A Mattress Industry Insider’s Guide To The Best Mattresses For Back Pain
As a mattress designer and manufacturer for over 25 years, I’ve developed several mattress options specifically designed to help reduce pain and inflammation, and to help you find the best mattresses for back pain.
If you are looking for a mattress which can help with back pain, you can jump below to the options I have personally reviewed and recommend to give you proper support and comfort.
Everyone’s personal experience with back pain is unique, and there are many kinds of back pain, and a broad range of medical treatments for the condition, but choosing the right mattress is likely the most important decision you will make to ultimately provide the relief you deserve.
You may have no idea where to start to find a mattress that will reduce your pain and inflammation. The most important thing to remember is that regardless of your body type, weight, age, or general medical condition, a mattress for back pain should offer several key features.
It should provide proper spine alignment, effective weight distribution, and have enough softness and buoyancy to be able to reduce downward pressure points that can actually make back pain worse.
We all need to typically spend 7-9 hours on our mattresses a night to get the restorative rest we need, however, many people with severe back pain will stay in bed for far longer.
A well designed mattress for back pain relief should relieve pressure, promote vascular circulation to reduce inflammation, and distribute weight equally across the plane of your body.
As you may already know through personal experience, back pain can be uniquely complex and difficult to diagnose and treat. There are many types of back pain, and a wide range of treatments that may or may not work for the same condition.
Trying to sort between hundreds of mattress options, especially when you are dealing with pain, can be frustrating and stressful.
I’ve eliminated about 90% of the options out there and filtered out a small handful of proven mattresses that owners themselves describe as being productive and providing genuine relief.
In most cases, these mattress options cradle your hips and shoulders and fill in void areas like between ribs and hips when on your side, and in between shoulder blades and at the lumbar area when you are sleeping on your back.
Finding a mattress that promotes wellness and encourages healing is a critical step in managing back pain
Although many mattress review sites recommend manufacturers and brands that proclaim guaranteed pain and pressure relief, there really is no mattress that is custom designed to fit each and every body. However, there are essential designs that promote back pain relief because they use certain materials like pocketed coils, latex, gel and memory foam, and even textiles like cashmere and wool.
First, let’s discuss what causes back pain and also figure out why a mattress is essential in the process of calming and reducing inflammation and promoting restorative, uninterrupted sleep. You can also find even more information about back pain on our Chiropractor page, and find out which mattresses they recommend for back pain relief.
The intensity and manageability of back pain is completely different for every person. For example, one person with a herniated disc may experience excruciating pain while another person with the same condition has no symptoms at all. Similarly, a muscle strain can range from infrequent and occasional severe, to mildly annoying.
In any case, pressure relieving materials like memory foam and latex can help distribute weight to the sides and away from the body rather than straight down, which can create railroad spike points of pain. Many traditional firmer innerspring mattresses can actually create pain rather than help to diminish it.
With some conditions, back pain can flare up and then subside, only to flare up again after a few weeks or months and gradually intensify over time. Knowing which kind of mattress to invest in for the long term is like adding another layer of treatment options to back pain issues.
Many structures in your back can cause pain
Your back is subjected to many surprisingly strong forces throughout the day, such as from twisting, sudden jolts, or poor posture when sitting hunched over. Any of your spines many interconnected and overlapping muscles and connective tissues are capable of becoming injured and producing back pain. Common anatomical causes of back pain include:
- Large muscles that support the spine
- Spinal nerves that exit the spinal canal and may go to the legs or elsewhere
- Facet joints that connect the vertebrae along the back of the spine
- Intervertebral discs that provide shock-absorption for the bones
Types of back pain: The underlying cause may be hard to identify
It is usually difficult for the brain to distinguish between injury to one spinal structure versus another nearby. For example, a torn or herniated disc may feel similar to an arthritic facet joint due to their close proximity. In some cases, the same nerve root can be compressed or irritated by different structures, such as a disc or bone spur.
Your physician will take a thorough medical history, discuss your symptoms, and conduct a physical exam in order to accurately diagnose the cause of back pain. Sometimes diagnostic tests—such as X-rays, MRI scans, or diagnostic injections—are needed when trying to locate or confirm the underlying cause of pain.
In fact, physicians can often be a surprisingly great resource for figuring out what kind of mattress you need to relieve back pain.
