What is the best mattress for lower back pain?

November 27, 2020 9 mins read
What is the best mattress for lower back pain?

Let’s not beat around the bush; when it comes to finding the best mattress for back pain, it can be a complicated mission. Back pain, in general, is well, a pain in the back and more often than not, your mattress is to blame (as well as your core, exhaustion levels, workouts…).

Finding the right mattress that ticks all your personal preferences and helps ease the ol’ back into sleepy submission can be a trial and error experience, not to mention a pricey exercise. Luckily for you, we have gone 007 and done all the research on what makes a mattress not only a quality sleep giver but a back supporter too.

Choosing the right mattress

We spend more than a third of our lives asleep, and during those hours our sleep needs to be an uninterrupted experience to allow our body to cycle through the 5 stages of sleep that help restore, repair and rejuvenate our internal organs and physiological functions. If you find that you’re waking up with stiff limbs, or always having to correct your sleeping position, this could be a telltale sign that you need a new mattress.

We know that when you’re looking to buy a new mattress, figuring out where to start can be pretty daunting. Do you shop online and trust the reviews or spend a whole weekend rolling from one mattress shop to another? Does the price matter? Is there a perfect size?

Well, first of all, your mattress selection is always going to be a personal experience. We all have our own sleeping styles, preferences for hard and soft, and sizes. But when it comes to buying a new bed for lower back pain and getting quality sleep there are key factors to consider that can make this a much easier exercise.

These are:

  • Mattress age. If your mattress is over 8 years old, you should start thinking about an upgrade. This is especially true if you’re getting aches and pains while you sleep.
  • Your sleeping position. Believe it or not, there are mattresses that cater for different sleeping positions.
  • Firmness preference. The firmness of a mattress refers to the “feel” of the bed, not the support. Each mattress has a firmness scale out of 10, where the average person likes a 4/10 firmness.
  • Your weight. (Yup, we’re getting personal now). You will need a mattress that offers enough support for your weight, as a slimmer sleeper will need a softer feeling mattress to feel supported, whereas a bigger-boned sleeper will need a firmer mattress.
  • Your mattress needs. Different bodies have different ailments, which will determine whether you go for a memory foam mattress, latex mattress, spring mattress, or a hybrid. (We uncover more about this below).
  • Your budget. Knowing this from the get-go is important. Remember, you get what you pay for. (And can you really put a price on quality sleep?)

Types of Mattresses

It’s true. You never know how many mattress options there are until you have to shop for one yourself. So, let’s explore the most popular options, the pros and cons, and if they’re an option for your achy back.

Spring

When you think of a spring mattress, we’re pretty sure you’re thinking old-school. But these mattresses are still a popular choice and widely used as they’ve got an excellent bounce-support ratio.

Pros: Offers good support for bigger-boned sleepers, and if you love a good bounce and need a little extra support, this option is for you.

Cons: Not great if you need pressure support, especially if you’re suffering from back, shoulder or hip issues.

Memory foam

If you’ve ever experienced a memory foam mattress, you’ll know that it feels like you’re getting a good all-over-body hug. This material is known for its slow pressure response, so if you’ve got sensitive shoulders, hips and back, this might be the most comfortable option for you.

Pros: If you dream of getting into bed and sinking into sleep, this is the type of mattress that will do this for you. Side sleepers will benefit as the contouring material supports your spine.

Cons: As this mattress tends to “hug” your body, you may feel like you can’t escape its heat to regulate your body temperature. It’s also not advised for stomach sleepers as the material make-up is super-soft and won’t offer much support. It’s not great for achy backs either, especially if you’re a bigger-boned sleeper.

Latex

Tree-huggers this is the mattress for you. Latex foam is an all-natural material that has a quick response to pressure but still keeps a spring-like feel.

Pros: It’s naturally cooling so if you’re someone who gets hot in the night you’re able to regulate your body temperature. It’s a great fit for a range of sleepers, as it has a natural bounce and good support.

Cons: This mattress doesn’t offer deep pressure relief on your spikey bits such as your hips and shoulders, but if you’re a slimmer sleeper then this won’t be a problem. You may need to test this type of mattress if you’ve got lower back issues.

