Best Mattresses for Back Pain
Jun 14th, 2022 •
Expert Insights from Dr. Navin Ramchandani, MD, a Medical Diagnostician and Owner of R&R Medical Centre in Barbados and from Dr. Sandy Baird, DC, the founder of Riverstone Chiropractic in Oakland, CA.
If you experience back pain, you’ll want a mattress with superior spinal alignment that also offers pressure relief and ideally, firmness. “By sleeping on a mattress that provides excellent spine alignment and pressure relief, you can protect your back and avoid further pain,” says Dr. Navin Ramchandani.
In this guide, you’ll find eight top-rated mattresses that fulfill these requirements for different kinds of sleepers. We’ll also share advice on how to choose the best mattress for back pain.
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Best Mattresses for Back Pain
- The WinkBed – Best Firm Mattress
- Helix Dusk – Best Budget Mattress
- DreamCloud – Best Mattress for Side Sleepers
- Nectar – Best Mattress for Couples
- Loom & Leaf – Best Mattress for Heavy People
- Brooklyn Sedona Hybrid – Best Mattress for Hot Sleepers
- Puffy – Best Mattress for Combination Sleepers
- Nolah Original 10″ – Best Mattress for Spine Alignment
Keep in mind that everyone is different, and back pain is personal. “Back pain can vary from person to person, which is why it’s important to find a mattress that offers the right amount of support and comfort depending on the placement and severity of your pain,” says Dr. Ramchandani.
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.
WinkBeds Luxury Firm
Best Firm Mattress
- Stomach sleepers
- Back sleepers
- Those who get hot at night
Medium firm: 6/10
With four firmness levels to choose from, the WinkBed is an outstanding customizable mattress for those with back pain. You can choose the firmness level that matches your sleeping position, and heavy people can choose the ultra-firm Plus option.
In between layers of micro-coils and pocketed coils is a lumbar support pad, a plus for those with back pain. These layers work together to support the entire body without sacrificing soft pressure relief under the hips and shoulders.
We did score WinkBeds somewhat lower for motion isolation. Therefore, we recommend couples consider other mattresses with more foam layers or elements to absorb motion.
Read our full WinkBeds mattress review.
Best Budget Mattress
- Budget shoppers
- Edge support
If your back and your budget can both be described as tight, the Helix Dusk mattress could offer some relief on both fronts. Regular price for a queen size is less than $1,100, which could turn out to be a modest investment for a mattress with exceptional pressure-relieving qualities.
The Helix Dusk scores 9/10 in two testing categories that are critical for people with back pain: pressure relief and spine alignment. Spine alignment helps keep you in a healthy, neutral line during sleep, and pressure-relieving qualities are good for both upper and lower back pain.
The Helix Dusk might not be firm enough for people who weigh more than 230 pounds. For a foam-innerspring hybrid, its cooling capabilities are just average.
Read our full Helix Dusk mattress review.
Best for Side Sleepers
- People who sleep on their side
- Hot sleepers
Keeping your spine in a neutral alignment while sleeping on your side can be tricky, especially when you add back pain to the mix, but the DreamCloud mattress could help you meet the challenge. The foam/innerspring hybrid earns a 9/10 score for spine alignment in Mattress Advisor testing.
The DreamCloud performs almost as well in pressure relief as it does in spine alignment, with an 8.75/10 score. Pressure relief helps keep your hips, neck and shoulders gently cushioned, so this mattress is a good choice if you have lower back pain, upper back pain, or both.
The price (nearly $1,200 for a queen size) might be a turn-off for shoppers with a strict budget. With a 6.5/10 firmness level, the mattress might be too firm for people under 130 pounds.
Read our full DreamCloud mattress review.
Best Mattress for Couples
- Couples and co-sleepers
- Most sleeping positions
- Lifetime warranty
People who have back pain in common along with a shared mattress could find relief and more restful nights with the Nectar. The gel memory foam mattress does well at isolating the ripple effect of movement, whether it’s generated by your sleep partner, your children, or your pet.
The Nectar scores 8.5/10 for motion transfer in Mattress Advisor testing, a key factor for couples mattresses. An identical 8.5/10 score for pressure relief is a good sign for back pain sufferers, including people with upper back pain around their shoulders and neck.
A 7.75/10 score for cooling makes the Nectar less than ideal for sleepers prone to overheating. Nectar’s 7.5/10 spine alignment score could be a red flag for stomach sleepers.
Read our full Nectar mattress review.
