Sleep is a key time for the body to recover and refresh, but for too many people, time spent in bed is plagued by back pain. People with serious back pain may find it hard to get quality sleep, and sleeping in an unsupported position can lead to morning back aches.
Having the right mattress can help on both counts. For people who already suffer from back problems, a quality mattress can often bring meaningful relief and allow them to get deeper, more restorative sleep. For everyone else, a mattress that promotes spinal alignment can help prevent back pain from starting in the first place.
Often, though, finding that ideal mattress seems easier said than done. With hundreds of products on the market, choosing a new mattress can feel overwhelming. Our guide to the best mattresses for back pain makes the process simple. We list our top picks for supportive mattresses and explain the science behind back pain, sleep, and how your mattress can help with both.
|WinkBed||Innerspring||Soft (4), Medium (6), Medium Firm (7-8), Plus (7-8)||$1,599|
|Saatva||Innerspring||Soft (2-3), Medium Firm (6), Firm (7-8)||$1,199|
|Casper Wave||Foam||Medium (5)||$2,295|
|Nectar||Foam||6 (Medium Firm)||$799|
|Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Adapt||Foam||Medium (5)||$2,199|
|Cocoon Chill||Foam||Medium Soft (4), Medium Firm (6)||$930|
|Allswell Luxe Hybrid||Hybrid||Firm (7)||$645|
The WinkBed is an impressive hybrid mattress that serves the needs of back pain sufferers thanks to its coil-on-coil design supplemented by gel-infused polyfoam in its euro-style pillow top.
The support core of the WinkBed is made up of pocketed coils that are arranged in zones to deliver extra support to the heavier parts of the body. Reinforcements around the perimeter give the WinkBed a standout level of edge support that keeps you stable when sleeping or sitting near the edge.
Above this core is a thinner layer of coils that are also individually-wrapped to tailor their compression to the body’s weight. The combination of both sets of coils allows the mattress to cushion pressure points to help with spinal alignment without sacrificing bounce or permitting excessive sink. Added contouring from polyfoam in the pillow top gives an extra touch of support that’s needed for people with back problems.
The WinkBed is available in three firmness options (Medium Soft, Medium Firm, and Firm) plus a separate model, the WinkBed Plus, built for people of above-average body weight. This range of options caters to people in all sleeping positions.
Motion isolation and temperature regulation are both above average, and WinkBeds backs their product with a 120-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty.
Saatva has established a strong reputation in the online mattress industry for their line of products made with thoughtful designs and quality materials. People struggling with back pain find the Saatva mattress to offer a compelling mix of contouring and springiness because of the double-layer of coils and a foam-filled pillow-top.
The Saatva’s support core is made with thick (13 gauge) Bonnell coils that have a perimeter of high-density foam. This combination forms a solid, stable foundation that works well for higher-weight sleepers and enhances overall edge support.
To offer more conforming, the Saatva has a four-inch layer of individually-wrapped micro-coils. This layer allows the mattress to relieve pressure while upholding the stable feel of the support core. A euro-style pillow top is stuffed with extra foam and a memory foam lumbar pad, a key feature for people with lower back pain.
Saatva offers this mattress in three firmness levels, so people in any position and body weight can find an option that will work for them. The mattress resists excess heat buildup, especially with its breathable organic cotton cover. Customers can also choose between an 11.5” and 14.5” model.
White-glove delivery is included, which means Saatva installs the mattress in your bedroom and will haul-away your old mattress. Customers have 120 nights to test it out, but if you opt to return it, a $99 return shipping fee is deducted from the refund. A 15-year warranty provides protection against defects over the longer-term.
After establishing their role as an early leader in the online mattress business, Casper has stepped up their game with luxury offerings like the Casper Wave. The company invested resources in new product development including specialty materials to better cushion the body, a welcome innovation for people with back pain.
The Casper Wave has a multi-layer design that provides benefits from its distinct materials. The top layer is a specialty polyfoam with mild contouring and bounce. Beneath that is a layer of latex and a layer of memory foam, which, working in combination, deliver added cushioning in response to the body’s pressure points while hedging against too much sinking into the mattress.
Beneath the memory foam is another polyfoam layer that has been infused with a new material from Casper known as targeted gel pods. These pods are dispersed within the foam and allow the material to further cater to the areas of the body that need extra padding, including the lumbar spine.