How you describe your pain, its area of distribution, and any related symptoms are important to determine a back pain diagnosis. Three common classifications of back pain include:
- Axial pain. Also called mechanical pain, axial pain is confined to one spot or region. It may be described a number of ways, such as sharp or dull, comes and goes, constant, or throbbing. A muscle strain is a common cause of axial back pain as are facet joints and annular tears in discs.See Axial Back Pain: Most Common Low Back Pain
- Referred pain. Often characterized as dull and achy, referred pain tends to move around and vary in intensity. As an example in the lower back, degenerative disc disease may cause referred pain to the hips and posterior thighs.See Low Back Pain with Referred Pain
- Radicular pain. Commonly described as electric shock-like or searing, radicular pain follows the path of the spinal nerve as it exits the spinal canal. This type of pain is caused by compression and/or inflammation to a spinal nerve root. In the lower back (lumbar spine), radicular pain may travel into the leg. Other terms for radicular pain are sciatica or radiculopathy (when accompanied by weakness and/or numbness). It can be caused by conditions such as a herniated disc, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.See Radiculopathy, Radiculitis and Radicular Pain
Once your doctor reaches an accurate diagnosis for your back pain, an effective treatment plan can begin.
Radicular pain follows the path of the nerve into the arm or leg and may be accompanied by numbness or weakness.advertisementhttps://a10281d24bc9088752bf0f875115b21c.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Back Pain Is Very Real, Even If No Anatomical Reason Is Found
Even after many tests and doctor visits, in a small percentage of patients the anatomical cause for your back pain may remain elusive. If this is the case, the pain still needs to be treated and there are a variety of nonsurgical care options that can help alleviate or manage the pain.
Psychological factors, such as depression and sleeplessness, can make the pain worse and also need to be included as part of a comprehensive treatment program.
For persistent back pain and/or any neurological symptoms, it is always important to see a qualified spine specialist for a diagnosis. Ultimately, participating in the decision-making process about your medical care may help you have a better outcome. Understanding your pain is an important element of this process.
I’m Marc Anderson, and I’ve been in the mattress industry for 25 years, both in the brick and mortar retail side as well as online with my own e-commerce web sites. I’ve been the CEO of several companies that have designed and manufactured mattresses created exclusively to relieve back pain.
One of the most commonly asked questions by customers, of all ages, is which kind of mattress is best for both chronic back pain and occasional pain issues?
There are a lot of mattresses to choose from online that, at first glance, may seem be a good fit, but very few mattresses, especially if they are made with primarily foam layers, that will relieve back pain.
The key is to find a mattress with what we call the right “cake recipe”, that is the perfect combination of layers, including the kind of materials, the density and thickness of those layers, and even the kind of fabric that is used for the outer covering, as this influences the flexibility of the underlying materials and just how much back pain relief you will experience.
As an expert in the different kinds of materials that make up the “cake recipes” of a mattress designed to relieve back pain, I am extremely familiar with components, including polyurethane and urethane foams, natural latex and soy based foams, coils large and small, air chambers for sleep number style beds, and exterior fabrics and quilting for the finished top, which is referred to as the “body contact” part of a mattress. But is there a magic recipe for the perfect bed that helps ease back pain all across the board? Well…yes and no.
I can give you advice on beds to steer clear of, and suggest materials that really should be incorporated into a mattress designed for therapeutic application for back issues. One thing to remember is that humans are unique and very individualized creatures.
We are all shaped differently, our musculature and connective tissues are not aligned exactly the same, our vertebral columns responds to stimuli differently, we perceive pain very differently, and there is no one perfect solution, but there ARE key ingredients that should be considered in the “cake recipe” of your ideal bed.
One common ingredient that a back pain relieving mattress seems to have in most cases, is memory foam. Another ingredient that offers back pain relief, but is an all natural product and has a more lively sensation to it, is natural latex.
These two components are critical essentials to a mattress that is targeted at back pain sufferers. The simple reason is that these two ingredients distribute weight laterally, or sideways, rather than down, and help ease pain by eliminating pressure points.
If you have chronic back pain as the result of trauma or surgery, which many of our readers struggle with, buying a quality mattress that relieves pressure by redistributing your weight across the entire surface of your mattress should be precisely what you are seeking.
Not to worry, as we have researched a curated selection of a handful of mattress choices that deliver on the pressure relief that you will need.
the cake recipe for a mattress designed to relieve back pain: eliminate pressure and increase comfort and support
The most significant and effective relief from back pain in a mattress, in my experience, can be obtained from a combination of memory foam, latex, and a firmer and supportive base or foundation layer at the bottom, if you choose to buy a bed in a box type mattress online, as an example.
A coil or innerspring mattress is a good choice too, but you get better results with a layer of latex and memory immediately in combination with one another, sandwiched together, on top of the coil layers. I’m going to unravel all of this in a moment, with some bullet points, to make it easier.
I once had a customer call me who had been bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme’s Disease. The woman was only 30 years old, was essentially bed ridden, and had horrible back pain. She truly suffered, could not work, and her pain was so awful that she cried herself to sleep.
