mattress for those who suffer from back pain is a medium-firm one, as a 2015 review found by examining controlled trials within the previous 15 years.
Your body weight should also be factored into your calculations of what firmness will be best for you. Heavier sleepers will want a firmer mattress for support, while lightweight people should look for something softer.
And you’ll want to consider your preferred sleeping position, as it can inform what mattress material and firmness will provide you the best night’s sleep.
The right bed is something different for everyone. It may take time, numerous comparisons, and a little bit of experimentation to find what is the best fit for you. It will all be worth it to get not just a good night’s sleep, but many nights of blissful shut-eye.
The type of mattress you want is the first thing you should consider when you go shopping for a new bed. Each of the four mattress types listed below can provide some relief to chronic back pain.
Memory foam takes its name from its ability to adapt and conform to your body’s shape, relieving pressure. The material prevents motion transfer, a necessity for any restless sleeper. Memory foam mattresses have a top layer of memory foam and layer(s) of more supportive foam underneath.
High-quality memory foam is considered by many to be the best choice to soothe chronic back pain because of the way it molds itself to your body, simultaneously providing cushion and support. The wider parts of your body, such as your hips and shoulders, are given the space to sink in. Your body’s narrower areas such as your waist and feet, however, lie on top of the mattress.
A drawback to memory foam’s design is the material naturally traps heat, meaning you might be awakened in the night by a mattress that’s grown too hot to be comfortable. Many brands address this issue by adding a cool agent, such as cooling gels or another cooling material like graphite or copper.
There’s a wide quality of memory foam mattresses out on the market. Not all are made the same, and not all are made equally. We recommend you thoroughly read information about the bed and its customer reviews before you commit to one.
Latex is a material designed to be more bouncy than your average memory foam. The material snaps back into shape easily and has a durable structure, making for a long-lasting mattress that resists deep bodily impressions.
There’s a disadvantage to a latex mattress’s structure, though, as they’re naturally firm beds. Plush softness and sufficient body contouring are important for back pain sufferers who want to spend a night in comfort. Some brands solve this problem by adding a pillow top to the latex mattress.
Another drawback to a latex mattress is that it doesn’t isolate movement as well as a memory foam mattress does, thanks to latex’s added bounce. If you shift around in your sleep or share a bed, you may not want a latex mattress.
When shopping for a latex mattress, we recommend one made with Dunlop latex or Talalay latex rather than one made with a synthetic blend. Both latex types have a longer expected lifespan than synthetic blends, which tend to last about six years.
Chances are you slept on an innerspring mattress when you were a child. It’s a traditional mattress that’s still around, even as other types have sprung up and grown in popularity.
You’ll find many coil systems used in an innerspring mattress. There’s two-in-one coils, connected coils, pocketed coils, and so many others. We recommend pocketed coils, as each coil is wrapped for better motion isolation.
An innerspring can help back pain sufferers. But this type of mattress lacks the responsiveness of other beds and may not be able to offer the specialized support needed to relieve chronic pain.
When you’re considering an innerspring mattress, you’ll want to look at its coil count and coil setup. A coil count lower than 300 is unlikely to provide your body with needed support.
A hybrid mattress provides a mix of cushion and bounce. You don’t sink in as deeply as you would on a pure foam bed, but the top foam layer is still responsive enough to mold to your body and offer pressure relief. Manufacturers can concentrate a hybrid’s coils to provide zoned support to areas such as your head, shoulders, back, hips, and feet.
A downside to hybrid mattresses is they can be some of the more expensive beds on the market, due to being a mix of high-quality materials. If you’re shopping on a tight budget, a hybrid bed may not be the mattress for you.
We recommend a hybrid mattress with a top comfort layer of at least 2 inches for your comfort. And be sure to examine the mattress’s construction carefully to be certain what you’re buying is a true hybrid, as the term can be used as a simple marketing gimmick. A true hybrid has at least 2 to 3 inches of foam, along with the innerspring coil system.