These materials provide above average motion isolation, and the open-cell foams permit plenty of airflow to keep the mattress from sleeping hot. A Medium feel makes this option best for side sleepers and for lighter-weight people in any position.
Free white-glove delivery means Casper coordinates setup of the bed in your home as well as removal of an old mattress if needed. To try out the mattress, the company offers a 100-night trial. A 10-year limited warranty covers any defects that might arise in the future.
The Nectar mattress can help relieve back pain thanks to its robust comfort system made up of three separate layers of memory foam. While this material compresses to hug the body, Nectar has constructed the foam to avoid concerns that can arise from memory foam being too soft or sleeping too hot.
The top layer of memory foam is one-inch thick and gel-infused to resist heat buildup. It is quilted into a Tencel cover that also promotes breathability.
A second memory foam layer is three inches and made to be slightly firmer and more stable, avoiding the sag found with some memory foam beds. A third layer of memory foam is one-inch thick and gel-infused, adding up to a total of five inches of memory foam for noticeable pressure relief.
With a Medium Firm feel, the the Nectar works well for side sleepers who weigh over 130 pounds as well as back and stomach sleepers who weigh under 230. Nectar has a generous 365-night sleep trial and a customer-friendly lifetime warranty. With a price point that is far below many other mattresses with memory foam comfort layers, it’s a top pick for people with back pain who are shopping on a budget.
Tempur-Pedic was the first company to deploy memory foam, originally developed by NASA, as a material in mattresses, and since then, they have cemented their reputation as a leader in luxury beds. Their foams offer deep contouring that fight back pain by cushioning even the sharpest pressure points.
The Pro-Adapt mattress is available in three firmness levels (Soft, Medium, and Firm), each of which comes with a slightly different arrangement of memory foam layers. All of the models and materials draw on Tempur-Pedic’s long track record with conforming foams that are known for their performance and durability. Sleepers in any position can find a model that suits their comfort and support needs.
Beyond pressure relief, a highlight of Tempur-Pedic’s memory foam is its ability to isolate motion so that movement on one part of the mattress won’t be felt on another part. As a result, people who are easily awoken and share their bed with a partner are huge fans of this mattress.
Each Pro-Adapt mattress comes with white-glove delivery that includes installation and removal of an existing mattress. Customers have 90 nights to test out the mattress with the option to initiate a return, but returns are subject to a $175 return shipping fee. Tempur-Pedic offers a 10-year limited warranty.
Sealy is a powerhouse company with a brand name that is known far and wide, and after seeing the growth of the online mattress industry, they launched their own bed-in-a-box mattress, the Cocoon by Sealy. The “Chill” version of this mattress provides the support of memory foam while keeping cool thanks to a specialty material in its cover.
People with back pain appreciate the way that the two layers of foam in the Chill’s comfort layer can accommodate their pressure points and help their spine stay well-positioned. It offers the most benefit to side and back sleepers; those under 130 pounds usually prefer the Medium Soft option while those from 130-230 do best with the Medium Firm.
The cover of the Cocoon by Sealy Chill uses a phase change material (PCM) that effectively regulates temperature. When the PCM gets too hot, it dissipates heat into the air, and if it gets too cold, it pulls in heat to stay at a steady temperature. The mattress is also above-average for preventing disruptive motion transfer during the night.
Sealy provides customers with a 100-night, risk-free sleep trial during which they can test out the Cocoon in their own bedroom. The mattress has a 10-year warranty to cover any potential defects in materials or manufacturing.
People who are on the lookout for a new mattress that is well-designed but available at a bargain price need look no further than the Allswell Luxe. It has a simple yet robust hybrid design that offers a Firm sleeping surface that helps reduce back pain, especially for back and stomach sleepers.
The support system of the Allswell Luxe is a thick layer of pocketed coils with extra support around the edges. These coils deliver a firm yet responsive base layer for the rest of the mattress. They also promote excellent edge support and significant bounce that makes it easy to move on top of the bed.
In the comfort system, the Allswell Luxe uses two inches of copper-infused memory foam. This foam creates enough contouring to promote a healthy spinal posture, but it doesn’t permit much sink. As a result, the Allswell Luxe is a top pick for anyone who wants a Firm feel, especially sleepers over 230 pounds and those who sleep on their stomach or back.