At the time, we did not custom make mattresses and we sold a standard lineup. I stepped out of my comfort zone and designed her a mattress, from scratch. She had it for a week before she called to tell me that she finally, FINALLY, slept through the night. I was thrilled, and she was able to enjoy resting her head on a mattress that relieved her pressure.
Surprisingly, the mattress was surprisingly simplistic: it contained a fairly dense bottom layer of polyurethane foam, about 6” thick, and immediately above it I incorporated a 2” layer of natural latex, and above that a 2” layer of specialized memory foam which was a little more dense that the kind of memory foam used in most mattresses sold online in the “bed in a box” category.
The outer cover was kept fairly thin, not overly quilted (the woman slept hot), and was made using a bamboo fabric that felt smooth, uplifting, and cloud-like.
For severe back pain, associated with herniated discs, as well as neurological issues such as sciatica, and shoulder and hip injuries, I recommend a mattress that has a fairly supportive base, really as firm as you can tolerate, but with memory foam and gel foam on top. Memory foam and gel foam are specialized materials, first invented by NASA, to distribute weight laterally, spreading the impact and the weight, rather than in pinpoint fashion in a downward direction.
This characteristic alone, taking advantage of materials that spread weight sideways, as if you are spreading pizza dough to the edge of a pan, is crucial in creating as close to a “zero gravity” effect as possible to distribute load. Also, these materials generally do not sleep hot, despite what you read, largely due to cooling technology being built into the outer covering of most mattresses these days.
Memory foam actually has a “false reputation” for sleeping hot, but after 20 years working very closely with the material, I have to totally disagree, and as far as I am concerned, it is a miracle ingredient.
Natural latex is highly beneficial for back pain too, though I like it better in lower back and hip pain applications. Being botanically derived, too, is a good thing, especially when there are allergies and sensitivity to petroleum based chemicals involved. My Lyme Disease customer had an aversion to anything fragrant, and the latex we used for her really helped with that.
Natural latex is highly responsive, whereas memory foam is doughy and wraps around your body, cradling it. Latex is spongy and very “fast”, and you tend to float above it a bit more than memory foam. Each material has wonderful qualities, and it is when you combine them that you really squeeze the benefits out of each and exponentially increase their benefits.
Take a look at all of the models we offer below. Truly, I feel that all of them are good choices for back pain sufferers, but let’s give specifics for choosing each one based on your back pain type and situation.
I’ve put together a selection of beds that I believe are helpful. Here’s the list below with links. I’ve matched up each selection with a specific recommendation.
the best mattresses for back pain and pressure relief, chosen by a mattress industry CEO and manufacturer with 25 years of factory experience
One of my favorite options. Carefully balanced with memory and gel foam to “float”your body, delivering best in class pressure relief, precision spinal alignment, with a sumptuous, nest-like feel.
I like the fact that Puffy uses top of the line luxury components and textiles, safer, low VOC and formaldehyde free Certi-Pur foam. Resists packing down and compression.
Excellent for chronic back pain, but is softer than many foam mattresses. Google reviews: 4.9 Rating out of 5, from a total of 6,572 Online Reviews. The Puffy Original, priced at just $949 in queen, it garners best in class verifiable reviews from its owners. My #1 pick for chronic pain, especially lower back.
Habitat Furnishings offers the best digital sleep number style airbed on the market. Half the price of sleep number beds. The bed is made with both natural latex and premium memory foam, the best recipe you can get for back pain.
You control your own level of firmness or softness on either side- excellent for managing back pain that varies from day to day.
Built-in sumptuous pillow top. LED wireless remote controls with memory setting. Sale offers $1200 off everyday prices. 90 Day Free Trial, solid warranty, made in USA! Best bed for couples, allowing for individual settings on each side.
Soft and sumptuous, and built for side and side/back sleepers, The Nolah Bed is made with clean ingredients, including a specialized material called cooling AirFoam™.
For pain, targeted pressure relief melts pinpoint pain away. I test drove this mattress for two weeks and it dramatically improved my spine pain, caused by scoliosis and years of weight lifting.
It’s scientifically proven to provide 4x better pressure relief on hips, shoulders, and back. Also, the company donates proceeds various wildlife management organizations. A good way to give back and get the pain relief you deserve.
Hybrid mattress featuring EMF and 5G radiation shielding system. FDA backed technology using static and charge removal surface. Detox, remove free radicals, and get restorative and recharged rest. The true “bio-hack anti-aging mattress”.
The company even offers solid research that demonstrates how their technology can reduce pain and inflammation.
Ground your body, relieve back pain. Owners swear by it. FDA proven to enhance recovery for injuries, increase general wellness, temporary increase in local blood flow and promotes a restful night of sleep.