Loom & Leaf
Best Mattress for Heavy People
- Side sleepers
- Heavier people
- Memory foam shoppers
Relaxed firm: 6/10; Firm: 8/10
The Loom & Leaf by Saatva strikes a balance between pressure-relieving memory foam and the support needed for heavier people. Crucial to preventing back pain is having a mattress that provides proper spinal alignment—the Loom & Leaf scored almost perfectly in our testing.
As a memory foam mattress, the Loom & Leaf construction features high-density foam and cooling gel-infused foam. High-density foam is more durable than traditional foam and can support larger frames.
Despite a strong 9/10 score for spine alignment, the Loom & Leaf’s 7/10 pressure relief score could be a red flag if you have upper back pain in the neck or shoulders. This mattress also comes up short in edge support.
Read our full Loom & Leaf mattress review.
Best for Hot Sleepers
- People who overheat during sleep
- Restless sleepers
- Combination sleepers
For help with the uncomfortable combination of back pain and night sweats, consider the Brooklyn Sedona Hybrid. The foam/innerspring hybrid has pressure-relieving qualities and multiple cooling layers that should make it easier for you to keep pain at bay and temperature in check.
This Brooklyn Bedding hybrid earns a cooling score of 9/10, a hallmark of great mattresses for hot sleepers. Solid scores in pressure relief (8.75/10) and spine alignment (8/10) are promising signs for people with back pain, whether it’s in the lower back or upper back.
The $2,399 regular price for a queen-size might make budget shoppers hesitate. Setting up and moving the heavy, seven-layer hybrid could be a chore, even for two people.
Read our full Brooklyn Sedona Hybrid review.
Best Mattress for Combination Sleepers
- People who change sleep positions
- Restless sleepers
- Consistent pressure relief
Changing sleep positions when you suffer from back pain can be a jarring experience, but the Puffy mattress has qualities that can help. It’s highly responsive to movement (9/10 responsiveness score), a big plus for combination sleepers, and its ClimateComfort layer is designed to provide consistent pressure relief.
The three foam layers are hypoallergenic and have the cloud-like feel that Puffy is known for. When it comes to addressing back pain, the Puffy has solid scores for pressure relief (8/10) and spine alignment (8.75/10).
If you’re a hot sleeper, the Puffy’s foam layers may not have enough airflow to keep you cool. Consider a hybrid or innerspring mattress with a coil construction. Its durability also may not be what you are looking for—we scored it an 8/10, which isn’t bad but could be better.
Read our full Puffy mattress review.
Best Mattress for Spine Alignment
- Neutral spine alignment
- Combination sleepers
- Edge support
Medium firm: 5 - 6 /10
Keeping your spine in a healthy, neutral alignment during sleep is essential for alleviating back pain, which could make the Nolah Original 10″ an essential part of your bedroom. The all-foam Nolah mattress earns a near-perfect score for spine alignment in the Mattress Advisor sleep lab.
Support and contouring help the Nolah earn 9.5/10 for spine alignment, one of the highest scores we’ve seen. People with back pain can also appreciate the 9.25/10 responsiveness score, which illustrates how easily the mattress responds to your movements.
The Nolah doesn’t have a great score for pressure relief (7.25/10), which could be problematic for people needing extended bed rest. Its 7/10 durability score isn’t exactly impressive.
Read our full Nolah Original 10″ mattress review.
Shopping for a mattress isn’t easy, especially when you have particular needs you have to meet. Here at Mattress Advisor, we’ve spent countless hours researching, testing, and learning about mattresses so that we can make this experience easier on you. In this buying guide, we’ll share:
- How Back Pain Affects Sleep
- Can a Mattress Cause Back Pain?
- What to Look for in a Mattress for Back Pain
- Tips for Sleeping with Back Pain
According to a 2019 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics, 39% of American adults reported experiencing back pain in the past three months. This widespread health issue impacts your day-to-day routine, activity level, and of course, your sleep.
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. Understanding the relationship between back pain, sleep, and your mattress is essential to addressing the problems that are keeping you from getting a good night’s sleep.
Back pain often causes disruptions during your sleep cycle (known as fragmented sleep). This can lead to stress and anxiety surrounding sleep, which further exacerbates the impact of back pain. You can begin by learning about lower back pain, upper back pain, and the difference between acute pain and chronic pain.
Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain manifests itself in the area between the bottom of the ribcage and the top of the legs, sometimes called the lumbar region. The muscles in this area are called upon to do many things, including supporting the weight of the upper body and flexing the hips as you walk. It’s also home to nerves connected to the hips, legs, and feet.
One common source of lower back pain is sciatica, which results from pressure on the sciatic nerve due to things like herniated disks or muscle spasms. Sciatica can lead to inflammation and pain on one side of your lower body, sometimes radiating down to the leg and causing numbness, all of which make sleeping with sciatica a challenge.
Related: Best Mattresses for Sciatica
Upper Back Pain
Pain in the area between the base of the neck and the bottom of the ribcage is classified as upper back pain. Frequent causes include injuries affecting muscles and ligaments, pinched nerves, and herniated disks. Bad posture is also cited as a contributor.
In most cases, treating upper back pain is more straightforward than treating lower back pain. Stretching exercises and anti-inflammatory medications frequently do the trick. However, serious upper back problems can still cause debilitating pain that disrupts normal sleep patterns.
Acute Pain vs. Chronic Pain
Pain in your upper or lower back that lasts less than four weeks is classified as acute back pain. You’ll wake up more refreshed if your muscles and joints in both areas are appropriately supported and relaxed while you’re sleeping.
Think about it this way: When you’re standing up, your body is applying pressure to your spinal cord (because of the natural forces of 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.
Chronic back pain is defined as having back pain that persists for months, often a result of accident or injury. Sleep posture and pressure relief are a little more crucial with this type of back pain, as your back will have to endure longer periods of aches, pains, and soreness than with acute back pain.
Related: Best Mattresses for Hip Pain
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. It can also lead to joint inflammation in the areas that bear the stress of misalignment.
Long story short: Sleeping on the wrong mattress leads to pain, discomfort, and can increase your chances of developing a chronic back problem.
There’s a lot of lingo in the mattress world that you may not have a full grasp of. We’ll help you decipher what it all means and what key factors you should be keeping an eye on when looking for a mattress well-suited for someone with back pain.
The Type of Mattress
The type of mattress you choose is one of the most important decisions you can make. There are traditional innersprings, memory foam, latex, and hybrid mixes of all these materials available. So, where do you start? First, you should know how each material will affect or help soothe your back pain.
- Memory foam mattresses usually do an excellent job of relieving pressure at the pain points, keeping your spine aligned, and cradling your body for comfort and support. Memory foam material also helps to evenly distribute your body weight across the surface of the bed, so you won’t have to deal with uneven pressure. When you compare memory foam to a traditional innerspring mattress, this material will stand the test of time better and hold its shape.
- Latex mattresses offer similar benefits to memory foam when it comes to pressure relief and motion isolation. What latex makes up for that memory foam lacks is that latex foam is naturally cooling and buoyant. A latex mattress would be a good pick for back pain if you are a hot sleeper who prefers to sleep on top of your mattress rather than sink into it.
- Hybrid mattresses combine different mattress materials in layers. A hybrid bed could feature any combination of spring, foam, and latex layers. Because there are so many combination options, hybrid mattresses work for nearly every type of sleeper, depending on materials. As long as the hybrid mattress of your choice offers proper spinal alignment, pressure point relief, and medium-firmness it should work for your back pain.
- Innerspring mattresses typically feature a layer of coil springs as the core of the mattress, surrounded by foam cushioning. You probably want to stay away from all-innerspring mattresses if you really want to give your back the support it needs. Innerspring beds won’t cradle your body as well as memory foam and won’t have the same pressure-relieving properties.
Is a firm mattress better for back pain? Interestingly enough, the answer is both yes and no. More specifically, you may have heard that sleeping on a rock-hard mattress is best for your back pain. The reality isn’t that simple.
A mattress that’s 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. Too little firmness can be as problematic as too much firmness. Super-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.
While everyone’s preference is going to differ, people who suffer from back pain generally prefer a medium-firm to firm mattress—about 6/10 to 8/10 on the mattress firmness scale.
Spine alignment plays a crucial role in whether or not you wake up feeling refreshed or wake up with a sore back. A spine that isn’t aligned correctly can lead to muscle strain, pressure, headaches, and daytime fatigue. Make sure that mattress you choose allows your spine to maintain its natural curve all night for a pain-free sleep and a groggy-free morning.
A mattress that doesn’t offer adequate pressure relief can lead to soreness and joint inflammation in pressure-sensitive areas, including the hips. Mattresses with pressure-relieving material (such as memory foam) will contour your back like a hug rather than push into it, relieving undue pressure.
