Back pain can be, well, a pain; waking up in the morning with lower back strain can mean the start to an unfulfilling day – while there are many reasons a person might be struggling with back pain, an uncomfortable and unsupportive mattress might be the major culprit!
Pain sufferers should be looking for a durable, medium firm mattress with a great balance of comfort and support – while there are a number of mattresses that meet these criteria, we’ve got seven that could help prevent and alleviate back pain!
So, let’s talk about our top picks for mattresses to help with back pain and who they are the absolute best fit for – also, we will get into what really causes low back pain and what to look for when buying a mattress.
To find out which is the absolute best mattress for back pain, read on for my full mattress guide!
[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a medical professional or another medical expert if there are any health-related questions.]
The Saatva mattress is a supportive and comfortable mattress and contains high-quality materials; it is exactly what people with back pain should be seeking in a mattress.
Made To Relieve Back Pain
The Level Sleep is an all-foam mattress made specifically with back pain in mind; it is designed to alleviate and prevent back pain.
Best For Side Sleepers With Back Pain
The Nolah is a softer all-foam mattress that is a particularly good fit for side sleepers who struggle with back pain.
Good For All Three Sleeping Positions
The Purple's gel grid offers great support for those with back pain and is a fantastic match for all three sleeping positions.
Loom And Leaf
Loom And Leaf
The Loom and Leaf is a durable and supportive memory foam mattress that should be a fantastic option for people with back pain.
Best For Stomach Sleepers
The Plank is a flippable mattress with two very firm sides; both should be a good match for stomach sleepers with back pain.
Best For Larger People
The Helix Plus is a supportive mattress made specifically for larger people; it is particularly good for heavier people with back pain.
7 Picks For Best Back Pain Mattress
While there are a plethora of comfortable options out there, these seven definitely fit all the criteria people should look for when choosing a mattress to alleviate low back pain. They are durable, supportive in the right areas, and have just the ideal firmness to keep the spine in proper alignment.
Sleepers who struggle with back pain should be looking for a few things in a mattress; they want something that is quite durable, close to medium-firm and supports proper, neutral spinal alignment. Well, there’s a reason I’m starting this list with the Saatva mattress; it fits all these criteria!
First off, the Saatva mattress does include particularly high-quality materials such as high-grade coils, micro-coils, and high-density foams as well; a mattress that is prone to sagging isn’t a fantastic option for those who struggle with back pain. Sagging should not be an issue on the Saatva mattress; it is an exceptionally durable option that should remain comfortable and supportive for years to come.
The Saatva is also right in that medium-firm range and, on our firmness scale, had a score of 7/10; this is just slightly firmer-than-average, but the mattress does feature that necessary balance of comfort and support.
Back pain can occur when someone’s mattress does not promote proper spinal alignment; the Saatva handles this issue in two ways. First, it contains an extra layer of micro-coils that provide some excellent contouring for sleepers; it is so important that one’s mattress really takes the shape of the body in order to keep that spine in alignment. What’s more, an extra layer of high-density memory foam is there to add even more lumbar support.
If there’s a checklist for the perfect mattress for back pain, the Saatva seems to check every box!
What Makes The Saatva Stand Out?
- The Saatva mattress contains two sets of steel coils, one to provide the necessary overall support, and the other to provide fantastic contouring.
- The mattress boasts some very high-quality components: supportive coils, micro-coils, and high-density foams.
- The Saatva mattress is very close to a medium-firmness; it features the balance of comfort and support that those with back pain should be seeking.
- Hot sleepers should not be burning up on the Saatva mattress – its two sets of coils promote airflow through the mattress so that it does not trap too much heat and direct it back at sleepers.
Read the full Saatva mattress review
Saatva is a great value that happens to be both comfortable and supportive at the same time. You can save $100 on a Saatva mattress simply by clicking the link below.
Made To Relieve Back Pain
People with back pain can rest easy on the Level Sleep Tri-Support because it is a mattress created specifically with back pain in mind!
The Level Sleep’s defining feature is the titular Tri-Support system; it is a zoned construction where the center of the comfort layer is firmer than the top and bottom. Just to give readers an idea of how these zones vary in regard to firmness, the shoulder zone is close to a 5.5/10, the zone under the knees is a 7/10, and the lumbar zone is an 8/10.
First, this indeed makes the Level Sleep a solid mattress for dealing with back pain; that lumbar zone provides some of the best lumbar support I have experience in a mattress and should ensure sleepers stay in proper, neutral alignment. The company actually spent years perfecting the Level Sleep mattress, and they have conducted numerous studies to test the efficacy of its design; it has been proven to prevent and alleviate back pain!
