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You can surround yourself with luxury pillows and comforters, but if you wake up every morning with back pain, none of that matters. Back pain can mean everything from mild discomfort as you try to sleep all the way to chronic pains you live your everyday life. While massage guns, a more ergonomic desk setup, and physical therapy can certainly alleviate a portion of the pain, the volume of time sleeping in bed means that a quality mattress is a major investment for your body.
Choosing the right mattress is a major decision based on your personal budget, preferences, and of course, your body’s needs. A good mattress for back pain relief is firm enough to provide support yet soft enough to conform to your body and keep you stable through the night. While there is no perfect mattress that solves every issue within one night of sleep, we consulted experts, researched online, and consulted our already robust mattress expertise to find options best-suited for pain relief.
The Best Mattresses for Back Pain
Best Overall: Saatva Classic Mattress
Best Value: Brooklyn Bedding Signature Hybrid Mattress
Best Premium Option: Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-Adapt Mattress
Best Adjustable Mattress: Puffy Cloud Smart Bed Set
Most Breathable: Leesa Sapira Hybrid Mattress
Which Type of Mattress Is Best for Back Pain?
Mattresses come in three styles: foam, innerspring, and hybrid. Foam mattresses are made exclusively with layers of high-density or memory foam, whereas innerspring mattresses use coils set inside of soft padding. Hybrid mattresses are a mix of both.
The Sleep Doctor’s certified sleep science coach and director of product testing, David Rubin, recommends hybrid mattresses for people with back pain.
“The coils ensure heavier areas like hips and shoulders won’t sink too low, and create spinal alignment,” Rubin says. “The comfort layer—usually memory foam or latex—gives enough pressure relief to keep you comfortable and avoid and pain points.”
But that doesn’t mean your only option is a hybrid if you tend to wake up with a sore back. You should prioritize your other needs, too, like reduced motion transfer if you sleep with a partner and cooling technology if you sleep warm. We broke down the best and worst of foam and innerspring mattresses to help you decide which features you need, and whether a hybrid is a good fit for you.
Foam Versus Innerspring Mattresses
Foam mattresses are made with layers of foam that support and conform to your body shape throughout the night. They tend to retain more heat than hybrid or innerspring options, so if you run hot in the night, it might be best to look at innerspring or hybrids. That said, foam mattresses are great at reducing motion transfer and keeping you still through the night, which helps some toss-and-turners sleep better.
Many foam mattresses layer in several different types of foams, like memory foam, which conforms best to your body, and high-density foams, which offer a stiffer, sturdier base. Some include additional layers to shore up support and reduce motion transfer, a.k.a., how much the rest of the mattress moves when your body moves. Others have layers aimed at increasing breathability—a common complaint with latex and memory foam mattresses.
To address the breathability issue, lots of foam mattresses include low-density or textured foam layers that provide pathways for air to escape from under your body. For extra warm sleepers, look for cooling gel layers, which are made from materials that absorb and disperse your body heat.
Innerspring mattresses, on the other hand, have a wide bed of internal springs that disperse your bodyweight and provide a firm base to sleep on. These mattresses come with a layer of padding on the top for comfort, and are usually firmer than their foam counterparts.
The spring interior means they’re less dense than foam and thus let more air in, leading to a cooler night’s sleep. The tradeoff for this air flow is less even weight and pressure distribution among the springs.
Some innerspring mattresses come with zoned coil support, meaning the areas that take on the most weight have stronger, stiffer coils compared to, say, the edge of the mattress. This is great for sleepers who want an extra bit of stability for their backs as they sleep.
You can also keep an eye out for mattresses with individually wrapped coils, which move independently from one another and react to your body more precisely than traditional coil beds, where each coil is connected to the others.
Is a Firm Mattress Better for Back Pain?
Mattress firmness is vital to comfort, especially in the context of back pain.
“A lot of people believe an extremely firm mattress is the best choice for back pain, but that’s not universally true,” Rubin says. “If you are a lighter weight or sleep on your side, a firm mattress may actually cause more discomfort.”
No firmness level is perfect for everyone, though a mattress that feels medium-firm to your body (and in the position you typically sleep in) will generally work best for relieving your back pain. Most mattresses come with a 30-day return policy or longer, so if the mattress you buy is too soft or too firm, don’t sleep on sending it back to replace it with another option.
For sleepers with back pain, the physical delivery of the mattress can come with its own host of questions. Ordering a mattress in a box to your house is probably preferable to driving to a store and bringing the mattress home yourself, but these big boxes can still be unwieldy.
Especially if you live in a walk-up or have a more severe back injury that prevents you from lifting heavy things, consider buying from a company with full-service installation, where they’ll bring the mattress into your home and set it up for you right on your bed frame.
Longevity and Warranty
Mattresses, even cheap ones, are an investment. A mattress that only lasts for a few years before losing shape will end up costing you in more ways that one. According to Rubin, identifying when your mattress is spent is as important as buying the right new mattress, at least when it comes to back pain.
“Night after night of having your hips sag and your spine fall out of alignment will exacerbate existing pain,” he says.