A cooling mattress is important for people with back pain, even if you’re not a hot sleeper. Particularly for those dealing with any type of pain, being able to get decent airflow while you sleep helps improve how much oxygen your body gets, which is key for getting restorative sleep so your muscles and joints can heal and restore.
Hybrid mattresses generally offer the best combination—you get the natural cooling structure from innerspring coils topped with comfortable foam. Look for the foam on these top comfort layers to be infused with gel or copper to get the most cooling abilities. Temperature regulating or temperature neutral mattresses also work well for keeping you cool.
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 reduce back pain, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be the best one for you.
The three things that may help further reduce your back pain are your bed’s foundation, your sleeping position, and extra mattress accessories.
Pick the Best Mattress 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.
You can also see our mattress foundation guide for more information.
Correct Your Sleeping Position (or Make Some Adjustments)
If you have back pain, there are two sleeping positions that might benefit you. Dr. Sandy Baird, DC says, “If you are dealing with back pain, the two safest sleeping positions are on your back (with a cervical support pillow under your neck and a larger pillow underneath your knees) and side-lying (with enough pillow support under your head to keep your head in line with the rest of your spine and a smaller pillow between your knees.”
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 sleep position.
- Back sleepers—Since back sleeping is generally considered the ideal position to address back pain, the good news is that back sleepers don’t have many adjustments to make. 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.
Related: Best Mattresses for Back Sleepers
- Side sleepers—Placing a pillow between your knees can help side sleepers keep their hips level and their spine in a neutral alignment. 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 bowing inward.
Related: Best Mattresses for Side Sleepers
- Stomach sleepers—In addition to being the least healthy position overall, sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended for people who suffer from back pain. This position provides the least support and can cause your back to curve unnaturally. Placing a pillow under your pelvis can provide a little more support. Use a thin pillow, or no pillow at all, to reduce the incline in your neck.
Related: Best Mattresses for Stomach Sleepers
Use the Right Mattress Accessories
- Mattress toppers—Mattress toppers can provide an added comfort layer, and some are even particularly well-suited for sleepers with back pain. The best mattress toppers for back pain are often made from memory foam or latex thanks to their reputation for pressure relief and contouring. If you need back pain relief, but don’t want to invest in a new mattress, a mattress topper is the next best option.
- Pillows—A pillow for back pain can play a crucial role in your comfort and spine alignment. It’s important that you find one that works for your sleeping position to keep your body in proper alignment. The best pillows for stomach sleepers tend to be flat. Side sleeper pillows have a higher loft to keep your neck in line, and back sleeper pillows have a medium loft for the neck to curve with the spine.
A Closer Look at Our Selection Process
In choosing our best mattresses for back pain, we use a scoring system that measures spine alignment, pressure relief, firmness, and features like support zones. Here’s a look at how our top picks stack up:
|Mattress||Average Score (Out of 10) for Spine Alignment, Pressure Relief, Firmness, and Support Features|
|Loom & Leaf||8.0|
|Brooklyn Sedona Hybrid||8.3|
|Nolah Original 10″||8.2|
Note: The testing categories we focus on in this chart don’t reflect overall performance. Depending on your needs and preferences, you might put more or less value on particular qualities.
Is a firm mattress better for your back?
The answer depends on how firm. Harvard Health Publishing cites a survey of people with lower back pain that found that those who slept on what’s known as an orthopedic mattress (which are usually firm or extra-firm) had the poorest sleep quality.
Most people with back pain should sleep comfortably on a mattress with a firmness level in the 5.5/10 to 7.5/10 range. If you’re under a physician’s care for back problems, make sure to ask which firmness is best for you.
What's a good mattress for upper back pain?
Upper back pain typically affects the area around the shoulders and neck. Causes include excess pressure on nerves, which makes a mattress with excellent pressure relief an especially good choice if you have pain in your upper back.
For the purposes of this page, we’ll define “excellent” as a pressure relief score above 8.5. Mattresses in this roundup that make the cut include:
Can an old mattress cause back pain?
Yes. Even the best mattress materials degrade over time and become less supportive, which puts extra strain on your back and other pressure-sensitive areas. The problem can be more pronounced for people who have back pain, since their muscles and joints will have a harder time compensating for a loss of support.
Start keeping a close eye on your mattress once you’ve had it for five years or so. If you notice more pain when you’re in bed and when you first wake up, it could be time to get a new mattress.
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