What is the Best Mattress for Back Pain?
Last Updated September 2023
Back pain is one of the most common health problems, especially for people as they get older. Back pain not only causes discomfort while we’re going about our days, it can disrupt our sleep. Even worse, our beds can be a source of pain while we’re trying to rest our bodies. But here’s the good news: By choosing the right mattress, you can alleviate your back pain and ensure a restful night of sleep.
You may already have a mattress that feels comfortable to you but take a moment to consider its age. Researchers have found that after about nine years, standard mattresses begin to sag and lose their support. If you need relief from back pain or just want to prevent it, you should replace your mattress every 10 years.
You have lots of choices when it comes to mattresses. Here’s what to consider when selecting one to help with your back pain:
Falling asleep in a soft bed may sound appealing but when you spend the night sunk into the bed your body’s natural curves are not supported. For the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your back to relax and recover as you sleep, your mattress needs to keep your spine in alignment.
Steel springs provide the support needed to hold your body in a comfortable position for hours. The trouble is, when you roll over on a bed with springs, it can cause any one you are sleeping with to feel your movement, perhaps waking them up. The industry term for this is “motion transfer.”
In the Saatva Classic mattress, a layer of individually wrapped coils contains movement, and provides extra support in the center of the mattress where most of your body weight lies. The Helix Sunset Elite also has wrapped coils.
Many people with back pain find that sleeping on their side is the most comfortable position. But that can put pressure on your shoulders, hips and knees as your body weight lays on them.
Memory foam mattresses feel plush and they absorb some of your weight as you sleep on your side. Even better, they gradually mold to your body’s unique shape, so they have a “memory” of where you need cushioning most.
There are two foam layers on the Saatva Memory Foam Hybrid, including a gel-infused lumbar crown that gives added support to your lower back. The Nectar Premier mattress has a therapeutic gel memory foam.
The best mattresses for back pain combine the benefits of both coils and memory foam, providing you with support and pressure relief. These hybrid mattresses also minimize the motion transfer that comes with spring-based models and they let air circulate around your body, keeping you cooler while you sleep than the foam-only types do.
The Saatva Latex Hybrid has pocketed coils and a three-inch layer of natural latex that offers buoyant support and allows air flow through its vented channels. The latex layer also has extra support zones in five critical areas to ensure your spine stays in alignment no matter how deeply you sleep. The DreamCloud Premier Hybrid mattress pairs two layers of foam with individually wrapped coils and a transitional layer in between to keep your spine in shape.
People suffering from chronic back pain are often advised to buy the firmest mattress possible, based on the idea that a soft bed provides too little support. A team of independent researchers reviewed all the studies on back pain and mattress types to determine what is best for reducing pain and overall sleep quality. They found that a medium-firm mattress best promotes “comfort, sleep quality and rachis (spinal column) alignment,” according to their report published in the Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology.
Because body types and sizes vary, what’s firm to one person may not feel that way to another. With the Saatva Classic mattress, you can choose “Luxury Firm,” the medium level that works for most people with back pain, “Plush Soft” for smaller and lighter people, and “Firm” for larger people. The Helix Midnight Luxe mattress is a medium-firm mattress that strikes a balance between comfort and support.
If you suffer from back pain, buying a premium-quality mattress is a worthwhile investment in your well-being. But you want to be sure that your money is well-spent. Brands like Saatva and Nectar offer a 365-day trial, so you can try out your selection at home to be sure you have the right one for you. Saatva also delivers its mattresses to you without folding or compressing them into a box, which preserves the integrity of the foam and coils, and ensures the mattress lasts for years.