Best Mattress for Back Pain
If you’ve wound up on this page, chances are you’re looking for a mattress to help relieve your upper or lower back pain. Trust me when I say I know how difficult this search can be — so often beds that promise deep pressure relief don’t deliver or are too expensive or are so focused on relief they ditch other features you might otherwise enjoy.
So, how can you find the bed that’s going to be 100% right for your needs? Simple! All you have to do is check out my top mattress picks for back pain. They run the gamut from affordable to luxurious, from firm to soft, and are sure to give you plenty of options to mull over while you make your decision.
Best Mattress for Upper and Lower Back Pain of 2021
How I Picked These Mattresses
As with all my “Best Of” round-ups, I like to start things off by acknowledging that these selections are based on my personal preference. While I’m bringing my expert knowledge of materials and bed construction to the table, I’m naturally swayed by my own experiences on each of these models, specifically in concerns to how they relieved discomfort at my upper back and lumbar region.
Best Innerspring Mattress
If you prefer the solid build of a traditional innerspring bed, give the Saatva look. It utilizes a coil-on-coil structure to provide impressive bounce and support. That support could be just the ticket for folks who are looking to avoid back pain by maintaining neutral spine alignment. IT also helps to keep sleepers positioned on top of the structure to avoid any sort of stuck-in-the-bed feeling.
The innerspring Saatva comes in three firmness levels: Plush Soft, Luxury Firm (which has a medium firm feel), and Firm. The Soft version will probably work best for side sleepers, who need plenty of pressure relief at the shoulders and hips. The Luxury Firm is likely most ideal for combo sleepers, who need a balance of support and pressure relief in multiple positions. And the Firm version should work wonders for back and stomach sleepers, who need higher levels of support.
Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain
If you wake up with lower back pain in the mornings, the Helix Midnight is a great option for almost every type of sleeper. The reason this mattress took the industry by storm was due to its ability to support and comfort side sleepers. It can be a tricky position to feel comfortable in, especially if you struggle with back pain, but the Midnight works with your body to cradle where needed and support where necessary.
If you sleep with a partner, the Helix Midnight is a great option, because you can sleep pretty soundly no matter how much your partner or pet is moving around on the other side. This mattress also allows you to use the entire surface of the bed without the edges depressing at all.
Best Mattress for Upper Back Pain
If you’re a back sleeper who suffers from back pain, you’ll want a pressure-relieving but firm mattress that’ll fill in the space in your lumbar region while setting your hips and shoulders in a nice, even line. There are several beds that serve this need, but my absolute favorite has got to be the Original Leesa mattress.
This bed features a straightforward, three-layer design of responsive poly foam, cushiony memory foam, and sturdy high-density poly foam. Its balanced construction, which provides plenty of lift and give. This is a good thing for back sleepers, as it positions the spine in a neutral alignment while also alleviating tension at the shoulders and lower back. All in all, it’s a solid option for folks looking to soothe aches and pains.
Best Mattress for Side Sleepers with Back Pain
Finding the right mattress for your sleep preferences can be the first step in avoiding back pain. The Layla could help because it’s built with memory foam, which is great at relieving pressure at trouble spots for side sleepers like the shoulders and the hips. Because it allows you to sink into bed a bit more, the Layla really helps with side sleeping spinal alignment.
The Layla is a flippable mattress, so you get two firmnesses in one. The firmer side is around a 6.5 out of 10 on the firmness scale, or right around medium firm. This firmness could be ideal for combo or back sleepers, because it should provide enough support to keep the spine aligned in multiple positions. The softer side is more like a 5 or 5.5 out of 10. This should appeal to side sleepers, who need more pressure relief at their shoulders and hips. And while memory foam beds are sometimes known for trapping heat, the copper infusion in the memory foam helps draw heat away from sleepers’ bodies. So if you love memory foam, share a bed, and want to avoid back pain, consider the Layla.
