Mattress Guides

Best Mattress for Back Pain (2018 Update)

By Alesandra Woolley

Back pain can be a real nightmare. In fact, more than 80 percent of Americans will experience an episode of low back pain at some time in their lives. If you’re currently sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t provide the proper support or spine alignment, there’s a good chance it’s actually making your back pain worse. Waking up achy, groggy or noticeably in more pain than when you fell asleep are signs that it might be time to kick your current mattress to the curb. (But make sure you have a friend do it – you have a bad back, remember?)

In this guide, we’ll help you understand how a good mattress can help alleviate back pain and what you should look for in a mattress when you suffer from back pain. Then, we’ll reveal our top five mattresses to help with back pain, along with some pretty great runners-up.


What does your mattress have to do with back pain?

Whether your back pain is caused by an injury, a physically demanding job or even stress, the way your body is supported while you sleep will have a big impact on how you feel when you wake up. In fact, your sleeping posture is just as important as your standing/sitting posture. You’ll wake up more refreshed if your muscles and joints are appropriately supported and relaxed while you’re sleeping.

Here’s a good way to think about it:

When you’re standing up, your body is applying pressure to your spinal cord (because…gravity), which keeps it aligned in its natural curve. But when you’re lying down, pressure is released from the vertebrae. So, sleeping on a mattress that evenly supports your body weight and allows your spine to stay in its natural alignment will help you get that relaxed, refreshed feeling that might just seem like a far-off dream right now.

If your mattress does a poor job of cradling your body, it might be forcing your body to rest at an unnatural angle – meaning your spinal cord is not aligned, you’ll have added, uneven pressure on your back, and you won’t allow your muscles to fully relax and recharge. Dr. Dominique, a licensed chiropractor, explains it like this:

“Sleeping on a mattress of poor quality will continue to cause joint breakdown and irritation long term. Prolonged inflammation of the joints speeds up the degenerative process. Other long-term effects include muscle tightness, uneven hips and spine misalignment.”

Translation: Sleeping on the wrong mattress leads to pain, discomfort, and can increase your chances of developing a chronic back problem.

Now that you understand how your mattress and your back pain are related, let’s review the things you should look for in a mattress when you suffer from back pain.


What to look for in a mattress when you suffer from back pain

Everyone’s body is different, meaning everyone’s back pain condition is going to be different too. So when it comes to choosing the best mattress, it’s really a personal decision. But there are two primary factors you should pay attention to while shopping for a mattress to help alleviate your back pain:

  1. The materials that your mattress is made from
  2. The firmness of the mattress
WHAT MATERIALS SHOULD YOUR MATTRESS BE MADE OF TO HELP WITH BACK PAIN?

Memory foam tends to be the best type of mattress to help cradle your body, relieve pressure points and keep your spine in proper alignment – all important qualities in a mattress, especially when you suffer from back pain. Memory foam (and other foam blends) do a good job of evenly distributing your body weight – meaning you won’t get as much of that uneven pressure or discomfort that tends to stir up your back pain even more.

Compared to traditional spring or coil mattresses, memory foam tends to hold its shape longer, which means a) your mattress will last longer and b) it won’t sag or lose its support as quickly as other mattresses can. While there are some latex and hybrid mattresses that can offer similar qualities, you probably want to stay away from innerspring mattresses if you really want to give your back the support it needs. Innerspring mattresses won’t cradle your body as well as memory foam and won’t have the same pressure relieving properties as foam does.

When deciding on the best mattress for your back pain, airflow and cooling properties are also important to look for. First of all, you’ll probably sleep better if you’re not sweating throughout the night. But having decent airflow also helps improve the amount of oxygen your body gets. If your body’s temperature is regulated and it’s getting the oxygen it needs, it has a better chance of recharging and relaxing problem muscles and joints.

 

HOW FIRM SHOULD YOUR MATTRESS BE TO HELP WITH BACK PAIN?

You may have heard a rumor that sleeping on a rock-hard mattress is best for your back pain. To be honest, that sounds kind of miserable. And it’s also not true. While everyone’s preference is going to differ slightly, people who suffer from back pain generally prefer a medium-firm to firm mattress. (This is usually a 5.5 – 7.5 out of 10 on the firmness scale.)