The copper-infused foam resists bacterial growth, enhancing the health and durability of the mattress. A one-inch layer of transition polyfoam boosts durability as well by insulating the coils from excess impact and stress.
With a fantastic price point, the Allswell is a compelling choice for people who need a new mattress but can’t splurge on a luxury hybrid. It comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a 10-year limited warranty.
Back pain is a widespread problem that affects an estimated 80% of adults at one time or another. It can make all types of daily activities difficult including walking, working, sitting, and lifting even lightweight items. Unfortunately, back pain complicates sleep as well, making it hard to find a comfortable position to fall asleep and keep sleeping soundly through the night.
Research studies have found that over half of people with lower back pain report sleeping problems. These negative impacts on sleep arise in people who have both sudden and short-term (acute) back pain and those who have long-term, persistent (chronic) back pain.
People with pain tend to have fragmented sleep that occurs from waking up during the night. Upon waking up, getting back to sleep can be difficult because of ongoing aches and discomfort. Pain can also contribute to stress, depression, and anxiety, all of which can be detrimental to quality sleep.
Back pain sufferers can take a number of steps to try to feel and sleep better. Getting medical help for serious back problems may help reduce pain. Treatments depend on the cause and nature of a person’s symptoms and can range from surgery to physical therapy to pain-relieving medications.
Smaller changes can contribute to pain reduction as well. Taking care when lifting, sitting with proper posture, and avoiding unnatural movements can reduce aggravation of back pain. Having a mattress that keeps the body aligned can reduce stress on the spine and facilitate better sleep.
Back pain can present in many different ways and for a wide variety of reasons. To help classify back pain, it is normally described as either acute or chronic.
Acute back pain comes on rapidly and is often a sharp, intense pain. In many cases, acute back pain is directly tied to a specific event such as a fall, an awkward twist of the body, or lifting a heavy object. It is pain that normally comes from injury to muscles and/or ligaments.
Chronic back pain lasts for three months or longer and persists despite attempts to remedy it. It can involve sharp pain but may occur as stiffness or a dull soreness. Sometimes it can be connected to a prior injury, but often has no clear or immediate cause. In addition to muscle and ligament injury, chronic back pain frequently is caused by nerve damage or other long-term conditions that harm the spine.
Another way to distinguish between types of back pain is based upon which part of the back is affected.
Lower back pain is by far the most common type of back pain. It affects the lumbar region, which includes the lowest five vertebrae (L1-L5) of the spine. Pain in this area is the second most common reason — after only cold- and flu-like symptoms — why people visit their doctor.
Lower back pain can be tied to basic muscle strain as well as to more complicated issues affecting the nerves, organs, and vertebrae. Examples of possible causes include compression fractures, ruptured or herniated disks, and narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis).
The lower back has more curvature and range of motion than other parts of the back, and this makes it more susceptible to injury related to movement and posture, including positioning during sleep. If a mattress offers insufficient support, the lower back may twist or bend in an unnatural way. For example, if the bed is too soft or is worn out, the hips, which carry more weight, may sink deeply into the mattress and out of alignment with the lumbar area. When that or any other misaligned position is held for an extended period during the night, it can be a direct contributor to back pain.
Middle back pain is much less common than lower back pain. The middle back is generally identified as above the lumbar spine but below the rib cage. The anatomy in this area is designed to promote stability over flexibility, reducing the propensity for movement-based injury compared to the lower back.
Even though mid-back pain is less common, it can still occur as a result of numerous conditions. Nerve compression, damage to discs, fractures, and muscle or ligament injury can occur in this region. Middle back pain can also be caused by serious underlying problems, like tumors or organ problems, making it important to get it reviewed by a doctor, especially if it occurs alongside other unexplained symptoms.
Stiffness and aching in the mid-back can arise because of poor posture and lack of spinal support. Because of the amount of time spent in the lying position during sleep, these alignment issues can often be connected to a mattress that does not adequately support the body and cushion a person’s pressure points.
Upper back pain is less common than lower back pain but occurs more frequently than middle back pain. It affects the thoracic region, which runs from the bottom of the rib cage up to the lower neck and involves the 12 vertebrae that connect to the ribs.