Best Memory Foam Mattress
If you think serious pressure relief could be the answer to your back issues, then consider the Nectar mattress. This all-foam, bed-in-a-box mattress features a whopping 5” of memory foam in its comfort layer. All that foam provides plenty of body-contouring and pressure relief and lets sleepers sink deeply into the mattress. This could be great for side sleepers who need plenty of cushion around the shoulder and hip.
Lest you be concerned that all that pressure relief won’t provide enough support, I personally found that the Nectar helped maintain proper side sleeping spinal alignment. Meanwhile, the thick memory foam layers do a great job of cutting down on motion isolation — so this could be a nice choice for partners who don’t want to disturb each other during the night.
Best Mattress for Back and Neck Pain
Those who want both an online mattress and a firm, bouncy bed might want to consider the WinkBed. This hybrid bed-in-a-box mattress features a pillow top with super-soft foams on top of a coil-on-coil structure to provide plenty of bounce and support. These coils also create a sturdier feel than you’ll find from a lot of online mattresses.
The WInkBed comes in three different support levels: Soft, Medium Firm, and Firm. The brand also makes a Plus version specifically designed to support heavier folks. No matter the firmness level, each WinkBed model features zoned support to help promote healthy spinal alignment. This support system is firmer around the hips (to ensure they stay elevated and aligned with the spine), and softer around the shoulders (to allow for some body-contouring and pressure relief). And thanks to the Tencel cover and gel infusions in the memory foam, the WinkBed also does a decent job of sleeping cool.
Best Foam Mattress for Back Pain
Idle Sleep Gel Foam
If you like the feeling of a mattress giving you a little hug when you fall asleep, but still gives you the support you need to wake up without aches and pains, you’ll likely love the Idle Sleep Gel Foam mattress. Thicker and more plush than most all-foam beds, it is easy to think you would be swallowed by this mattress, but there is a layer of buoyancy foam that provides bounce and support.
This is a great mattress for couples, since it is all foam it will isolate motion well, meaning if your partner tosses and turns throughout the night you won’t feel too much of the movement. However, since it also has gel foam, it is easier to move around on making it ideal for those who switch positions while they sleep. It is very easy to get comfortable on this mattress, so no matter your preferences I think you’ll wake up happy on the Idle Gel Foam.
Best Mattress for Shoulder Pain
Casper features a zoned support system that can help folks suffering from shoulder pain find relief. Like hip pain, shoulder pain often goes hand-in-hand with back pain. If a mattress is too firm, side sleepers can feel jammed up around their shoulders, which can throw the spine out of alignment. A soft mattress can help, but sometimes these beds don’t offer enough overall support for the spine. That’s where Casper’s zoned support comes in: It’s softer at the shoulders and firmer at the hips, meaning it’s designed to simultaneously ease shoulder pain and maintain proper spinal alignment.
In addition to this zoned support system, Casper features a medium feel that should appeal to back and side sleepers or combo sleepers who switch between their back and side. (That’s because all of these sleepers tend to feel best on a mattress that balances support and pressure relief.) It also uses open-celled foam in the comfort layer to help promote air flow and defend against heat trap.
Best Mattress for Hip Pain
For side sleepers, hip pain and back pain often go hand in hand, and the Nolah Signature might be able to help. A common complaint among side sleepers is that they experience hip pain from sleeping on a too-firm mattress — and that hip pain can contribute to back pain. Luckily, this shouldn’t be an issue on the plush Nolah Signature. The soft, tall mattress allows sleepers to sink deeply into its foam layers to enjoy plenty of pressure relief. While the Nolah Signature is flippable (with one side being firmer than the other), folks suffering from hip pain will probably feel best on the softer side.
Both sides of the Nolah Signature utilize Nolah’s signature AirFoam, a proprietary memory foam substitute. Like memory foam, AirFoam allows plenty of sinkage, body contouring, and pressure relief. At the same time, it’s more open-celled than conventional memory foam, which makes it a little more breathable and helps this mattress sleep a little cooler. All in all, this should be a comfortable option for folks who are suffering from hip and back pain.
