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Best mattresses for back pain

Aim for medium-firm for the best support

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Saatva Mattress and Nest Bedding
woman in bed with back pain

If you suffer from chronic back pain, look for a mattress that’s firm enough to support your spine but has enough give to relieve irritation of pressure points. Typically, the best type of mattress for those with back pain is a medium-firm hybrid, foam or latex mattress.

While they’re usually more expensive than traditional beds, adjustable beds may make it easier to sleep for those with more extreme back pain. Orthopedic mattresses are another option; these are specifically designed to support your joints and spine and can be made of any material. A well-made orthopedic mattress can certainly help, but keep in mind that any company can call its products “orthopedic,” as the use of that term is currently unregulated.

» MORE: How much does a mattress cost?

Our favorite mattresses for back pain relief

To find the best mattresses for those who suffer from back pain, we compared the firmness, support, layers and construction of several highly-rated mattresses. We only included mattresses with features designed to reduce pain, relieve pressure or improve spinal alignment.

Our picks:

Nest Sparrow Signature Hybrid
  • Special features: Cooling technology
  • Price (queen): $2,132 (as of publication)
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime
  • Test period: 365-night trial

This hybrid mattress provides the support of a coil mattress system with the comfort and pressure relief of memory foam. A hybrid is a good choice for anyone who wants a not-too-soft, not-too-firm solution and for those who suffer from chronic back pain. The Sparrow Signature Hybrid mattress is available in plush, medium and firm. We recommend the medium or firm version if you have back pain, depending on your sleeping position.

The Sparrow has reinforced coils for edge support and responsive foam layers, making it ideal for sharing with a partner. Its quilted pillow top also releases excess heat absorbed from your body.
Many Nest Bedding customers have left reviews on our site noting how much they appreciate the bedding company’s quality products that minimize back pain. Shannon from Olive Branch, Mississippi, said: “I'm here to tell you that my first sleep on this mattress blew me away. It was so comfortable. I don't remember tossing and turning as much as I usually do. … I woke up with virtually no back pain. ... I love it and will recommend it over any high-end mattress to anyone out there. Five stars from this Mississippi girl!”
Sleep Number 360 p5 Smart Bed
  • Special features: Smartphone control
  • Price (queen): $2,699 (as of publication)
  • Warranty: 15-year limited
  • Test period: 100-night trial

With a Sleep Number bed, you can adjust the mattress to suit your individual sleep needs. The 360 p5 Smart Bed model is designed with pressure relief in mind, and its responsive technology automatically adjusts to your movements. The mattress is 10 inches high, and the top plush layer is 4 inches tall.

Both sides of the 360 p5 Smart Bed are adjustable, so if your partner prefers a different level of comfort, firmness or support, it’s not an issue. The automatic adjustments are also a big plus for those who toss and turn.
Sleep Number has some loyal followers who left reviews on our site, with many praising the mattresses’ comfort level. Joanna of Carmel, California, said: “The experience was wonderful. Enjoyable even. This is my fourth Sleep Number bed for that reason and the fact that the beds are so comfortable. A dream come true for a bad back. If people could realize the comfort of this bed, they would not hesitate.”
Saatva Memory Foam Hybrid
  • Special features: Free setup
  • Price (queen): $1,795 (as of publication)
  • Warranty: Lifetime
  • Test period: 365-night trial

The Saatva Memory Foam Hybrid mattress is made of cooling innerspring and memory foam. The mattress isn’t adjustable, but you can purchase a Saatva adjustable base along with it ($1,245 as of publication). The Memory Foam Hybrid is also compatible with other frames and box springs.

The Memory Foam Hybrid model’s patented Lumbar Zone quilting technology and gel-infused foam are designed to keep your spine aligned. It’s also treated with a botanical antimicrobial to keep the surface bacteria-free.
Happy reviewers on our site were impressed by Saatva’s delivery team and customer service. Judy of Discovery Bay, California, wrote: "The delivery experience was one of the best! They had to bring the new mattress upstairs, but they were so careful. They were very professional and really made sure it was set up right. I have never had such an amazing delivery experience! And the mattress is even better! I was having sore back and hip issues; those have diminished with the new mattress! Truly getting a great night's sleep!”

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Is a hard or soft mattress better for back pain?

Conventional wisdom may hold that a hard mattress is best for an ailing back, but studies indicate that medium-firm mattresses are actually most advantageous for those suffering from low back pain. A mattress that’s too firm offers little support for the curve of the spine and can actually make back pain worse. The goal is to sleep on something that supports the arches and curves of your body and allows your spine to rest in a neutral position that relieves pressure.

What mattress material is best for back pain?

If you sleep in several positions throughout the night, choose a mattress that suits all kinds of sleeping styles. According to James Oliver, founder of the mattress review site Hey Mattress: “A hybrid or foam mattress can be a good choice because they offer a combination of support and pressure relief. However, it's important to choose a mattress that can provide adequate support in all positions to prevent back pain and other issues.”

How should I sleep if I have lower back pain?

Those with back pain can find relief by sleeping on their side or back with the right mattress. Stomach sleeping puts a lot of pressure on your spine, so it typically isn’t recommended for those with back pain or injury. Consider these sleep position modifications for pain relief:

  • Sleep with a pillow under your knees. If you sleep on your back, placing a pillow under your knees will help maintain the natural curve of your lower back and alleviate unnecessary pressure.
  • Sleep with a pillow between your knees. Side sleepers can reduce lower back pain by placing a pillow between their knees to keep their pelvis in a neutral position and aligned with their spine.
  • Sleep with a pillow under your pelvis. While stomach sleeping isn’t generally recommended for those who suffer from back pain, stomach sleepers may find some relief by placing a thin pillow just under their lower abdomen and pelvis.
  • Sleep at a slight incline. Gravity can do wonders. Try sleeping at a slight incline to increase circulation. An adjustable bed provides the easiest way to achieve this position, but wedge pillows and other mattress add-ons are also available.
  • Get the right pillow (for all sleeping positions). The quality and thickness of your pillow can also make a big impact on neck and back pain. Recommendations vary slightly depending on your size and weight, but a pillow thickness of four to 6 inches will be optimal for most.

» MORE: Best mattress for stomach sleepers

ConsumerAffairs writers primarily rely on government data, industry experts and original research from other reputable publications to inform their work. Specific sources for this article include:
  1. Journal of Orthopaedics and Traumatology, "What type of mattress should be chosen to avoid back pain and improve sleep quality? Review of the literature." Accessed April 4, 2023.
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