Also, this zoning should be very attractive to combination sleepers as well – people should feel significantly more support from the lumbar zone when they are stomach and back sleeping and more pressure relief from the shoulder zone when they are side sleeping.
The Level Sleep is all about dealing with back pain; check it out so see if the Tri-Support system sounds like a good fit!
What Makes The Level Sleep Stand Out?
- The Level Sleep mattress contains a proprietary Tri-Support zoned construction that provides some of the most exceptional lumbar support I have felt on a mattress.
- The zoning also makes the Level Sleep a fantastic match for all three sleeping positions; whether one sleeps on their back, side, or stomach, the Level Sleep should feel properly supportive and comfortable.
- The Level Sleep should be a suitable option for hot sleepers as well – the foam found in the top of the mattress is breathable and designed to ensure the top of the mattress stays nice and cool.
Read the full Level Sleep mattress review
Level Sleep is a smartly designed mattress that is an excellent choice for those with back pain and is comfortable in any sleeping position. You can get 20% off a Level Sleep mattress by clicking the link below and using code CLARITY20.
Best For Side Sleepers With Back Pain
So, what about those side sleepers out there? It’s true that mattresses that are best for side sleeping are not always the best choice for those with back pain; that is because many side sleeper mattresses are softer-than-average and not quite supportive enough to prevent or alleviate back pain.
That’s why I am such an enormous fan of the Nolah mattress; it is fantastic for side sleepers with back pain. While the mattress is indeed softer-than-average, it does not feature an extremely thick comfort layer of AirFoam – at the same time, the AirFoam is designed to relieve pressure better than memory foam (it is extremely comfortable).
With this design, side sleepers will get just the right amount of pressure relief while also receiving the proper amount of support – the AirFoam should press up into the gap between the ribs and hips while also relieving pressure on the shoulders and hips. Side sleepers should feel well-aligned and comfortable as well!
What Makes The Nolah Stand Out?
- The Nolah is one of the more comfortable mattresses on this list; the proprietary AirFoam provides exceptional pressure relief.
- The mattress should be supportive enough for back pain sufferers while also providing a suitable amount of contouring.
- Hot sleepers should not find themselves getting sweaty on the Nolah; it features open-celled foams as well as a cooling cover.
Read the full Nolah mattress review
Nolah has a VERY comfortable mattress that is especially good for side sleepers. You can get $125 off the Nolah by clicking the link below and using code MATTRESSCLARITY.
Good For All Three Sleeping Positions
The Purple is one of the most popular bed-in-a-box mattresses currently on the market and for good reason; it features a very unique, proprietary gel grid in its comfort layer.
This gel grid is made from a hyper-elastic gel polymer that acts differently than foams found in many online mattresses; the grid feels firm and supportive until someone applies enough pressure. When that occurs, that specific area of the gel grid will collapse while the rest of the grid continues to be supportive. This design makes the Purple ideal for those with back pain; it features a perfect balance of comfort and support, and it promotes proper spinal alignment.
No matter what position someone with back pain lies in, they should feel like the Purple is a good match; back sleepers will feel their hips sink in, while the gel grid supports the lumbar area. Side sleepers will feel like their shoulders and hips sink in, but the gel grid will fill all the other gaps; stomach sleepers shouldn’t feel the mattress collapse whatsoever.
The Purple is one of the most durable mattresses on the market and shouldn’t sag at all; people with back pain should love the Purple no matter what position they sleep in.
What Makes The Purple Stand Out?
- The Purple features a hyper-elastic gel polymer that is simultaneously supportive and pressure-relieving.
- The mattress is an exceptional fit for all three sleeping positions and should provide excellent lumbar support in all three.
- The gel grid allows the mattress to sleep almost completely temperature-neutral; it leaves a significant amount of room for airflow, so hot sleepers shouldn’t be overheating on the Purple.
- The Purple mattress is incredibly durable, shouldn’t sag, and should last for a good amount of time.
Read the full Purple mattress review
Loom And Leaf
Memory foam can be a fantastically comfortable – however, if the memory is too soft or isn’t very high-density, it might not be the most ideal choice for people struggling with back pain. The Loom and Leaf is another quality offering from the Saatva company and, while it is a memory foam mattress, it may also help prevent or alleviate back pain.
The Loom and Leaf features two layers of extremely high-density memory foam right on top; the mattress actually feels quite firm at first but, after lying in for a few moments, it will start to soften up. This incredibly slow-moving memory foam offers some of the best contouring I have experienced on a mattress – lying on the Loom and Leaf, the memory foam really hugs the body and fills in all my gaps.