Described as a soft, breathable sanctuary, the Dreamcloud delivers on back pain relief. Nice buildup with sumptuous cashmere quilted top, floating pocketed coils, and a quality 4lb. density layer of gel infused memory foam.
Owners report excellent support with no bottoming out. Great for neck and shoulder pain too. Minimal motion transfer and soft on shoulders and hips, it’s just $899 in queen. I LOVE this option for chronic lower back pain, and hip pain as well.
With my link, get $399 worth of free gifts included in your purchase, plus 365 night trial period, Lifetime Warranty. Just $999 in queen size.
This outstanding natural latex hybrid bed is loaded with clean, chemical free ingredients. You’ll nest upon a breathable organic quilted top, and beneath you, your body floats on 4” of botanical Dunlop latex.
Individually pocketed coils suspend and hover you, relieving lower back pain and pain between shoulders. Delivered with 365 day no questions asked trial and FOREVER warranty! Thickest layer of pure latex rubber on the market helps melt pain away.
An outstanding natural mattress that delivers supernatural comfort and levitating support. An organic outer quilted cover, a layer of eucalyptus infused rayon that cools, organic wool, 3” of pure botanical latex all floating above a pocketed coil system that evenly supports your body. Supports your spine with pinpoint precision. Compare at $1800 and up. Queen just $950. Proven “cake recipe” of latex and pocketed coil layer.
A wonderful hybrid mattress without all of the middleman costs. $598 for a king size bed. Individually wrapped pocketed coils, and a unique hybrid foam layer system above providing a bouncy yet pressure relieving sensation. Cooling technology built into the cover. We like the quality of the gel foam used in this Texas made brand. Solid 10 year warranty. Great for side sleepers and shoulder pain sufferers. A third of the price of identical “BigMattressInc” beds.
Looking for great support, especially at hips and shoulders? Our team loves this unique coil and foam hybrid. Gel memory foam on top, a pocketed coil system below with zoned support for torso and hips. A unique feature: a foam edge which provides perimeter support for sitting and increases usable space on the mattress. Queen size $999, 120 Night Trial. A+ marks.
How To Choose The Best Mattress For Back Pain: Enhanced Information
The best mattress for back pain has to perform two important functions. One of them is to relieve pressure, and the other is to offer support so that muscles in the body don’t have to work during rest.
A poorly designed mattress will often not the ability to move pressure away from the body, but rather, create pinpoint pressure spots that cause pain and soreness. Typically an all foam mattress uses both memory foam, a kind of foam that has a yielding, “melting in” kind of sensation.
It’s very similar to pizza dough when pressed to the outside of the pan. It pushes weight away, kind of like a wave in the water when you strike it. Underneath a memory foam layer, a really talented mattress designer might build in some natural latex, which has a springy, buoyant sensation, which keeps your body suspended.
These two foam combinations, when placed close to each other, are ideal for pressure relief and to prevent bucketing, which creates a trapped sensation, and makes it difficult to dig your way out of the mattress, turn, or even to site comfortably on the edge.
One of the problems with foam mattresses is that they have to be calibrated perfectly to not only accommodate weight without sinking into the middle, but also must be soft enough to be comfortable at areas like hips and shoulders to help relieve back pain.
For back pain, I often recommend shopping for a mattress that has at least 2” of memory foam, 2” of latex or a similar very flexible open celled foam that is all at once squishy, springy and has some stretch to it as well.
The reason for this is that you want a mattress to be able to respond to your body as it turns, twists, and moves during the night. It also helps if the outer fabric material, called the ticking or exterior fabric, is also stretchy, breathable, and has a little bit of quilt to it.
Many of the mattresses I recommend above incorporate stretchier fabrics that might also have some natural fibers in them as well, like bamboo, hemp, or organic cotton. These help to make the mattress cooler, which also aids in reducing inflammation and back pain.
The best mattresses for back pain may also have a layer of coils strategically placed below the top “comfort layers” of foam, but above the bottom layer. These coils are usually what is called “pocketed coils” meaning a system of up to 1,200 coils which operate independently from one another.
The coils act much like a suspension in an automobile, gently cradling and absorbing weight and movement, and keeping your body floating above the bottom layer of the mattress which is typically a very dense layer of high density foam.
For back pain, a pocketed coil system, generally as part of what is called a “hybrid mattress” is useful when your body weight is higher than normal, and for couples who tend to cuddle in the middle of their mattress.
In an all foam mattress, where there are no pocketed coils, the layer of denser supportive foam is often 6-8” thick to allow for proper support without creating depressions or dipping.
A well designed mattress can drastically improve back pain and allow your body to get restorative rest that heals and allows tissues to regenerate.