As with middle back pain, the reduced flexibility of bones and muscles in this region make movement-based strains less common than in the lower back. Pain in this area can occur for similar reasons as the mid-back — nerve, disc, muscle, ligament, or vertebrae problems — but there is a greater likelihood that this pain is connected to a potentially serious health issue.
Pain in the upper back and in the shoulders can also come about because of awkward or unsupportive body positioning. If a pillow is not the right height or if a mattress doesn’t properly accommodate the shoulders, it may place undue pressure on the anatomy of the thoracic region, heightening the risk of upper back pain.
Regardless of whether back pain has started suddenly or has been a long-term issue, people experiencing it should make sure to get checked out by a doctor. Not only can a physician help try to relieve pain, they can conduct a full diagnostic process to determine if back pain is being caused by a more serious underlying health issue.
Sleeping position can have a direct effect on back pain. Each sleeping position creates a unique set of pressure points and areas that need cushioning, and this is why having the right mattress to suit your sleeping position is an important part of preventing and reducing back pain.
Back sleepers tend to have their most serious pressure points around the lumbar area. If a mattress is too soft, the weight of the abdomen will cause this region to sink out of alignment with the rest of the back and hips. If the mattress is too hard, it won’t accommodate the natural curvature of the spine in the lumbar area. For this reason, a Medium-Firm to Firm mattress usually works best for back sleepers.
Side sleepers have high-impact areas where the body is the widest, notably at the shoulders and hips. A mattress needs to be contouring enough to cushion those pressure points but not so soft as to let them sink too deeply into the bed and out of line with the rest of the body. Most side sleepers get the best results from a Medium to Medium-Firm mattress.
Stomach sleepers have pronounced pressure points in the lumbar area and around the neck. If their pillow is too tall, it can put excess bend in the neck and upper back. If the mattress is soft, the pelvic area can dip too far, putting the body in a U shape that stresses the spine as well as the muscles and ligaments in the lower back. As a result, stomach sleepers tend to have less back pain if they use a thin pillow and have a Firm mattress.
Body weight is an important factor to consider along with sleeping position. People who weigh more will sink further into a mattress, exacerbating the risks in all sleeping positions of the heavier parts of the body becoming misaligned. Sleepers of above-average body weight (over 230 pounds) typically need a firmer mattress than someone of average weight who sleeps in the same position.
Similarly, people who weigh under 130 pounds are less prone to sinking into the bed, and can sleep on a softer, more contouring mattress without the same risks of the body sagging out of alignment. In fact, to get the support that they need, lighter-weight sleepers generally need a softer mattress than an average-weight sleeper in the same sleeping position.
A mattress can definitely be a cause of back pain because it plays such an important role in how the body is positioned through the night. Most people know that posture is important but only think about their posture in the context of standing and sitting. This can cause them to overlook the importance of having a mattress that is the proper fit for them based on their body shape, weight, and sleeping position.
If the spine and joints aren’t aligned and well-cushioned during sleep, they won’t be able to relax. Instead of recovering, the body will be strained, exacerbating pre-existing back issues and sowing the seeds for new ones. The easiest way to know whether a mattress is a contributing factor to back pain is if the pain tends to be the most pronounced in the morning when you wake up. If the pain is the worst when you get out of bed and subsides during the day, there’s a good chance that your mattress is playing a part in your aches and pains.
A key step in choosing a mattress is deciding which mattress type is most likely to work for you. Virtually all mattresses on the market today can be broken into five types based on their construction and materials.
Within each category, you can find consistent features; however, there can be notable variation from one brand or model to the next. Some types allow for a greater diversity of designs, which leads to a wider variation in the expected feel and performance of any specific mattress.
Definition: Hybrids are constructed with an innerspring support core that is supplemented by a significant comfort system that may include layers of foam, latex, micro-coils, cotton or fiber fill, down, and/or wool. The comfort layers on a hybrid are much more robust than on an innerspring mattress.
Highlight: Balanced Features. Hybrids try to capture the best of multiple bed types without suffering from their downsides. For example, hybrids tend to offer moderate to significant contouring that aids in pressure point relief, while their coils permit excellent ventilation, making temperature regulation a plus on most hybrid beds.