The Loom and Leaf is a particularly good option for back sleepers with back pain; the mattress is close to medium-firm and offers a suitable balance of comfort and support. The mattress even contains a Spinal Zone Gel that will provide additional lumbar support!
Those fans of memory foam who struggle with back pain are definitely going to want to check out the Loom and Leaf!
What Makes The Loom And Leaf Stand Out?
- The mattress contains very durable memory foam that will stand up to years of use.
- The Loom and Leaf is a medium-firm mattress that provides a perfect balance of comfort and support.
- The mattress provides excellent contouring and should be a particularly good choice for back sleepers with back pain.
- The Loom and Leaf’s top memory foam layer contains a gel infusion that will help with heat dissipation, and there are convoluted pockets to promote airflow through the mattress.
Read the full Loom and Leaf review
Loom And Leaf is a perfect choice for those looking for a luxury memory foam feel but don't want to sleep hot. Save $100 on Loom And Leaf simply by clicking the button below.
Best For Stomach Sleepers
I have tried a significant number of mattresses from soft to firm, but I can honestly say the Plank mattress is the firmest mattress I have ever reviewed – it is a flippable mattress with a firm and ultra-firm side (8/10 and 9/10 respectively). Now, while medium-firm mattresses are usually a better option for back pain, that is not exactly the case for stomach sleepers with back pain.
Stomach sleepers need significantly more support under their hips so that they do not dip into the mattress at all; this is a surefire way to get back pain! That should not be a problem with the Plank mattress – both sides should offer the extra support that stomach sleepers are looking for.
The Plank mattress also comes from Brooklyn Bedding, a company that owns its own production factory; this allows them to cut out the middleman and sell their mattresses for a much lower price.
So, stomach sleepers who are looking to prevent or get rid of their back pain (and want to save some money) are going to appreciate the Plank mattress.
What Makes The Plank Stand Out?
- The mattress is flippable, so it offers two firmnesses in one mattress; one side is firm and close to an 8/10 and the other is extra firm and close to a 9/10.
- The Plank is one of the absolute firmest mattresses on the market; it should provide excellent support for stomach sleepers of many sizes.
- Brooklyn Bedding owns its own factory so, for such a high-quality, supportive mattress, the Plank is able to be priced quite low.
Read the full Plank mattress review
The Plank is a very firm mattress that is a great match for stomach sleepers and those who need extra support.
Best For Larger People
The Helix mattresses are a fantastic choice for those shoppers who just can’t make up their minds – they allow customers to take a sleep quiz, and they then will customize a mattress based on those answers. People can also select from their line of mattresses, and the Helix Plus is their mattress designed specifically with larger people in mind.
Larger people require more support and durability than lighter people, and the Helix Plus definitely delivers; it features 8″ of individually-wrapped coils that will be able to handle those heavier weights. It also contains Helix Dynamic Foam, Ultra-Dense Memory Foam, and High-Grade polyfoam; these are all high-density foams that shouldn’t sag under the additional weight.
The Helix Plus also has the perfect balance of comfort and support; the tall coils provide the support, and the multiple foam layers provide the comfort. The comfort layer is not extremely thick, and this makes the Helix Plus a fantastic option for heavier back sleepers with back pain.
Heavy people with back pain take note: the Helix Plus could be the perfect mattress.
What Makes The Helix Plus Stand Out?
- The mattress is made specifically for heavier sleepers; it features very supportive materials such as tall coils and high-density foam.
- The Helix Plus is a very durable mattress that shouldn’t sag or allow indentations under heavier weights.
- It has a perfect balance of comfort and support that should be ideal for back sleepers with back pain.
Read the full Helix Plus mattress review
The Helix Plus is a supportive hybrid that could be a great match for heavier sleepers.
Heavyweight Sleepers – Over 230 lbs
It is always important to consider one’s size and weight when searching for a mattress; customers want to make sure that their new mattress will properly support heavier weights. This is even more important when we are discussing mattresses for back pain; larger people require even more support under their lumbar area so that they do not get out of alignment. For this reason, I asked Marten, who weighs 250 lbs, to give his perspective on these mattresses; I only weigh 160 lbs, so it will be fantastic to hear about his experience:
Out of these seven mattresses, four really stand out among the rest; they should be excellent options for those heavier sleepers out there.
First off, as Joe mentioned, I was the reviewer for the Helix Plus mattress; Helix creates mattresses for many different types of people, and the Helix Plus is their mattress designed specifically with larger people in mind. The Helix Plus mattress has that medium firmness that those with back pain should be searching for, but it is also incredibly supportive and offers the necessary lumbar support.