Firmness has more to do with the feel of a mattress than its measurable density, so it can be a bit subjective. It’s important to know what firmness level is right for you, as it can mean the difference between a rejuvenating night of sleep or waking up in more pain.
Firmness is typically measured by brands on a scale running from 1 to 10, with 1 as the softest and 10 as the firmest, although most mattresses fall between 3 and 8. Mattresses at the extremes of either end are typically impractical, too firm or too soft for most.
As a reminder, research suggests a medium-firm mattress is a good choice for those with back pain. You may wish to look for something softer if you’re a side sleeper or firmer if you want the extra support as a back or stomach sleeper.
We mentioned earlier to think about your body weight as you shop for a mattress. Firmer mattresses are better for heavier people who weigh more than 230 pounds. Lightweight sleepers who weigh less than 130 pounds will want a softer mattress.
More Than Just a Mattress to Think About
A new mattress isn’t the only step you can take to better handle back pain as you sleep. For those hesitant to take the leap and buy a new mattress if the current one is still serviceable, you may wish to think about a mattress topper as your first step forward. Conversely, those who are willing to invest in preventing and alleviating future pain may wish to look at adjustable bed frames while mattress shopping.
You may be advised to try a mattress topper instead of buying a new mattress if your current one is too firm or not a memory foam bed, or it might be something to consider if you’re shopping on a tight budget.
A good mattress topper is naturally far less expensive than buying a new mattress. If your mattress is still in good condition, just a bit too firm for your tastes, it can be a good way to improve comfort and relieve pain while keeping your expenses down. Look for a memory foam mattress topper that is between 1½ to 2½ inches thick.
Of course, a foam topper does not offer all the benefits that a new memory foam or latex mattress would. A foam mattress provides more pressure relief and longevity than a simple topper.
It might be better to think of a mattress topper as a first step, helping you to decide what you would like in a future mattress. It’s a good way to acquaint yourself with what it’s like to sleep on memory foam to better decide if it’s right for you.
Before you decide to use a topper, check that your mattress isn’t sagging or visibly indented. Your topper will follow the shape of the mattress, so a mattress lacking in support will mean a topper that’s lacking in support.
If you decide on a new mattress but are still operating on a tight budget, have no fear. You can find a high-quality mattress for under $1000.
Adjustable Bed Frames
Another thing to consider in addition to a new mattress is whether you want to purchase an adjustable bed frame.
Adjustable bed frames offer you a customized sleep experience. The base can better ease any pressure on your joints and spine with the head articulation feature or with the zero-gravity position. An adjustable bed frame can distribute your weight better and relieve pressure points.
However, this isn’t an impulse buy. Adjustable bed frames can range between a few hundred to thousands of dollars. You’ll want to do your research on the features each frame offers.
Memory foam and latex mattresses work best with an adjustable bed frame, as hybrid and innerspring models may lack the flexibility the base requires.
Other Stuff to Consider
We know we’ve already given you a lot to think about, but there are few more points to consider in your mattress search.
It’s good to understand your sleeping position to see how it contributes to or alleviates your back pain and to know what is the best firmness of mattress for you. A good night of sleep awaits you once you understand your sleep needs a bit better.
Side sleeping is the most common sleeping position, with quite a few health benefits attached to it. For example, pressure can be reduced on your heart muscles as you sleep by lying on your right side.
A side sleeper may wake to pain in their lower backs if their mattress is not firm enough to keep their spines happy and healthy in its natural alignment. They may also wake with shoulder pain and hip pain, as pressure concentrates in these areas when you sleep on your side.
Keeping a pillow between your legs and drawing your legs up just a bit to your chest can alleviate pain as you sleep. The best pillows for side sleepers include knee pillows, body pillows, and contour pillows.
The best mattress for a side sleeper will be one that’s between soft to medium, as a perfect blend of softness and support. Look for mentions of zoned support. We highly recommend memory foam mattresses for side sleepers.
Back sleeping is a good position to keep your spine in its healthy and natural alignment, although it can worsen snoring and sleep apnea.