A Note from Dr. Poorbaugh
Before we dive in, I thought it’d be best to begin with a definition from Dr. Poorbaugh about what chronic back pain actually means.
“Most of the research is geared toward Chronic Low Back Pain,” he explained. “The traditional method of assigning the label of ‘chronic’ was simply time dependent — if someone had LBP for more than three months, their condition was designated as being chronic.”
However, Dr. Poorbaugh says this is no longer the case, as research has begun to use functional brain imaging (as well as detailed assessments of depression and mood) to illustrate that “chronic” is not necessarily a time dependent label.
“The main determinant of CLBP (chronic lower back pain) is a process known as central sensitization,” he clarified. “This means the central nervous system has lost its ability to dampen or control peripheral stimuli i.e. information from muscles, joints, and nerves.”
Can Sleep Help with Chronic Pain?
Now that we’ve gone over my picks, I want to take a second to talk about the purpose of this guide. While it may seem like the focus is on finding a mattress that’ll allow you to fall asleep with pain, it’s actually about finding the bed that’s going to help you use sleep to actively deal with said pain.
“Sleep is very important for restoring balance to the nervous system and improving coping strategies for pain,” Dr. Poorbaugh told me. “Normally our central nervous system is downplaying or ignoring stimuli from multiple sources simply because the information is not important. A person with chronic pain, however, loses this important dampening ability, so many activities that were once well-tolerated now become pain-provoking.”
Poorbaugh went on to cite a recent study, which showed that poor sleep patterns were directly related to higher rates of pain, poor mood, increased pain catastrophizing, and overall reduced physical function.
So what can be done? In order to get the kind of sleep you need to help deal with your chronic pain, consider three main factors when picking a mattress: support, firmness, and pressure relief.
As you likely noticed throughout the guide, sound support is going to be super important for those who suffer with chronic back pain. I should note that support and firmness are not the same — you can have a soft mattress that’s ultra-supportive and a firm one that doesn’t support the body at all. Adequate support is all about how a mattress works to keep the spine in a neutral alignment, while also remaining comfortable.
When shopping for a mattress, keep an eye out for the following things:
- Zoned Support – As we briefly discussed up top, mattresses with Zoned Support are designed to target different parts of the body in different ways, with softer foams at the shoulders and firmer ones at the hips. This helps to encourage a healthy body line and promote relief.
- Balanced Foam – Beds built with several different types of foam (latex, memory foam, and high-density poly foam) are going to offer the best support for back pain sufferers. This balanced approach combines lift with pressure relief for a well-rounded feel.
FAQQ: Can a firm mattress cause lower back pain?A: It really depends on one’s preferred sleeping position! Side sleepers will likely find that a firm mattress compounds their lower back pain (these folks tend to go for softer beds) while stomach sleepers are likely to find a firm mattress actually helps with their back pain as the extra support lifts their spine into a neutral alignment.
Since we started the firmness conversation above, let’s go ahead and wrap it up here. Firmer mattresses tend to “float” the sleeper more on top of the sleeping surface whereas softer beds allow the sleepers to sink in for deep pressure relief.
The best mattress for back sleepers is in the medium to slightly firm range, meaning about a 5-7 out of 10 on the firmness scale (where 10 is the most firm). This medium level of firmness strikes an ideal balance of necessary push-back type support, while still remaining soft enough to offer comfort and remove pressure points on the sleeper.
“There is some evidence to suggest that a firm mattress is more beneficial to reduce pain among people experiencing CLBP,” said Dr. Poorbaugh. “However, it’s likely that any change in back pain is more related to improved sleep patterns than any actual physical changes to the lumbar spine.”
