Best mattress for back pain – how your mattress could be making your back pain worse, and why a new one could help

We asked our sleep experts how to get rid of back pain for good

If you’re looking for the best mattress for back pain, there’s a high chance that you’re already struggling. Back pain may be ruling your life, and the constant twinges, throbs, and aches probably torment you on a daily basis. 

However, we guarantee that the best mattress is out there for you - but you just need to know where to look.  To help you out, we’ve put together a round-up of the best mattresses for back pain below. But before we get to them, you need to understand why you’re experiencing back pain in the first place and how your mattress could be making it worse. 

Best mattress for back pain 

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Grey upholstered bed with mattress uncovered in a blue bedroom

(Image credit: Dreams)

‘The quality of a mattress plays an important part in how we sleep, but the wrong type of material can make back pain insufferable,’ explains Rebecca Swain, mattress expert at Winstons Beds. So, it’s important to find the best mattress for back pain to ensure you don’t worsen your condition. 

The best mattress for back pain

Emma Cooling Mattress

(Image credit: Emma Mattress)

There are so many mattresses out there that finding the right one for you can be overwhelming - especially when you’re looking for the best mattress for back pain. Ultimately, though, experts suggest opting for a firmer mattress that will support you through the night. 

Yes, a firm mattress should have enough tension in the springs to support your body weight while offering a softer top layer to allow your body to sink as part of its natural curvature. For many people, this means that the best mattress for back pain is a hybrid mattress - which is a mixture of spring and foam - as this offers a medium firmness level with a squishy top layer for comfort. 

The material of your mattress can also have a big impact. A latex mattress could offer the support you really need during the night. ‘They have minimal heat retention and are fast to react if you constantly turn over in your sleep, which can help support those struggling from back pain,’ says Rebecca.

However, if you already have a high-quality mattress that you’re fairly happy with, you may find that keeping your old mattress but adding a new mattress topper could be the best option.

If your back pain is due to an underlying condition, though, it might be worth investing in an orthopaedic mattress. ‘These mattresses are very firm and made to offer the most support possible while you sleep by evenly distributing your body weight to reduce pressure on the spine, relieving  uncomfortable pressure points, and promoting the spine's natural alignment,' says Pam Johnson, head of buying for Bensons for Beds.

Expert picture
Pam Johnson

Pam has worked within Bensons for Beds for 16 years and has a great deal of experience in both developing and sourcing new product ranges. As Head of Buying specialising in mattresses, divans and headboards, Pam is dedicated to providing solutions that help customers to get a great night’s sleep.

Our favourite mattresses for back pain

Now you know which mattress is best for back pain, we’ve rounded up some of our tried-and-tested mattresses that would fit the bill perfectly.

Common causes of back pain

‘Lower back pain is an issue for many Brits, affecting approximately 80% of individuals at some point in their lives. In the majority of cases, acute onset lower back pain is categorised as 'non-specific,' implying that a clear cause for the pain is often not evident,’ explains resident sleep expert at Time4Sleep, Dr Hana Patel.

And while injuries such as a slipped disc or a pulled muscle can cause such pain, many lifestyle factors can also contribute:

Hypos mattress on an upholstered bed in a dark bedroom

(Image credit: Hypnos)
  • Poor posture: If you work at a desk, there’s a high chance that you also have poor posture. And if you spend your days slouching and crunching together your spine, you’ll no doubt suffer from back pain. To combat this, try and keep your shoulders back when you’re sitting, and invest in office furniture that helps distribute your weight evenly and allows you to sit at the right height. Knowing where to buy the right office chair can help you with that. 
  • Age: Unfortunately, we all get older. And when we go up in age, so do the chances of us experiencing back pain. That’s because our cartilage starts to fade, and the pressure on our joints causes inflammation that results in pain. Exercise can help to strengthen your spine and combat this pain, though.
Dr. Hana Patel
Dr. Hana Patel (MSc FRCGP MBBS BSc)

After completing her medical training at the University College London in 2005, Dr. Hana Patel became a member of the Royal College of General Practitioners in 2010. She has since partnered with Time4Sleep as the resident sleep expert to highlight how sleep can affect us all, and how difficulties with this can affect all aspects of our lives.

  • Being out of shape: The heavier you are, the more pressure you’re putting on your back. This can ultimately cause back pain. This can be reversed with the help of exercise, and strengthening the muscles in your stomach, shoulders, and back can all help to relieve this pain.
  • Underlying conditions: Although it’s not as common as the above, underlying health conditions can also cause back pain. These include the likes of kidney disease, cancer, and arthritis. If you’re concerned about your back pain, you should always seek medical advice.
  • Your mattress: Yes, your mattress could be making your back pain worse. But while so many people suffer from this mattress-induced back pain, very few know how to combat it. 

How your mattress could be making your back pain worse

No matter why or how you’ve developed back pain, it’s important to take precautions to ensure you’re not making your back pain worse - especially as this can lead to other health conditions. 