You’ll likely want a medium-firm mattress as a back sleeper. A bed that’s too firm will push back against your spine and leave your lower back’s curve without needed support. But a bed that’s too soft may let your hips sink below your thighs, placing unwanted pressure on your lower back.
If you’re a back sleeper, be sure to place a pillow underneath your knees before you fall asleep to reduce pressure on your lower back. And use a flat pillow rather than a thick one to support your head and neck.
If you experience chronic lower back pain and have a tendency to sleep on your stomach, we recommend that you switch to another sleep position as soon as possible. Stomach sleeping can aggravate chronic back pain.
By sleeping on your stomach, you shift your center of gravity to your torso, which places unneeded stress on your spine. Your stomach and hips can sink too far into your mattress, creating a detrimental arch that puts pressure on your spine.
Furthermore, many stomach sleepers have to turn their neck to the side as they sleep so they can breathe, an unnatural position that places more pressure on the spine and can cause them to wake up with neck pain.
We understand it can be a big change to make, and that back or side sleeping may not be as comfortable a position at first. But you should see improvements in your sleep quality and your aches and pains soon enough.
Those who like sleeping on their stomachs, though, should shop for a firm mattress. A soft mattress will only allow your hips to sink in too deep, over-extending your spine. Have a pillow beneath your lower abdomen, and place your head on a thin pillow or skip a head pillow entirely.
Many sleepers don’t stick with one sleeping position but flit throughout them during the night. If this sounds like you, then you’re a combination sleeper.
Take note of the position you fall asleep in and the position you wake up in. You’ll want to find a mattress that’s a good compromise between what works for each style, such as a medium to medium-firm mattress. A mattress made to reduce or isolate motion transfer is also a good choice, as you’ll move throughout the night.
Sleep Trials and Warranties
If you decide that a new mattress is a step you want to take toward soothing your back pain, then it’s good to consider not just the qualities of the mattress but the sleep trial and warranty that comes attached. Both are a measure of the mattress’s quality, as a long sleep trial and warranty show a company has faith in its mattresses.
Sleep trials are the trial periods a company gives you to try out your new mattress. Most online mattresses come with a sleep trial period, as do some in-store only models. The typical sleep trial runs for 90 to 120 days, although you’ll find the occasional brand that offers up to a full year.
Many brands suggest you try your mattress for at least a month, as it takes around that amount of time to fully adjust to any new mattress.
It’s a good idea to read carefully through the warranty to see what’s covered, what’s not, and what voids the warranty.
Defects a warranty commonly covers are:
- Cracks or splits in the foam
- Tears in the cover
You’ll find many mattresses offer a warranty of 10 years. Some brands offer prorated coverage for a few years afterward.
We strongly recommend you do not purchase any mattress that does not come with a warranty. Take it as a warning sign that the company lacks confidence in its product if it’s not willing to guarantee you that a product that should last you years and years will do so.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a memory foam mattress good for back pain?
It can be. Memory foam can cradle and contour to your body in ways that other mattress materials cannot, providing relief to your pressure points.
How can I treat my back pain?
Aside from talking to an expert and finding the mattress that’s best suited for you, there are a few other simple tricks you can try to ease your pain:
- Get regular massages, whether from a licensed massage therapist or a simple massage chair.
- Exercise with a low-impact exercise like swimming as a way to get in shape with less pain.
- Take a nice long hot bath, or invest in a good heating pad.
It’s always a good idea to discuss any treatment plans with your doctor or chiropractor before you commit to them. They may have recommendations to give and can help you further plot out your plan.
Did We Help?
We put together this guide on finding a mattress for back pain sufferers to provide relief and to ease the pain. Finding the right mattress means finding a bed designed to soothe your pain and soreness, ensuring you get the night of sleep that you deserve.
We hope we’ve succeeded, and that your future will soon be filled with many comfortable nights of sleep. Do the research and take your time to find your perfect match. And feel free to reach out to us with any comments or questions in the comment section below.