Poorbaugh’s views line up with a 2010 study, which revealed that replacing mattresses based on sleeping position (i.e. selecting beds for side, back, and stomach sleepers) helped to reduce pain and discomfort in subjects. Long story short, finding the right firmness can do wonders for a sleeper with specific needs.
FAQQ: What mattress firmness is best for back pain?A: Typically, back pain sufferers will want to opt for something in the 5-7 range on the firmness scale (with 1 being the softest and 10 the firmest). This medium firm feel is likely to both soothe aches at the lumbar region and provided much needed support at the hips.
And finally, let’s take a moment to chat pressure relief. More than other sleepers, those who struggle with chronic pain need to find a mattress that’ll actively alleviate tension at sensitive spots along the body, especially at the lumbar region and shoulders.
Typically, pressure points form when there’s more push back focused on a specific area, which tends to cause misalignment at the spine. As your body moves out of alignment, more pressure is placed on the back, which can lead to frustrating pains throughout the torso.
Therefore, it’s important to make sure you’re not sleeping on a mattress that places pressure on any of your major joints. By doing so, your body is able to enter a relaxed state and the chance of pressure points forming along the spine and lower back are diminished.
When looking for a mattress with fantastic pressure relief, keep an eye out for the following things:
- Memory foam – While too much memory foam can lead to spinal misalignment caused by dramatic sinkage, a touch of the material can do a lot to soothe achy joints as the foam gently conforms to these areas.
- Hip Support – As we discussed in the support section, finding a mattress that features a bit of lift at the hips can be a boon for back pain sufferers who need cozy relief, but also optimized spinal alignment.
FAQQ: Is a memory foam mattress good for back pain?A: Memory foam has a slow response to pressure, so allows the sleeper to sink in for some satisfying contouring at the shoulders and hips. This helps to alleviate tension at these sensitive spots and can bring some much needed relief to the upper and lower back.
Tips and Tricks for Sleeping with Pain
To wrap up this guide, I want to share some tips and tricks for sleeping with chronic pain. Unfortunately, there’s no magical solution for alleviating physical suffering, but there are some slight modifications you can make to get the journey started. I should note that not all pain sufferers will be able to implement all these strategies, nor should they — we’re all different, and so our paths toward healing will be different, too.
“I always recommend that my clients see the big picture,” Dr. Poorbaugh stated. “When it comes to pain, we have two options: We can seek a fix or a heal. The path to less pain is quite different depending on your choice, but each option has three pillars of management with very little overlap.”
While the “fix” typically involves medication and surgery, the “heal” focuses on three main tenets: nutrition, sleep, and movement.
A well-balanced diet has been shown to lead to better sleep, which can help to alleviate stress and pain. Reducing caffeine and sugar intake are great first steps to take toward modifying one’s diet for optimized slumber.
As we’ve mentioned throughout this guide, it’s tantamount for pain sufferers to get enough sleep. Sleep is one of the biggest and most influential factors affecting stress levels, so it’s vital to allocate enough time to fully rest and recover each night. You can start by choosing a set bedtime and then working toward establishing a consistent nighttime routine.
Exercise is another crucial piece of the pain-free puzzle. Low-impact workouts can help with mobility, which can then lead to better spinal alignment. Regular exercise has also been regularly linked to improved sleep, so figuring out a consistent workout could do a lot for the quality of your Zzz’s.
At the end of the day, a new mattress isn’t going to solve your back pain woes anymore than a strict diet will. More than anything, it’s about a lifestyle shift in which you combine these different factors together to create a plan specific to your needs.
Maybe your ideal routine will involve a healthy amount of fatty fish, long morning walks, and a bed featuring Zoned Support at the hips. For another sleeper, it may entail vigorous spin classes, more greens, and a plush memory foam mattress for pressure relief at the upper back.
As always, any major life decisions should be made in consult with a medical professional. The information provided in this guide is just that: Information. We’re not doctors nor claim to be, so highly encourage those with chronic pain to seek professional advice for any and all serious health issues.