The Saatva mattress is also a fantastic match because it features a nice balance of comfort and support; back sleeping, I receive excellent lumbar support and the mattress conforms to the curves of my body. When I am side sleeping, my hips sink in the right amount, and the memory foam presses up to fill in my gaps and keeps me in proper neutral alignment.
The Purple mattress features a hyper-elastic gel polymer in its comfort layer – it stays flat and supportive until I apply enough pressure. Even though I am a larger person, the mattress only collapses under my hips and butt when I am back sleeping and under my shoulders and hips when I am side sleeping. This ensures that I get both the comfort and support I need so that I remain neutrally aligned; when stomach sleeping, the mattress does not collapse at all. Heavier combination sleepers shouldn’t definitely take note!
The Level Sleep really stands out because of its zoned construction – the center of the mattress is firmer, more supportive, and provides additional lumbar support. I feel like the Level Sleep is an especially good match for heavier back sleepers, as my hips sink in just the right amount while I get excellent overall support in that sleep position.
What Is Back Pain?
Most of us know when our back is giving us issues, but what is really happening here behind the scenes?
According to the National Institute of Arthritis And Musculoskeletal And Skin Diseases, back pain is “one of the most common medical problems in the U.S; it can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to move.”
Surveys from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that about 80 percent of Americans will struggle with back pain at some point in their lifetimes – this potentially helps explain why back pain is the fifth most common reason people go to the doctor. At the same time, many pain sufferers do not see a doctor because of pride, money issues, or other reasons.
The Mayo Clinic describes back pain symptoms as:
- Muscle ache
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Pain that radiates down the leg
- Pain that worsens with bending, lifting, standing, or walking
- Pain that improves with reclining
The Mayo Clinic also defines two types of back pain: acute and chronic. Acute back pain occurs when symptoms last between a few days and a few weeks; if the symptoms last for over 12 weeks, this is considered chronic back pain.
What Causes Back Pain?
Just as the symptoms of back pain can vary, there are numerous reasons someone might be feeling back pain – here are some of the most common explanations for lower and upper back pain:
- Strain. If someone works a job that requires him/her to lift especially heavy objects, the repetition of this action can potentially lead to muscle and ligament strain. Also, simply lifting a heavy object without using the legs can potentially cause immediate strain in the lower back area; if someone is in poor physical shape, it increases the likelihood of pulling a muscle in the lower back area.
- Ruptured or herniated discs. This is one of the major causes of lower back pain and can be particularly debilitating. The Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says, “A disk begins to herniate when its jelly-like nucleus pushes against its outer ring due to wear and tear or a sudden injury. This pressure against the outer ring may possibly cause lower back pain and, if the pressure continues, the jelly-like nucleus may push all the way through the disk’s outer ring or cause the ring to bulge. This puts pressure on the spinal cord and nearby nerve roots. In addition, the disk material releases chemical irritants that contribute to nerve inflammation.”
- Arthritis or scoliosis. Arthritis can definitely have a direct impact on the lower back area in multiple ways – arthritis can lead to spinal stenosis, wherein the spaces in the spine narrow and begin to put pressure on the nerves. Scoliosis, on the other hand, is an unnatural curvature of the spine; this can affect posture, stretching muscles and pinching nerves, and thereby cause back pain issues.
- Serious injury. Car accidents, sports-related injuries, and workplace falls can all lead to pulled muscles, pinched nerves, and herniated discs; these are all associated with back pain and are very common occurrences in America.
- Sciatica. The sciatic nerve goes through the buttocks and down the back of the leg; if this nerve is compressed, people could potentially experience back pain or numbness in the leg.
What Increases The Chances Of Experiencing Back Pain?
There are also a plethora of factors that could make it more likely for someone to develop back pain.
- Age. As we grow older, we have a significantly higher chance of dealing with back pain; aging can cause degeneration of spinal discs so they aren’t as effective at absorbing shock. It’s also possible to develop Spondylolisthesis, where one vertebra moves into another vertebra.
- Lack of exercise. If we don’t exercise, our bodies can become susceptible to back pain; also, if our back muscles are weak, the back pain can potentially become more severe. Many studies have shown that exercise can help alleviate back pain. In fact, one 2012 study from Informed Health Online found that exercise can prevent a recurrence of acute back pain in 1 out of 3 people.