If you don’t believe us, here’s a little proof:

  • In a survey of 268 people with lower back pain, results showed that those who slept on what’s known as an orthopedic mattress (aka very hard) had the poorest sleep quality.
  • Another study showed that medium-firm mattresses reduced back pain by 57.2%, shoulder pain by 60.8%, and back stiffness by 59.1%. Overall, this helped improve the sleep quality of the study participants by 60.7%.

If you suffer from back pain, you probably want to stay away from super soft mattresses as well. Soft mattresses can conform to your body too much, which means you’ll sink into the mattress and lose the good posture that a firmer mattress will give you.

So, in summary:

  • The best mattress for your back pain will be medium-firm to firm (5.5-7.5 on the firmness scale).
  • A mattress that is too firm or too soft will not support your pressure points or distribute your body weight appropriately, causing your spine to fall out of its natural alignment and make your back pain even worse.
  • Ultimately, the best mattress for your back pain should make you feel like you are floating on air. (Doesn’t that sound dreamy?)

Best mattresses for back pain (Our top picks)

Below we’ve highlighted our top mattress picks for people who suffer from back pain. If you want to read more about a particular mattress brand, we’ve got you covered in the next section.

Keep in mind that everyone is different, and back pain is personal. So, the best mattress for you might not be the best for someone else. That’s why we’ve included how these mattresses help alleviate back pain and who they might be good for. It’s also important to consult with your doctor on what he or she recommends for your personal condition.

Take a look at things like the firmness, materials and price to help you decide which mattress might be best for you. And don’t forget – there’s no harm in trying it out. All of the mattresses we’ve reviewed here have at least a 100-night trial period and free returns.

By clicking on the products below, we may receive a commission at no cost to you, the reader. It’s how we fund our Mattress Lab and bring you better mattress reviews and comparisons.

Best mattresses for back pain overview:
Accolade Mattress
1. Editor’s Pick Level Sleep
2. Best Pressure Relief Sapira
3. Best for Side Sleepers Tomorrow Sleep 
4. Best for Combination Sleepers Casper Wave
5. Best for Active People Bear

 


Why trust Mattress Advisor?
  • We tested over 100 different mattresses and rated them on 14 different factors to determine which ones displayed the best qualities for alleviating back pain.
  • We used the same 6-point testing procedure and 8-point evaluation in our Mattress Lab for every single mattress.
  • Our scores incorporate human performance tests, material evaluation, ease of purchase/return, customer service and brand integrity, making it the most comprehensive scoring system in the industry.

Please note: while we’re experts when it comes to mattresses, we are not doctors. It’s always recommended that you consult with your doctor when it comes to choosing products meant to address health and pain issues. 


1. Editor’s Pick

Level Sleep

Editor's Pick
  • Recommended by doctors and chiropractors for people who suffer from back pain
  • Participants in Level Sleep’s clinical trial reported a 54% reduction in morning stiffness
  • Its patented TriSupport™ technology offers optimal lumbar support and pressure relief on shoulder and hip zones

The varied support in the mattress lends itself to a pain-free, relaxed sleep."

Barbara G.
Customer Rating
4.5 / 5
MA Score
8.4 / 10
Firmness

TriZone Firmness

Trial Period

365 days

Why we love it

The Level Sleep TriSupport mattress is our top pick for mattresses that help with back pain. This foam mattress was designed to provide different levels of support in the places that need it most. For example, your shoulders and hips require a different level of pressure relief than your torso does, and Level Sleep’s foam system supports that. This level of customized support helps to keep your body weight evenly distributed and your spine appropriately aligned. These factors play a big role in helping to alleviate back pain while you sleep.

We also appreciate and admire Level Sleep’s dedication to offering restorative, healthy sleep. The company has been active in sleep research for more than 15 years and has even conducted its own Institutional Review Board (IRB)-approved sleep study which found that subjects who slept on the Level Sleep mattress experienced a 54% reduction in morning stiffness and a 56% reduction of pain. It’s also been recommended by doctors and chiropractors.

The standard price for a queen Level Sleep mattress is $1,599. Click the link below to see the best offer for this mattress.

See best price for the Level Sleep

Read our full Level Sleep review here


2. Best Pressure Relief

Sapira

Best Pressure Relief
  • Luxury hybrid mattress at a competitive price point
  • Provides a responsive sleep surface that reacts to your body as you move and change positions throughout the night
  • Scored exceptionally high in pressure relief and spine alignment tests

On the second night, my pain was gone."