Hybrid

All hail technology. This mattress offers a combination of foam, coils and springs which perfectly balances out pressure relief and support.

Pros: It caters for a variety of sleepers but especially sleepers who have lower back issues as it offers added support with the extra fun of bounce and mobility.

Cons: There is a large variety of hybrid models on the market, so choosing one that suits your individual needs might need some attention. If you’re after a more structured sleep, finding a hybrid with more foam than spring will offer better support.

Airbed

Airbeds are generally associated with camping trips and big family gatherings when there’s not enough bed space to go around. But they can also offer a great solution as an affordable bed that is fully customizable. (However, we’re still on the fence about them.)

Pros: Great for back pain as they offer a lot of firmness, which is customizable with an inlet (or outlet) of air. They can last double the amount of time than a regular bed due to the durability of the PVC, which also does not have any sagging issues.

Cons: These mattresses are prone to air leaks which, if you’re in the deepest slumber, can give you a rude awakening when you suddenly find yourself lying flat on the floor. They also are not the most reliable when it comes to how much support and for how long. We’re just going to say that they should only be used in emergencies.

Which one is the best for lower back pain?

Hybrid mattresses come out on top when it comes to back support. The variety in their structural make-up allows equal pressure and foam contouring to give you back support but also allows positions your spine in its natural curve. Opting for a hybrid medium-firm to firm mattress usually works best for back sleepers, and sleepers who suffer from lower back pain.

Things to consider when buying a new mattress

Now that you’ve discovered what type of mattress will offer the best back support, it’s time to look at your (unique) sleeping habits. Does your sleep position affect your mattress choice? Let’s find out.

Sleep position

If you sleep on your back, you’ll need a combination mattress that is medium-firm. A mattress that offers support to your hips, back, shoulders but keeps your spine aligned. Back sleepers will most often gravitate to a hybrid mattress that can customise the firmness and contour to suit their natural body alignment.

If stomach sleeping is your preferred option, a super firm mattress that stops you from sinking into suffocation is your jam. The aim of a firm mattress is to stop your stomach sinking into the bed, causing your hips and spine to be concave out of alignment. The key for stomach sleepers is to find a bed that combines supportive foundations with comfort layers which provide overall firmness like a spring or hybrid mattress.

Hello side sleepers, we know that a softer mattress is perfect for keeping the contours of your body, preventing that lower back pain and keeping you cuddled up. But it’s good to know that in this position you’re going to be exerting a lot of pressure on your joints, so it might be time to try a new position or invest in a memory foam mattress that helps keep your body correctly aligned.

Personal preference

Choosing a bed is ultimately a personal choice. And for those of you who happen to share a bed with a lovely sleeping partner then that personal choice will have to encompass both your mattress needs.

Where air mattresses have become the hero sleeping choice for couples (as they can have separate air chambers that allow individual needs) the more modern approach would be to seek out a hybrid with enough foam to mask the wriggles of your next-door sleeping partner.

Type of back pain

If you suffer from back pain, then you’ll know that it can present itself in the most unusual moments. It can be sharp and intense or feel like a slow valve of pain that seems to linger longer than you’d like.

Knowing what type of back pain you experience can further help you choose a mattress to help alleviate this ailment.

Lower back pain

This is typically the most common type of back pain and can be caused by muscle strain, by colds or flu, and accidents which can compress your disks and narrow your spine. It can be exacerbated during your sleep, especially if your mattress is too soft and not supportive enough to keep your posture in place.

Mid to upper back pain

This is less common but can still occur especially if you keep a poor posture which does not give your spine enough support. Making sure you find a mattress that offers pressure point (shoulders and hips) support like a foam mattress can prevent your poor posture from visiting you in your sleep.

Upper back pain

Although less common than lower back pain, it’s the second most common back issue. Blame our handbag carrying, laptop working, poor posture-keeping lifestyle. However, this can sometimes be a sign of another health issue so if you’re experiencing this over a long period, have it checked out.

When we get good quality sleep, on a quality mattress, the world is a much happier place. Keeping unnecessary ailments, and sleep disruption away all starts with what you sleep on. If your bed promotes a retreat for sleep, you’re bound to have sweeter (pain-free) dreams.