- High bodyweight. For those that are overweight, back pain becomes more likely – a higher weight could also exacerbate the pain and generally make things harder to manage. One 2016 study, which was published in the journal Medicine, found that “higher BMI and waist-hip ratio were associated with high-intensity low back pain and/or high disability.”
- Depression and/or anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with these disorders are more likely to struggle with back pain than people who don’t experience anxiety and/or depression.
- Smoking. The Mayo Clinic states that smoking cigarettes cuts down on blood flow to the lower back area and reduces the nutrients that are delivered to the spine – for those with acute back pain, nicotine can slow the healing process.
What Should Someone Look For In A Mattress?
So, now that we know what back pain is and what causes it, how can a mattress deal with this pressing issue? And for those looking for a mattress to alleviate and prevent back pain, what should they consider?
- Lumbar support. For pain sufferers, it’s important that the lower back area is properly supported. One 2005 study, which was published in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Foundation, found that good lumbar support “limit[s] unfavorable compressive and shearing forces acting on the lumbar spine.” Mattresses such as the Level Sleep have a special system to ensure the lumbar area has extra support – other mattresses, such as the Casper, also feature a zoned construction so the middle part of the mattress is firmer than the rest.
- Comfort layer thickness. Along with lumbar support, people should think about just how thick the mattress’s comfort layer is. While a thick comfort layer can feel great at first, it might not give the proper support; there’s the chance of sinking too far into the mattress and not getting the proper support. The Harvard Medical School says, “You might also sink in so deeply that your joints twist and become painful during the night.” That said, it’s important to consider one’s sleeping position when taking comfort layer thickness into account; for side sleepers, a thicker comfort layer could be a better match.
- Firmness. The overall firmness of a mattress comes into play when thinking about back pain (but also depends on one’s sleep position). Doctors once recommended that pain sufferers opt for a firm mattress but that has now changed, and doctors recommend a medium firm mattress. A 2015 study from the journal Sleep Health found that “a mattress that is subjectively identified as a medium firm mattress and is custom inflated (self-adjusted) is optimal for promoting sleep comfort, quality, and spinal alignment.” It’s best not to let the hips sink in too far and, if the mattress is too soft, falling into the mattress becomes more likely. For side sleepers, the mattress should be soft enough for the shoulder to compress the mattress; if it is too firm, the shoulder will be pushed up, and the body will also get out of alignment.
- Weight. For those who are considered a larger person, definitely take this into account when choosing a mattress for back pain – one’s weight can affect how firm a mattress feels, as well as much support it can offer. It might be necessary to choose a mattress that would feel firm to a lighter person. Also, there is a risk of “bottoming out” on a mattress, so a thick comfort layer might not be ideal.
- Durability. After finding that perfect medium firm mattress with just the right amount of comfort, people still want to know that the mattress will handle back pain for a good duration of time – people want to pay particular attention to the density of foams and the quality of other materials such as coils and pillow-tops. If the mattress begins to sag, this could make the back pain even worse.
Armed with this information, people should have all the knowledge they need to choose the right mattress for preventing and alleviating back pain. Experiencing back pain is never fun, but these excellent choices can definitely make the situation a little better!
[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a medical professional or another medical expert if you have health-related questions.]
Featured image: SOPRADIT/Shutterstock
Can a mattress give you back pain?
It is definitely possible for a mattress to cause back pain – if the mattress is not supportive enough, a person’s spine might not stay in proper neutral alignment.
A mattress that is incredibly soft may be the culprit when it comes to back pain; if it does not provide enough overall or, specifically, lumbar support, sleepers could find themselves with feelings of back strain.
What is the best mattress for side sleepers with back pain?
There are a few mattresses that should be excellent options for side sleepers with back pain. The Nolah mattress, for instance, is softer but does not feature an extremely thick comfort layer; side sleepers should get enough pressure relief while the mattress keeps them properly aligned.
The Level Sleep and Casper mattresses are also good choices because of their zoned construction – the center of each mattress is firmer and provides extra lumbar support even when someone is sleeping on their sides.
Are hybrid mattresses good for back pain?
Hybrid mattresses can be good options for people who struggle with back pain and want to sleep better; coils offer excellent support and help keep sleepers well-aligned. However, it is important to pay attention to the comfort layer of the hybrid mattress; if the comfort layer is particularly thick and makes the mattress too soft, that hybrid mattress won’t be the best fit for back pain.
Are memory foam mattresses good for back pain?
Memory foam mattresses can be a good option for back pain, but there are a few things to keep in mind to sleep better. First, make sure that the mattress is still in that medium-firm range; if the mattress is extremely soft, it might not offer quite enough support.
Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.
He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.
Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.
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