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If you have ever suffered from back pain, you know firsthand how it drains your energy and negatively affects your sleep. Simple, everyday activities become difficult to perform. Though your back pain could potentially be related to a medical condition, it is possible that the source of your pain is your mattress. Not all mattresses are sufficiently equipped to prevent or relieve back pain. If you are sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t offer the required firmness, support and conformity to your body, it’s likely that you are caught in a vicious cycle of sleep deprivation (your back pain causes insomnia and insomnia worsens your back pain, and so the cycle continues).
Top 9 Mattresses for Back + Lower Back Pain Relief
Good bounce + support.
Talalay latex. Breathable + cooling. Good comfort + support. Available in 3 comfort levels.
Latex + Gel-infused Memory Foam. Body contouring comfort + support. Relieves pressure points. Cooling temperature.
Firm; softens after break-in period
High density gel memory foam. Edge support base foam. Cooling. Relieves pressure points.
Luxury firm + Medium
Energex + Thermaphase Gel Memory Foam. Great balance of support + comfort. 6-inch Poly foam support layer. CertiPUR certified + Hypo-allergenic Sleeps cool.
Combines soft latex + firm memory foam. Cooling ability. Available in 6 sizes.
Uses proprietary Avena. Minimal motion transfer. Pressure point relief. Good bounce. Cooling ability.
Gel Memory Foam + Polyurethane foam core. Great edge support + motion isolation. Relieves pressure points.
Medium-firm to Firm
Gel Memory foam. Perfect balance of comfort + Support. Sleeps cool.
Medium-firm to Firm
How Do You Know Whether or Not Your Mattress May Be To Blame for Your Back Aches?
You May Be In Need of a New Mattress If:
- Your mattress is sagging (the center is compressed and lower than the rest of the mattress surface) and is no longer comfortable
- You haven’t changed your mattress in more than 7 years
- You consistently wake up fatigued, with aches and pains and/or experience a depressed mood.
- You’ve experienced more restful and pain-free nights in a bed other than yours (for example, a hotel or at a friend’s house)
More than 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain during their lives. With this type of statistic, it’s no surprise that sleeping on a good mattress becomes even more important and is vital for overall health. Generally speaking, lower back pain can be attributed to muscle strain, injury, overuse or a specific spinal disorder, such as a herniated disc or a degenerative disc disease.
The Two Most Common Types of Lower Back Strain Are:
Muscle strain, also known as a pulled muscle, which is caused when a muscle is torn or over-stretched. The strain results in damage to the muscle fibers. Typical activities that cause muscle strain are:
- Lifting a heavy object
- Lifting while twisting
- Sudden or jarring movements or falls
- Sports, such as golf
Lumbar sprain, which occurs when the tough, fibrous ligaments are over-stretched or torn.
Either one of the abovementioned injuries will cause inflammation, which leads to back spasms. Ultimately, it is a back spasm that causes lower back pain and difficulty moving.
What Features Make the Best Mattress for Back Pain Relief?
There is no single mattress style or type that works well for everyone and acts as a cure-all for back pain relief. The bottom line is that it comes right down to personal preference. You should choose a mattress that feels comfortable to you, while simultaneously supporting your back. However, no matter what mattress you choose, it should meet to the following criteria:
- Provide sufficient back support
- Provide the right amount of firmness and be comfortable for you
- Conform to your body contours
A mattress with the right amount of support is vital because it has to maintain your body in its natural alignment while you sleep (natural alignment refers to the same curvature of the spine as when you’re in a standing posture). Lack of support places strain on your muscles, and as we determined previously, muscle strain is a major contributor to back pain. The right mattress for you should help you experience restorative sleep, so that you wake up the next morning feeling refreshed, rested, energized and ready to take on your day.
Firmness + Comfort
“Firmness” refers to the feel of a mattress and is not the same as having support. Generally, most people prefer a firmer mattress, but firmer doesn’t necessarily equate to sufficient support. You can still sleep on a softer mattress that gives your body the proper support. Typically, medium-firm mattresses provide better back pain relief than firm mattresses, since they conform to the shoulder and hips and allow them to sink in, thereby releasing pressure points. If you absolutely must sleep on a firm mattress, you can counteract any pressure on your shoulder and hips by opting for thicker padding on top, sometimes also called “pillow top.”
Familiarize yourself with the basic construction of a mattress and what it comprises in order to provide you with the support and comfort you require:
- Support: The coils or inner springs in the mattress should provide adequate support for your back.
- Comfort: The padding on top of the mattress primarily provides the comfort (thick padding may be called "pillow top"). The padding comes in thin or thick options.
The higher the number of coils and the thicker the padding, the higher the quality (and more expensive) the mattress. However, don’t feel obliged to purchase the most expensive mattress if it does not meet the criteria for support and comfort. If you’re on a budget, purchase a mattress that offers you the best value and features for the money.
What You Should Do
Test as many mattresses as you can before purchasing one. The optimum scenario is to sleep on a mattress for at least a week, but preferably 30 days, to get a realistic feel for how it will support your body. If sleeping on a mattress is not possible, spend some time in a store and lie on a mattress for at least 5-10 minutes to ensure that it’s comfortable and the right one for you before purchasing.
Additional Factors That May Disrupt Your Sleep
If you find that, despite your recent mattress upgrade, you continue to experience persistent back pain and sleep disruption, it’s time to consider the possibility that other factors besides your mattress may be responsible.
Do Any of The Following Symptoms Apply To You?
- Medication side effects
- Irregular sleep patterns
- Insomnia due to caffeine/alcohol/tobacco use
- Sleep apnea
- Anxiety and stress
- Restless legs syndrome
If so, these symptoms may be caused by an underlying back or medical condition that is not related to your mattress. It is always advisable to consult with a health care provider for a thorough exam, diagnosis, and treatment program.
Is Exercise Recommended for Back Pain?
A natural reaction to the thought of exercising when experiencing back pain is to either stay in bed or cease any or all activity that is strenuous. While this approach is understandable and may even be recommended in the short-term, when done for more than a day or two, it can actually undermine healing. In most cases, back exercises done in a controlled, gradual and progressive manner are almost always necessary to rehabilitate the spine and help alleviate back pain.
A Regular Routine of Lower Back Exercises Helps To:
- Avoid stiffness and weakness
- Minimize recurrences of lower back pain
- Reduce the severity and duration of possible future episodes of low back pain
A balanced workout of back exercises should include a combination of stretching, strengthening, and low-impact aerobic conditioning. Gently stretching the soft tissues -- the muscles, ligaments and tendons -- in the back, legs, buttock, and around the spine is beneficial to almost everyone.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that both a good mattress combined with moderate exercise may go a long way to having a healthy spine as well as a manageable and/or pain-free back condition.
NOTE: As in the case of all exercises associated with medical conditions, it is important to consult with a spine specialist trained to develop an individualized program of back exercises and to provide instruction on using the correct form and technique.
There are several considerations when buying the best mattress for your back pain, such as its firmness and strength. Sleep Metro recommends the following for back sleepers and those experiencing back pain, as these mattresses provide great comfort, quality & back support.
The Best Mattress for Back Sleepers or Those Experiencing Back Pain Should:
- Provide sufficient back support and not sag, or dip in the center of the mattress
- Be comfortable
- Conform to body contours and provide pressure point relief
- Provide the right amount of firmness: a medium to medium-firm is ideal
- Be compatible with an adjustable base
Page updated by Sharon Picone on September 1, 2018