Particularly for those with back pain, look out for a mattress with a warranty of 8 or more years to ensure it doesn’t fall out of shape too quickly and become a source of further pain. Many of these warranties guarantee a full mattress replacement if it does not last.
Even with a mattress built to last, there are actions you can take to extend its use even further. According to Byron Golub, vice president of product and merchandising for Saatva, “once you have found your preferred mattress, it should be rotated regularly. Failure to do so can cause uneven wear over time and reduce the mattress’s ability to support your body.”
How We Selected
We made our final choices for this list based on research across multiple online resources including trusted names such as our colleagues at Good Housekeeping. Alongside our online research, we made sure to utilize our in-house expertise as well interviewing experts from The Sleep Doctor and talking to product experts at Saatva, a mattress brand we frequently recommend.
We also spent time reading through verified customer reviews on company websites to look for mattresses that address back pain through firm yet comfortable support, motion reduction technology, breathability, and longevity. We considered warranties and trial periods, too, to make sure you can find the best mattress for your back pain.
With a classic innerspring design and a plush pillow top, this mattress from Saatva offers great back support by using is sturdy base to keep your body stable throughout the night. This mattress further supports your back with a layered-in spinal wire, that is designed specifically to keep your back aligned as you sleep, keeping your body stable throughout the night.
According to Golub, in combination with a spinal zone quilt pattern and memory foam lumbar crown, the three, “work in concert to support sleepers’ backs and spines, ensuring proper spinal alignment.”
Each of the pocketed coils disperses your body weight with the strongest springs prioritized to the middle of the bed to prevent sagging.
The sides are also surrounded by a frame of high-density foam to reduce motion transfer as you get in and out of bed, so if you have a partner, they won’t feel you waking up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.
Each mattress from Saatva is also chiropractor-approved.
Signature Hybrid Mattress
A hybrid mattress made of five different layers, this option from Brooklyn Bedding works to blend support and comfort. The two layers of foam and the quilted top provide a cushioning and contouring that hugs and conforms to your body throughout the night.
This is combined with individually encased coils. This means that each coil moves independently of the others, taking on the shape of your body more accurately than a large coil bed. These coils disperse weight more evenly than connected coil beds while still being stiff enough to give a supportive base as you sleep. The mattress even has a base layer below the coils for added stability.
The hybrid design comes in different firmness levels—soft, medium, or firm.
One of the most well-known names in the sleep game, Tempur-Pedic continues to excel and creating comfort and adjustability through its layered foam mattresses. This mattress tackles back pain by absorbing motion and conforming to your body with its trademark TEMPUR-Adapt foam top layer.
By cradling your body, the mattress reduces the amount you toss and turn in your sleep, keep your body, and back, at rest.
Although Tempur-Pedic is mostly known for its foam, this mattress is actually a hybrid, with an innerspring center designed for back relief with a stiff core and low energy transfer when you shift in bed.
In combination with the Tempur-Pedic Power Base, the mattress is adjustable near the top third and bottom third, however the base is a separate purchase and costs almost as much as the mattress.
Cloud Smart Bed Set
Instead of just a mattress, consider this complete bed set from Puffy. While you can buy the mattress on its own, what makes this option more notable as a set is the adjustable base.
The base allows you to angle your mattress up or down to better accommodate your back. This is great for sleepers who like a more upright position for their back, breathing, or just to read before heading to sleep.
The mattress itself is also high quality, with five layers of foam designed to conform to your body shape and support you as you move. Two of the layers are made of cooling and breathable foam, regulating temperature and keeping the mattress from overheating in the night.
Sapira Hybrid Mattress
This hybrid mattress from Leesa offers a cool, comfortable sleep without compromising on comfort. Unlike other hybrid mattresses that mainly rely on the innerspring layer to bring airflow in, one of the foam layers on the Sapira mattress is ventilated.
This ventilation layer ensures that airflow reaches all portions of the mattress, preventing the surface for heating up too much as you sleep.
This option is also great for back pain, with over 1,000 individually wrapped springs that offer sturdy support and continuously adapt to your body as it moves.
Sleep Nova Hybrid Mattress
If you are flexible on the size of your mattress, this Casper hybrid is worth keeping in mind. While it only comes in a full, king, and California king, don’t mistake its lack of size options for lack of quality.
The hybrid mattress comes with two layers of breathable foam for temperature regulation, as well as a layer of supportive foam with unique support zones designed to relieve pressure in key areas such as the shoulders and lower back.
These support zones are areas of the foam with unique texture and reinforced cushioning that are meant to target key points on your body.
Elite Hybrid Mattress
This hybrid mattress is thick, measuring 14 inches for lots of support. A portion of that extra height comes from a bottom layer of supportive foam that sits underneath the springs, sandwiching them between foam on each side.
This improves the durability of the springs, and also helps them reduce motion transfer by absorbing spring movement when you shift in bed.
The top of the mattress has a quilted cushion cover that helps air pass freely between your body and the mattress for comfortable temperature regulation.
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