Jenny H.
Customer Rating
4 / 5
MA Score
9.2 / 10
Firmness

Medium-firm - firm: 7/10

Trial Period

100 days

Why we love it

Sapira’s high performance in pressure relief and spine alignment make it ideal for relieving back and joint pain while you sleep. The top layer of the Sapira is a cooling, high-density foam that contours your body, but doesn’t cause you to sink or feel stuck. Then you have memory foam, which helps with pressure relief. You can think of it as a cushion that pushes back on areas of high pressure, like your hips and shoulders. The individual pocket springs inside the Sapira provide additional support, freedom of movement, and durability.

The standard price for a queen mattress is $1,595, but you can click the link below to get an exclusive Mattress Advisor discount.

See best price for the Sapira

Read our full Sapira review here


3. Best for Side Sleepers

Tomorrow Sleep

Best for Side Sleepers
  • Five-layer hybrid mattress (foam + springs) available in three different firmness levels
  • Scored a perfect 10 on spine alignment in the side sleeping position in Mattress Advisor’s lab test
  • Offers a cool night’s sleep with its phase changing gel top layer and perforated outer-edge rails

I’m a side-sleeper and the foam/spring combo is amazing!"

Paige A.
Customer Rating
4.8 / 5
MA Score
9 / 10
Firmness

Choose between medium soft and medium firm

Trial Period

365 days

Why we love it

We’ve selected the Tomorrow Sleep mattress as the best mattress for side sleepers with back pain because it received a perfect score in our spine alignment test for side sleepers. When you sleep on your side, you want your spine to be in a straight line from your tailbone to the bottom of your neck. This means your body is being appropriately supported, helping to prevent any aches or pains when you wake up.

We also love the Tomorrow Sleep mattress because it helps keep you cool throughout the night and offers a 365-day trial period. This means you have a full year to decide if you want to keep the mattress!

The standard price for a queen mattress is $990, but you can click the link below to get an exclusive Mattress Advisor discount.

See best price for the Tomorrow Sleep

Read our full Tomorrow Sleep review here


4. Best for Combination Sleepers

Casper Wave

Best for Combination Sleepers
  • Casper’s higher-end mattress designed to relieve pressure and provide proper spine alignment for all sleep positions
  • Five-layer support system mirrors the natural shape of your body at 36 specific points for deeper, more restorative sleep
  • Endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association

From morning 1 to morning 100, I woke up with no aches or pains."

Ryan U.
Customer Rating
4.3 / 5
MA Score
8.6 / 10
Firmness

Medium-firm - firm: 7/10

Trial Period

100 days

Why we love it

Casper Wave’s unique design provides optimal ergonomic support by providing varying levels of firmness and push-back at different points in the mattress to form to your natural body shape. This helps to keep the heavier parts of your body, like your hips and shoulder, elevated at just the right levels, helping to contour your body and relieve pressure. The Wave also received an endorsement from the American Chiropractic Association – which is a pretty big deal!

The standard price for a queen Casper Wave is $1,995, but you can click the link below to get an exclusive Mattress Advisor discount.

See best price for the Casper Wave

Read our full Casper Wave review here


5. Best for Active Lifestyles

Bear

Best for Active Lifestyles
  • Bear’s pressure relieving properties, cooling effects and muscle recovery technology make it a great mattress for people who suffer from back pain
  • Its Celliant® fibers reflect infrared light back to the body to promote blood circulation and improved muscle recovery

My bad back has been thanking me ever since."

Jason B.
Customer Rating
4.8 / 5
MA Score
8.6 / 10
Firmness

Medium firm: 6/10

Trial Period

100 days

Why we love it

Bear is a medium-firm gel memory foam mattress designed with materials that promote blood circulation and muscle recovery. Not only are you getting the pressure relieving properties from Bear’s memory foam construction, but you also get the benefit of an open cell structure, which promotes airflow and responsiveness.

Bear’s happy customer base includes a number of professional athletes who sleep on Bear to help their bodies get the rest and recovery they need to perform their best.

The standard price for a queen Bear mattress is $840, but you can click the link below to get an exclusive Mattress Advisor discount.