Definition: An innerspring mattress is composed almost entirely of metal coils. There may be a thin layer of cotton, polyester, or foam above the coils, but this layer does not significantly change the mattress performance. Historically, innersprings were the most common mattresses, but their popularity has declined considerably as foam, latex, and hybrid models have gained steam.
Highlight: Inexpensive and Customizable. A benefit to innersprings is that they are among the most inexpensive options that you can find. You can use the extra money saved to customize the feel to suit your needs with a mattress topper.
Definition: In latex mattresses have an interior construction made completely with latex, which is a type of rubber. Most mattresses use natural latex from trees, but synthetic or blended latex is used occasionally. The comfort layers and support core may employ different types of formulations of latex.
Highlight: Supportive Contouring. Latex has moderate contouring effects, allowing it to cushion the body without an excessive amount of sink.
Definition: Airbeds feature a support core of inflatable chambers. Sleepers can use a remote or smartphone app to control a pump that can add or remove air from the chambers, adjusting firmness in real time. There may be other materials, including foam, latex, cotton, polyester, or wool, layered as a comfort system above the support core.
Highlight: Adjustable Firmness. The primary benefit of airbeds is their adjustability. Being able to quickly modify the firmness of the bed can be a huge plus for people with back pain because it lets them get “dialed in” depending on the nature of their pain and posture at that exact point in time.
Definition: Foam is layered to create both the support core and comfort system of an all-foam mattress. Memory foam is a popular material in foam mattresses as is polyurethane foam (polyfoam), which can be manufactured to have a range of distinct characteristics. Latex may be included among the layers, but no coils are used in a foam mattress.
Highlight: Deep Contouring. Memory foam tends to offer the highest degree of hug. This allows these mattresses to deliver proportional cushioning to the areas of the body that need it most, which can be especially useful for side sleepers who have sharp impact points.
When you’re struggling with back pain, you may feel like you’re willing to give anything to get relief, but the realities of your budget can mean that you have to think about the impact of any mattress purchase on your bottom line. The good news is that there are multiple wallet-friendly ways to improve your bed, enhance your sleep, and give your back a rest.
A great way to score a deal on a new mattress is to buy online. While it might seem like a strange concept if you’re used to going to a brick-and-mortar store, the truth is that buying online offers some huge advantages.
Most online mattresses are sold directly by the manufacturer. Eliminating the middle-man and the need for showroom space means lower prices, and the growing competition between retail and online storefronts has only generated more deals for shoppers.
But the benefits go beyond just price. Shopping online is convenient, allowing you to browse options from the comfort of your own home and without any salespeople eagerly pushing a sale to earn a commission. Having the time to research each mattress and compare it to others is a major contrast to the brick-and-mortar experience where you’re limited to just what’s available in that store.
When buying online you don’t have the ability to feel out a mattress before purchasing, but almost all online retailers provide a sleep trial with no-hassle returns, offering you a full refund if you try out the mattress and don’t like it. This gives you a no-risk opportunity to try out a mattress for weeks or months in your own bedroom as opposed to for just a few minutes in a store. Over the longer-term, virtually all online mattresses come with a warranty of at least 10 years to protect against future problems, which are rare in mattresses sold both online and in-store.
Shipping is usually free within the contiguous U.S. with the mattress being delivered as a “bed-in-a-box.” To do this, the mattress is compressed and sealed in plastic. When you remove it from its packaging, it regains its full size within a matter of hours. This serves as a convenient way of getting the mattress set up in your bedroom without having to coordinate with a delivery team.
Online mattresses come in a wide range of styles and price points, allowing every customer to find the right fit for their preferences and budget. These mattresses are typically reliable and made with the same quality of materials as mattresses sold in stores. Many of the big, well-known mattress brands have even come into the fold and launched products to be sold online.
Another benefit is that customers have a wealth of useful resources to help guide their decision. In the past, getting details about the performance of mattresses sold in retail stores was a challenge. Online, though, there are helpful sites, including ours, offering reviews and detailed explanations of what you can expect from any specific brand or model. Many sites also have coupons to help you get the best price.
While it can seem like a leap to buy a mattress online for the first time, thousands of customers have already been won over to this exciting approach to finding a high-quality mattress at a great price.
A mattress topper provides another way to change up the feel of your bed without breaking the bank. Instead of replacing your whole mattress, a topper lets you place a fresh layer above your existing mattress.
