Which mattress for back pain – soft, medium or firm? Or coil, pocketed coil, memory foam, polyfoam, gel, latex, hybrid, pillowtop, water, air or organic? Or a combination of those? What mattress is best when you suffer from back problems?
If you ask ten different people, you will get ten different answers. Why? Because there is no single answer to this question as it depends.
Back pain is a very widespread problem in our modern society caused by the way we live nowadays – we sit a lot, often in an incorrect posture, may not get enough exercise or do the wrong type of exercise aggravating existing back problems, and quite often, our spine doesn’t get the rest it needs at night as we might not have the right mattress. But what is right for our spine?
We may suffer from the same type of back pain, but we are all individuals with different lifestyles, habits and needs. This is as true for our daytime activities, as it is for when we sleep. Some people sleep on their back or on their front, others on their side or change from one to another sleeping position.
Also, we are of different builds, weights and heights, so, it’s clear that there can’t be this one miracle mattress solution that solves everybody’s back issues.
What you need to consider when choosing your mattress
You often hear the general advice that when you suffer from back pain, you should go for a mattress that’s on the firm side and avoid soft ones as they don’t offer enough support. However, unfortunately, it’s not quite as straightforward.
For example, if you spend a lot of time sleeping on your side, you are better off with a mattress that gives way and isn’t too firm, so your pelvis and shoulders can comfortably sink into the mattress and your mattress align with your spine; otherwise your back pain will get worse. But if you mainly sleep on your back or front, you will need more support and a firmer mattress will be recommendable.
The same is true, if you are on the heavier side as, generally, weight needs adequate support which a firm mattress can offer.
However, a mattress that is too firm will result in too much movement and thus restlessness at night while a mattress that is too soft will not support your spine sufficiently also leading to unrestful sleep as the vertebrae can’t fully relax.
Another thing to be aware of is the fact that there is no official firmness rating for mattresses, so each manufacturer classifies their products into their own firmness categories. This means that a medium firm mattress from one manufacturer may have a similar firmness as the soft or firm one of another brand.
It is always recommendable to try a few mattresses in a showroom, so you get a rough idea of how the firmness of one brand compares to another.
Many of the bigger bed specialists also offer sophisticated looking machines that analyse your sleeping or lying position and come up with mattress recommendations. However, according to my experience, they are a bit hit and miss and not always that accurate, so, you are generally better off relying on your own judgement.
Which type of mattress is best for back pain?
With all the different types of mattresses on the market ranging from the old favourite inner spring options through to advanced foam mattresses, it is hard to know which one to choose.
Ultimately, what’s best for you depends on your individual requirements – your back condition, your sleeping position as well as your weight.
Here are the top types of mattress material for back pain sufferers:
- Memory Foam: Mattresses made of memory foam are generally regarded as the best choice for people with a bad back as they are very responsive, align to your spine and relieve pressure points resulting in back pain relief and comfort. They are available in various degrees of firmness so there is one for every need. For a firm mattress with optimum support, a density of 5 PCF (pounds per cubic foot) is recommended. If you are a side sleeper, a 4 PCF one would be best. Anything less than 4 PCF should be avoided if you suffer from back pain.
- Innerspring: These mattresses employ a pocket spring and coil system and may contain hundreds or thousands of individually wrapped coils. They also come in various degrees of firmness and are a good choice for heavier people. There are orthopaedic versions available offering full-body support. Compared to the memory foam mattresses, they tend to be less responsive and don’t align to the spine quite as well but offer great support, depending on the number of springs contained. Generally, go for a mattress with 1,000-2,000 springs and choose one with over 2,000 springs if you weigh over 400 pounds.
- Latex: Mattresses made of Latex are a great choice for back pain sufferers as they are even more responsive than memory foam mattresses and come with the additional advantage of providing a cooling effect. Being rather spongy, they offer a high degree of pressure relief although they may be a bit weaker on contouring. They are a premium option with the disadvantage that they are generally more costly than their counterparts.
Best budget luxury memory foam mattress for back pain
Sweetnight’s 12 inch Gel Memory Foam mattress is a great choice for those who want a luxury mattress for back pain relief but have a limited budget. It incorporates a 3-layer all-foam system providing superior pressure point relief, spinal alignment and heat dissipation.
Comprising a high-density foam base, an air-flow comfort foam middle layer and a gel memory foam top layer, this medium firm mattress is suitable for all sleeping positions offering strong support and soft cloud-like comfort.
Also, it is CertiPUR-US certified so you can be assured that there are no harmful substances in the foam, such as formaldehyde or mercury. In addition, it comes with a 10-year warranty for extra protection.
If you suffer from back pain and are looking for the best luxury memory foam option in the mid-price range, you may find this Sweetnight mattress a good fit.
Best innerspring mattress for back pain
The Spectra Orthopedic Pocket Coils mattress contains over 1800 pocketed coils providing firm support for your shoulders, hip and back to ensure proper alignment of your spine.
Being double-sided, it can be flipped over giving you the option to remove body impressions and prolonging the life of the mattress.
Thanks to its tighter coils resulting in a firm surface, the mattress reacts well to pressure and compresses less than a foam mattress which is ideal for heavier individuals and those sleeping on their back or front suffering from back problems.
Made in the USA, it is not only Certi-PUR but also Oeko-Tex 100 certified and comes with a 10-year warranty giving you extra peace of mind.
If you are looking for a firm and comfortable mattress that offers maximum support to your spine while still conforming to your body shape, the Spectra Orthopedic Pocket Coils mattress is an ideal one to go for.
Best latex mattress for back pain
The medium firm Pure Green latex mattress is a great choice for individuals with back problems that are both back and side sleepers. It is firm enough to offer strong support to your spine while being bouncy and flexible at the same time adjusting to your body shape.
One of its outstanding features is its elasticity providing you with constant, resistant-free support, combined with tiny air chambers in the foam that make sure that air can circulate easily and keep the mattress cool.
In addition, this US-made, Greenguard Gold-certified mattress is completely made of natural components and doesn’t contain any form of synthetics. Its foam is 100% natural latex while its quilted cover consists of organic cotton combined with an organic New Zealand wool fire retardant.
This is a highly durable type of material meaning you can enjoy your mattress for many years to come without the need to replace it.
If you want to have a medium firm mattress with a luxury feel made exclusively of natural, organic components and that will offer your body and spine great support in back as well as in side sleeping position, you will love this Pure Green mattress.
Healthy sleep for a healthy back
Choosing the right mattress that enables you to have a restful sleep ensuring your body gets time to recover from the daily strain and stress is the prerequisite for a healthy pain-free spine. It is also essential for relieving any existing back pain and can help curing back and joint issues.
After all, you spend around a third of your life in bed, so it’s not surprising that the quality and level of comfort of your mattress plays such a significant role. Only when your body and mind are well rested and get enough opportunity to relax and rejuvenate will you be able to cope with the challenges you are faced with during the other two thirds of your life. Therefore, take your time and select your new mattress carefully so your back issues are a thing of the past.