See best price for the Bear

Read our full Bear mattress review here

Best Mattresses for Back Pain (Runners-Up)


What else can you do to get a better night’s sleep when you suffer from back pain?

Sleeping on the right mattress has the biggest impact on alleviating your back pain, but there are other things you can try that may help reduce your pain even more.

The important thing to remember here is to listen to your body – if something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If your friend with back pain has discovered the perfect sleeping angle/temperature/white-noise/pillow-position combo to reducing back pain, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best one for you. (You should give him/her a big high five though.)

The two things that may help further reduce your back pain are your bed’s foundation and your sleeping position.

YOUR BED’S FOUNDATION

People who suffer from back pain have claimed that sleeping on an adjustable bed frame helps them sleep better at night. Keeping your head and feet elevated can relieve certain pressure points better than lying flat on a mattress. Similar to how you elevate your leg after an injury, elevating these parts of your body can help with blood flow circulation and getting more oxygen to your muscles – both of which can have an impact on reducing pain.

Of the mattresses we’ve reviewed above, Sapira, Purple and Casper all offer adjustable beds. You also reference our bed frame guide for more information.

YOUR SLEEPING POSITION

Sometimes you can’t control your sleeping position – you might unknowingly change positions in the middle of the night or find natural comfort in one position over another. But your sleeping position can also have an effect on your back pain and overall quality of sleep. Here are some tips that might help you alleviate back pain in each sleeping position.

Back sleepers: 

Sleeping on your back is generally considered the best position to help with back pain. If it’s not easy for you to convert to sleeping in this position, placing a pillow underneath your knees can help reduce pressure on your lower back and maintain your spine’s natural curve. For added support, you can roll out a towel and place it under the small of your back.

Side sleepers:

Placing a pillow between your knees can help keep your hips level and your spine in line. Using a thick body pillow can also help alleviate pressure and keep your back in good posture while you sleep. Hugging a body pillow is especially helpful for people who suffer from mid-back pain because it helps to keep your shoulders from caving in.

Stomach sleepers:

Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended for people who suffer from back pain. This position provides your back with the least support and can cause your back to cave in unnaturally.

If it’s hard for you to change positions, placing a pillow under your pelvis can offer you a little more support…however, you should be very careful as this can also cause added strain on your back and neck. Sometimes people who try this method actually find it more comfortable to remove the pillow from under their head. Using a body pillow might also make it easier to convert to a side sleeper, which is at least better than sleeping on your stomach.

In general, stomach sleepers tend to prefer a thin pillow or no pillow at all. This will help reduce the incline in your neck.


Back pain is no fun. The last thing you want is to start your day feeling sore and achy (and probably grumpy) because you didn’t sleep well. Getting a good, uninterrupted night’s sleep can have a huge impact on your overall health, energy levels, and productivity. It can also help improve your back pain symptoms.

Even if your back pain won’t be completely eliminated, you deserve a mattress that’s going to help you feel rested and refreshed. If you suffer from back pain, we’d love to hear about what’s worked for you and how you’ve found comfort while sleeping. Share your tips in the comments below. We’ll count it as your good deed for the day.

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Comments (121)

  1. There are lots of choices out there now. I never realized how much each kind mattress can affect your pain.

  2. Great information! I now know beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s time for a new mattress for us because both my husband and I are having back and other pains.

  3. I won’t even say how old my mattress is, but after reading this information, I know why my back is hurting! Great stuff!

  4. This looks like exactly what I need. I would be so grateful to get rid of my back pain.

  5. This mattress sounds so comfortable I have such back pain when I sleep and this mattress has everything I am looking for I am definitely interested in it thank you for sharing I have been looking for a mattress like this for a long time

  6. Great information. I’ve been trying to research but get so overwhelmed. I already know I have arthritis in my neck and I am actually scheduled for an MRI this week for my back pain. I know it is definitely time for a new mattress but it’s so hard to decide especially when you have back problems

  7. I always wake my boyfriend up in the night when I get up, he wants to start sleeping in separate beds 🙁
    Looks like this mattress is the answer! <3

  8. I love your through reviews and the information you provide! the additional information about where to get the best mattress at the best price is very helpful. So after using the information you thoughtfully provided it is a memory foam mattress! I love the cooling effect as I tend to sleep too warm!

  9. Great, thorough information! I’ve learnt quite a bit. I always used to think the softer the mattress, the better. No wonder I have the aches and pains I do.