Most mattress toppers are 1 to 3 inches tall and can be made of memory foam, polyfoam, latex, cotton, polyester, down, or a mix of materials. Memory foam is one of the most popular types of toppers, providing an opportunity to try out this material without committing to a completely new bed.
A major benefit of a topper is that you can take advantage of a new comfort system that fits your needs. This may include a change in the firmness and/or the contouring to cushion your pressure points. For people with back pain, the difference can be notable and serve as a meaningful step toward better sleep.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that any topper comes with potential downsides. Every material has pros and cons, and those will be reflected in a topper. Most sleepers above 130 pounds need a topper that is at least two inches thick, and higher-quality versions can cost a few hundred dollars.
Toppers also won’t offer the same level of overall performance as a full mattress. Remember that a mattress is built with multiple layers designed to work together. With a topper, that element of coordinated design doesn’t apply, so they may not capture the full benefit of the material (like memory foam).
A topper may wear out over a shorter period of time, especially if it’s thinner, made with lower quality materials, or if you weigh over 230 pounds.
Last, a topper can’t make a deteriorating mattress feel “like new.” If your existing mattress is already sagging, a topper will end up sagging, too. For this reason, a topper is the best bet when you need to adjust the feel or support of your existing mattress, not when your existing mattress has started to give out.
Changing your sleeping position is one way to try to get back pain relief.
If you are a back or stomach sleeper with a soft mattress and you don’t have the budget for a new bed, you can try to switch to a side sleeping position that will receive more support from your existing mattress. In general, experts recommend that stomach sleepers try to adjust to side or back sleeping because it’s easier to get appropriate support in those positions.
For people with acute pain, temporary changes to your sleeping position may help to reduce stress on already sore or achy parts of your back. For example, people with lumbar pain might try a period of side sleeping to avoid the excess bending of that area that can happen on your stomach or back.
While changing sleeping positions is worth a shot, it’s often not a long-term solution because the change can be hard to stick with. Some people just can’t get comfortable in a different position or they may quickly revert back to their old sleeping position during the night. In these cases, other approaches are more likely to be beneficial over the medium- to long-term.
Besides a mattress, other accessories can play a part in making your bed conducive to quality, pain-free sleep. Upgrading your pillows and your bed base can be done as a lower-cost way of improving your sleeping surface, or you can purchase these along with a new mattress as part of a complete overhaul.
Pillows play an important role in preventing and reducing back and neck pain. Pillows that provide proper support to the neck can improve spinal alignment because the spine extends into the neck (known as the cervical spine). In addition to supporting the head, pillows can be strategically placed to provide cushioning and comfort to other parts of the body.
Numerous factors affect which pillow can best help any individual fight neck and back pain. The amount of loft of your pillow should fit your personal preference and body shape. The right loft level is also largely determined by the firmness of your mattress and your sleeping position, as outlined in the following tables.
|Sleeping Position||Pillow Loft Recommended|
|Side||Medium or High|
|Mattress Firmness||Pillow Loft Recommended|
|Soft – Medium Soft||Low|
|Medium Firm – Firm||High|
To reduce back pain, pillows can be used to support other parts of the body besides just the head and neck.
The base of the bed can contribute to a supportive overall sleeping surface for people with back pain.
Some people opt for an adjustable bed, which allows for the upper and lower body to be raised at various angles. Many adjustable bed frames also include a heat or massage feature that can be a nice bonus for back pain sufferers.
The optimal position for any sleeper on an adjustable base will depend on the type of back pain that they have and their sleeping position. Back sleepers, for example, frequently find that a slight elevation of the torso and legs helps take pressure off of the lower back. It is essential to ensure that your mattress is compatible with an adjustable bed before purchasing and setting one up.
Even customers who don’t want an adjustable bed should take care in choosing the foundation, platform, or base for their mattress. Most manufacturers list recommended characteristics of the base, including distance between any slats of a bed frame. Following these guidelines keeps the mattress in good condition and avoids premature sagging. Using an approved base may be necessary to maintain the validity of the mattress warranty as well.
When shopping for a mattress to help relieve back pain, some features are more important than others. With so many products and a bevy of marketing hype, it can be tough to parse out what really matters. You’re most likely to get the most satisfaction out of your purchase by focusing on certain key considerations: