Best Mattresses for Back Pain

Back issues can range from irritating soreness to debilitating pain. No matter the severity, anyone who has dealt with back pain knows that it can be a real struggle to cope with.

For many people, back pain is the worst in the morning when they get up from bed. Often, this is not simply a coincidence — it’s related to their mattress. A mattress that does not offer the proper support and comfort can either cause or worsen back aches, so choosing the right mattress can go a long way to decreasing this problem.

In this guide, we help you find the right mattress by offering our top 5 best mattresses for back pain. In addition, we go into detail about the causes of back pain, the key mattress characteristics that affect back pain, and the types of mattresses that you will encounter when mattress shopping.

 

Our Top Picks

 

You probably don’t have the time or inclination to wade through the multitude of mattresses being sold online, so we’ve given you a shortcut — our top 5 best mattresses for back pain. Start with the table, which gives a quick overview, and then keep reading to find out why our top 5 each made the cut.

BRAND MODEL MATTRESS TYPE FIRMNESS LEVEL / OPTIONS PRICE
Leesa Foam Medium-Firm $850 (Queen)
Original Foam Medium-Firm $895 (Queen)
Original Foam Medium-Firm $999
(Queen)
  Pure Green Latex Soft / Medium / Firm  $899 – $1,199
(Queen)
Helix Hybrid Customizable $995
(Queen)

 

Leesa

The Leesa mattress is one of the most popular and well-known brands sold online and for good reason. The mattress uses three layers of foam — a base support foam, memory foam, and a latex-like polyfoam known as Avena foam — to give sleepers a medium-firm feel with both contouring and responsiveness. Through this combination of foams, sleepers in all positions can get pressure point relief but without feeling swallowed by the mattress.

The Leesa has a demonstrated track record of performance from verified customer reviews and independent evaluators, and the company has also maintained high standards for customer service. With a price tag under $1,000 for a Queen even before any promotions or discounts are applied, the Leesa is a frontrunner among online mattresses when it comes to value and performance for people concerned about back pain.

 

Leesa Mattress

 

GhostBed

The GhostBed is a foam mattress that is built with both memory foam and latex foam. The latex, which is the topmost layer, helps with resilience and bounce, while the memory foam layer underneath it offers further cushioning for the body where it needs it most. The design of these layers also helps to prevent excessive sagging into the mattress that can cause back issues.

This mattress gets high marks when it comes to customer satisfaction and support, and like the Leesa, it is available for well under $1,000 in a Queen size even before any discounts are applied to reduce the overall cost.

 

 

Purple

The mattress from Purple is a foam mattress but with an entirely different design than the Leesa or GhostBed. For its comfort layer, the Purple mattress uses a proprietary hyper-elastic polymer. This “Smart Comfort Grid,” is an array of squares that compress in response to pressure but very quickly rebound to take their original shape, giving it a high degree of responsiveness and support. This comfort layer is placed on top of two polyfoam support layers.

With its unique design, Purple has won over many customers who find that it can conform to the body in a way unlike latex or memory foam. This mattress is available for just under $1,000 without any coupons or discounts, and is worthy of serious consideration for anyone looking for a mattress to help them avoid back pain.

 

 

Sleep on Latex Pure Green Mattress

The Sleep on Latex Pure Green Mattress is a marvel of simplicity. It’s built with either one or two thick pieces of latex (depending on which height model you select), and this latex is of excellent quality and performance characteristics. Customers can choose from three different firmness levels while resting easy knowing that each is able to provide considerable contouring and bounce.

Customer service has been a strength of the Sleep on Latex company, and this mattress has been met with excellent reviews from customers. Even though most other latex mattresses cost significantly more, the Pure Green mattress is available for around $1,000 or a little more (again, depending on the height, size, and firmness that you select).

 

 

Helix

The Helix mattress is a hybrid that is built using two types of polyfoam as well as a layer of innerspring micro-coils. A key selling point for the Helix is that the company has a proprietary algorithm to help tailor the design of the mattress to you. They do this by asking you a series of questions in a sleep quiz on their website, and using your responses, they can modify the feel and other performance elements of the mattress that you actually receive in your home. This means that the company can make modifications to the mattress to help promote spinal alignment in your sleeping position and to help prevent back pain.

Many customers expect a customized mattress like this to cost an arm and a leg, but the Helix is sold for less than $1,000 for a Queen (before discounts or promos), making it a clear choice among our top 5 when it comes to value and performance.

 

 

About Back Pain

 

Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints in the United States and affects tens of millions of people every year. Studies that have analyzed the causes of doctor visits have found back pain to be the second most common, behind only upper respiratory symptoms (the flu and common cold).

 

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain can be caused by many different things, and sometimes it is caused by a combination of various issues. Typically, back pain is divided into two main categories — acute and chronic.

Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually is caused directly by an incident like turning or twisting the back. On the other hand, chronic back pain is a longer-standing problem that generally isn’t related to a single event.

Conditions such as spinal stenosis or degenerative discs can be an underlying cause of back pain. These most often contribute to chronic, regular pain, but these conditions may also make someone more susceptible to acute pain that arises from a specific activity, movement, or incident.

Keep in mind that other health conditions can also cause back pain of different types. The only way to diagnose the specific cause of back pain in any individual person is to see a doctor. Buying a new mattress should not be seen as a substitute for seeking medical advice if you have serious back pain that is longstanding or that prevents you from doing daily tasks. A doctor can order any necessary tests or treatments that can get to the bottom of your back pain and put you on the path to recovery.

 

How Does a Mattress Affect Back Pain?

 

A mattress can directly affect back pain in several ways. First, if your body isn’t properly positioned and supported in the night, it can put excess strain on the spine and/or the muscles and tissues of the back. This can contribute to back pain that may creep up quickly or over an extended period of time. Second, sleep is a critical time for the body to rest and recover. If your mattress is keeping you from getting to sleep or staying asleep through the night, you’re more likely to feel tired and achy. For these reasons, having the right mattress to meet your specific needs can help you wake up each morning feeling refreshed and without pain.

 

What Mattress Features Help Prevent Back Pain?

There is no one perfect mattress that can assure that back pain will be a thing of the past. However, there are some key characteristics of a mattress that can increase the chances that it will help you avoid issues with back pain.

Proper Support

When we use the term support, we are referring specifically to how well a mattress can facilitate and promote proper spinal alignment. As we all know intuitively, the weight in our bodies is not evenly distributed. Certain areas — such as the shoulders and the pelvis — tend to carry more weight and have more serious pressure points. In addition, some parts of the body — such as the neck and lower back — are more sensitive to abnormal motion or bending.

A supportive mattress is able to account for these facts by contouring to the body and giving it cushioning where it is most needed. In doing so, it can help to keep the body aligned and protect against excessive bending or curvature in the spine or neck. When a mattress can offer this kind of support, we often describe it as “responsive,” and people with back pain generally get the best results from a highly responsive mattress.

Comfort

if a bed isn’t comfortable, the odds are extremely low that you’ll be able to get a good night’s sleep. Studies of sleep hygiene point to the need to have a welcoming and inviting sleep environment, and a comfortable mattress is a key part of that equation. Getting a full night’s rest allows your body and muscles to relax and recover and can help mitigate back pain.

A vital element of mattress comfort is firmness. Firmness is how hard or soft a mattress feels, and it is typically described using a scale of 1-10. On this scale, 1 is the absolute softest, and 10 is the absolute hardest. You’ll rarely see a mattress at these extremes, but having a familiarity with this scale can assist you in choosing a mattress that is likely to meet your preferences when it comes to comfort. For most sleepers, including people with back pain, a medium-firm mattress (around 4-6 on the scale) is the most effective at providing comfort, but because comfort is inherently subjective, some people may seek out a considerably firmer or softer mattress.

Resilience

When you lie down on a mattress, it will compress in response to your body weight. When you remove your weight, the mattress will return to its original shape. If this happens quickly, then the mattress is said to have a high level of resilience. In terms of feel, a resilient mattress is more likely to feel “bouncy”. Resilience is important for people who deal with back pain because it can help to prevent the feeling of sinking into the bed and being stuck in a particular position. It is much easier to move on a resilient mattress, and for many sleepers, small movements and adjustments in sleeping position can help reduce back stiffness.

Durability

All of the factors we’ve listed above — support, comfort, and resilience — suffer when a mattress starts to break down. If the internal components wear out, then the mattress is unlikely to be able to continue offering a high level of performance. As a mattress gives out, it tends to sag, which can cause or exacerbate excessive curvature of the spine, contributing to back pain. To avoid this, customers should look for mattresses that have a high propensity to last and maintain their performance over many years of nightly use. The best ways to know if a mattress can be expected to be durable are to look at its track record from proven customer reviews and to carefully consider the quality of the internal components of the mattress.

 

Other Factors for Pain-Free Sleep

 

In addition to mattress characteristics, there are some other factors that can be helpful to consider when trying to make sure that sleep surface works to the benefit of your back.

  • Your Pillow: the focus of this guide is on back pain, but neck pain is an issue that many people deal with as well. Overall alignment of the neck can also play a role in back pain. As a result, it is necessary to think about whether your pillow is providing the right kind of support for you based on how you sleep. If you’re buying a new mattress, you may also want to consider buying a new pillow that has a firmness and loft level that will work in tandem with your mattress to keep your body properly supported.
  • Your Sleeping Position: the risks for spinal misalignment are different depending on your sleeping position. The pressure points for a side sleeper, for example, are different than a stomach sleeper. In some sleeping positions, extra pillows may be helpful to bolster the body or hedge against unnatural twisting. While all of the mattresses that we’ve listed in this guide can work for people in any sleeping position, we encourage you to check out our guides for more information for side sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers, and combination sleepers.

 

What Types of Mattresses Are Available?

 

Foam

 

What is a foam mattress?
  • A foam mattress uses only foam materials. These may include memory foam, polyfoam, and/or latex foam.
  • Foams in the mattress are layered to shape the amount of support and the comfort feel offered by the mattress.
  • The comfort layer is at the top and provides the most direct support to the body.
  • The support layer at the bottom is typically thicker and provides the base for the comfort layer.
Are foam mattresses good for addressing back pain?
  • In many cases, foam mattresses are excellent for people who have concerns about back pain.
  • Most foams are manufactured to be responsive, so they are often quite effective at accommodating the body’s main pressure points.
  • Memory foam, in particular, has a longstanding reputation for being especially responsive and conforming.
  • Not all foam mattresses are good options, though, as some may have comfort layers that are too thin or that are likely to break down quickly.
  • Another potential downside with some foam mattresses is that they conform to the body too much, giving the feeling of sinking into the mattress.

 

Latex

 

What are latex mattresses?
  • Latex mattresses are composed entirely of latex, a type of rubber.
  • These are distinct from mattresses that have just one layer of latex. When the whole mattress is latex, we also call it “true latex” or “all latex.”
  • Dunlop latex and Talalay latex are the two types used in mattresses. Both types of latex are resilient and able to contour to the body, but Talalay is generally softer and bouncier.
  • Latex tends to be a heavier and more expensive material than foam.
Are latex mattresses good for addressing back pain?
  • Latex mattresses can be a great choice for preventing or reducing back pain.
  • Latex works well because it responds to the body without excessive sink.
  • It also has a high level of resilience and is often quite durable relative to other types of mattresses.
  • Because many latex mattresses are more expensive, though, they may be out of the price range for some customers.

 

Innerspring

 

What are innerspring mattresses?
  • Innerspring mattresses are defined as having a support core of metal coils with a comfort layer of 3” or less.
  • If a mattress has more than 3” in the comfort layer, it is a hybrid mattress.
  • Pocketed coils are the most popular type of coil used in mattresses sold online. These coils have more independent action, increasing their responsiveness.
  • Innersprings provide a bouncier feel than most foams, and this feel is well known to most customers as innersprings have been the most popular mattress type for decades.
Are innerspring mattresses good for addressing back pain?
  • Innerspring mattresses are sometimes able to mitigate back pain.
  • While they offer a solid base using the coils, these mattresses often do not have enough responsive material in the comfort layer.
  • A thinner comfort layer may also be an issue for sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds as they may not get sufficient responsiveness and may have reduced durability for the mattress.
  • Overall, the ability of an innerspring to reduce back pain depends in large part on the design of the comfort layer.

 

Hybrid

 

What are hybrid mattresses?
  • A hybrid mattress, like an innerspring, has a support core of metal coils, but the hybrid has a comfort layer of greater than 3” thickness.
  • The comfort layer in a hybrid is usually designed to significantly boost responsiveness with material such as memory foam, latex, or customized polyfoams.
  • In recent years, more and more hybrid mattresses are becoming available for purchase online including delivery as a bed-in-a-box.
Are hybrid mattresses good for addressing back pain?
  • Well-designed and well-built hybrids are frequently excellent for diminishing back pain.
  • Thanks to the base of coils, a hybrid can offer resilience while responsiveness, support, and comfort can be provided by the thicker comfort layer.
  • As with innerspring mattresses, though, the performance of a hybrid for people with back pain will depend significantly on the materials and layering in the comfort layer and the quality of the springs used in the support core.

 

Airbed

 

What are airbeds?
  • An airbed is a mattress with an adjustable level of firmness.
  • The firmness is adjustable because the interior of the mattress is an air chamber whose level of inflation is controlled by a remote or smartphone.
  • This firmness can be adjusted up or down throughout the night.
  • Most airbeds of full-size or larger have two separate air chambers so that each side of the bed can be set to a different firmness level.
  • An airbed can also have a comfort layer placed on top of the air chamber.
  • Airbeds are usually more expensive than other mattress types, especially if they have a robust comfort layer.
Are airbeds good for addressing back pain?
  • Most of the time, airbeds do not provide enough responsiveness to effectively alleviate back pain.
  • Though their comfort level can be adjusted, this does not help the mattress relieve pressure points and promote good spinal alignment.
  • If an airbed has a responsive comfort layer, it may help more with back pain, but these options tend to come with a much higher price tag.