  10. Are hybrid mattresses just as good as memory foam mattresses? Alot of great Info though overall . One would think ,time to buy a new mattress easy enough . Not even a little there is so much variety on the market ,research and finding the one that would work the best for you is the major factor

  11. My husband truly needs this.. He’s having to go through neck surgery soon. Thank you SO much for this amazing opportunity.

  12. A lot of good mattress choices on here but I’ve had back pain for years. Hoping to win one that might help support my spine alignment

    • Hey Jeannette. From our interviews with chiropractors, we have learned our mattress will never be 100% of the problem or cure. However, it definitely contributes. If you have suffered from back pain this long, it’s great you are taking a look at your sleeping structure now! Let us know if we can help you further!

  13. I do have degenerative disc disease and am looking for a proper. supportive mattress. The information is extremely informative and helpful in making this decision.

    • Hey Rosanne! We have to talked to chiropractors about learning to change sleeping positions. The verdict is, if we are in the habit of sleeping a certain way, it’s hard to change! But we can make modifications. For instance, you could use your pillows to keep you from turning in your sleep. Hope that helps!

    • Hey Jill! Every sleeper is different and therefore, needs something different in a mattress. Doctors and chiropractors will normally recommend a medium-firm mattress for those with back pain. However, for a mattress to be good for your back, it comes down to support, not just firmness. As long as the bed keeps you from sinking, which causes a pinch point in the lower lumbar spine, you’ll be good. Over time, mattresses lose their shape which causes a sag. This is true of soft and firm mattresses.

  14. There’s a mattress out there that will improve your life. Bottom line, if your mattress isn’t supporting you, it’s affecting you life.

  15. Your mattress sounds great, but how can memory foam support your back? Does the memory foam not allow your back to lay straight so not to give way to your posture?
    @sunshineonme633

  16. Any mattress that would reduce my body pains would be so welcome. Are these good for heavier people though, well one heavy one not and does that weight distribution affect how the mattress feels?

  17. I have terrible restless leg syndrome and tend to sleep on my stomach would this mattress be good for someone like me ? I have a pillowtop mattress now that is pretty comfortable but does not conform to my body well

  18. I think the Leesa would be a great choice for solving my 82 year old mother’s back pain and restless sleep Would love to win this for her

  19. I love the information about memory foam in mattresses as it makes complete sense that this would be the best material to support the contour of your body.

  20. Oh this is what my body needs is a great mattress with failed back surgery and Rheumatoid arthritis I don’t sleep
    Well. Thanks for the info.

  21. I am side sleeper and know I need a firm mattress but what can I do to help with the bursa pain I get in my hip? I’ve tried a foam pad on top of the mattress which helps a little but it also messes up my alignment.

  22. There’s some good information here. Things make sense to be now as to why sleeping on softer mattresses leaves me hurting in the morning.

  23. Thank you for this giveaway….I want to share my feelings with you. There should be more giveaways for mattresses/sleep aids…because sleep is SO VERY IMPORTANT. Mattresses and sleep aids are as important as FOOD and WATER. Again, thank you for sharing information and offering this giveaway.

  24. It’s true what the article says about if you have a bad back a hard mattress is not for you. You’ll wake up like you just slept on rocks or got run over by a car. Something in between not to hard and not to soft.

  25. Thanks for the valuable information. It has helped me know that I really need to evaluate my needs when purchasing the right mattress for me.

  26. I often wake up with a sore back and it has to be from sleeping on a very old mattress. I would like one of these to get a better night’s sleep.

  27. I have a memory foam mattress from a highly known brand and I still wake up with back pain! I love all the tips you gave here!

  28. I didn’t realize why choosing the right mattress effected the back so much. I like that the Leesa supports you no matter which position you sleep in.

  29. Thank you for all of this wonderful information! I am a little confused about my sleep needs..but now I know where to go to find the answers to my questions. Great job!

  30. Wow, this was really helpful. I suffer from back pain and thought a super soft mattress was the way to go. I now see that I probably need a more medium-firm mattress.

  31. I’ve been thinking about getting a new mattress, now I have a better idea of what will help make my back feel better. Thank you!

  32. I’ve always had a hard time finding the right mattress. My wife is short and I am pretty tall. We sleep differently as well. She is either comfortable or I am, not both of us.


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