‘If the person’s mattress is not supportive enough for their sleeping style, then this can lead to disturbed sleep as the person tries to reposition themselves to get more comfortable during the night, or they may wake with back pain and be unable to return to sleep,' explains Dr Lindsay Browning, psychologist, neuroscientist, and sleep expert for And So To Bed, 

So, let’s delve a little deeper into sleeping positions and how they can affect your overall health. 

expert photo
Dr Lindsay Browning

Dr Lindsay Browning is a sleep expert for And So To Bed, author of the self-help sleep book, 'Navigating Sleeplessness'

Navigating Sleeplessness: How to Sleep Deeper and Better for Longer, £8.99 at Amazon

<a href="https://target.georiot.com/Proxy.ashx?tsid=107653&GR_URL=https%3A%2F%2Famazon.co.uk%2FNavigating-Sleeplessness-Deeper-Better-Longer-ebook%2Fdp%2FB0BP2SD3D5%3Ftag%3Dhawk-future-21%26ascsubtag%3Dhawk-custom-tracking-21" data-link-merchant="Amazon UK"" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Navigating Sleeplessness: How to Sleep Deeper and Better for Longer, £8.99 at Amazon

Dr Lindsay's book could also be worth exploring if your sleep troubles are, well, keeping you up at night

Back pain when you sleep on your back: Thankfully, those who sleep on their back are normally less likely to suffer from back pain or make their back pain any worse. This position allows you to embrace the natural curvature of your spine, but those who still suffer from back pain when sleeping on their back should be able to alleviate it by placing a pillow underneath their knees.

Back pain when you sleep on your front: Although it doesn’t come naturally to some, others sleep best when they sleep on their front. While this sleeping position is great for keeping your airways open, it’s not so great if you have back pain. This is largely because (if you use a pillow) you’re arching your back upwards to keep your head on the pillow.

This is ultimately an unnatural position to keep for an average of eight hours each night and can cause a huge amount of strain and pressure to build up on your spine. If you want to continue sleeping on your front but also want to alleviate your back pain, you should try to align your spine by placing an extra pillow under your pelvis.

Back pain when you sleep on your side: If you sleep on your side and suffer from back pain, the likelihood is that your mattress is too soft and not giving you the support that you or your spine needs. This, coupled with the fact that sleeping on your side can make the side of your body go numb, doesn’t help those who may already be suffering from back pain.

In fact, many people who sleep on their side on a soft mattress can often find themselves dealing with lower back and hip pain. This is because the weight of your own body puts pressure on your spine and forces it to curve into the mattress. A firmer mattress should alleviate this problem, though.

FAQs

Which type of mattress is best for back pain?

Experts suggest that the best mattress for back pain is one that’s firm enough to offer support for your spine but soft enough on top to add some level of comfort. For many, this will usually be a hybrid mattress that mixes traditional springs with more modern foam or gel. 

However, it’s important to note that if you have chronic back pain that stems from an underlying issue, an orthopaedic mattress might be the best option for you. 

Fabio Perrotta, Director of Buying at Dreams, explains, 'For people who suffer from scoliosis or similar, pocket sprung mattresses can be beneficial as they distribute weight evenly and support the whole body. The ‘full body support’ ensures no gaps are created between your body and the mattress surface which is important for those who suffer with back pain.'

Is it better to have a soft or firm mattress for back pain?

Ultimately, this answer depends on personal choice and your type of back pain. ‘When it comes to soft or firm mattresses, there isn’t one clear winner, as each person has their own preference when it comes to sleep comfort,' says Rebecca from Winstons Beds.

‘For those suffering from Sciatica, the best choice is medium soft, medium or medium-firm mattresses, as it’s more beneficial to sleep in an elevated position. However, for those dealing with Spinal Stenosis, it’s best to have a mattress that is either soft, medium soft or medium, as it’s best to sleep on the side in a foetal position to relieve stress on the nerve root, which can allow for a more comfortable night’s sleep.’

Is pocket sprung or memory foam better for bad back?

'There is no right answer to this as it ultimately comes down to a matter of personal preference as everyone will have specific needs,' says Fabio.

While some people with bad backs find pocket-sprung mattresses comfortable, most experts would agree that memory foam is a better mattress for back pain. 

‘The innovative foam on these mattresses react to your body temperature, moulding to your body contours, absorbing pressure for excellent pressure relieving comfort and support,' explains Pam from Bensons for Beds.

But while the top layer of memory foam is good for those with bad backs, she also wants people to understand that the rest of the bed also needs to be up to par. ‘Whilst the memory foam provides initial surface softness, it is important that either the springs or foam below this provide good support in the core of the mattress.'

Now that you've settled on the best mattress for back pain, is it time to upgrade to the best pillows, too?

Lauren Bradbury
Contributor

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.