Skip to main content
Snooze Feed

Best Mattress for Back Pain: How to Choose a Mattress for Back Pain

Sleeping with back pain can often become a literal nightmare. You can find yourself tossing and turning all night, trying to get comfortable. You might fall asleep for a while, only to wake up achy and groggy. The pains can stay with you all day, especially if you don’t get a good night’s rest.

Understanding a few important ways your bed and back pain affect one another can be the first step toward pain relief. Here are a few facts to consider in your quest for the best mattress for back pain:

Best Mattress for Back Pain: What You Need to Know

  • Common symptoms of sleeping on the wrong mattress
  • Back pain is a major barrier to healthy sleep
  • Your mattress is important – really important
  • Your current mattress might be working against you
  • Firmer doesn’t always mean better
  • Mattress materials make a real difference
  • What to look for in a new mattress
  • Purple mattress considerations for reducing back pain

If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone – by some estimates, as much as 20% of the population deals with back pain on a regular basis. And if you don’t suffer from back pain? We’re sorry to report that chances are you’ll deal with it sooner or later – up to 80% of all adults will deal with back pain at some point in their lives.

Your back pain shouldn’t be a morning routine, and your mattress certainly shouldn’t aggravate it, let alone cause it. What you need is a mattress that supports your spine while keeping you comfortable. Understanding how your mattress can help alleviate back pain is the first step toward getting a good night’s sleep.

If you’re shopping for a new, high-quality mattress, hoping to combat back pain, there are several things to keep in mind. You’re getting ready to make an investment that will hopefully protect your comfort, your back, and your overall well-being for years to come. Reading online mattress reviews is an important step. You also need to understand how the construction of your mattress helps your overall spinal alignment and back health. Which type of mattress is the best for pain relief? Foam? Memory foam with gel? Innerspring? So many questions. Keep reading for everything you need to know as you make your new mattress choice.

Common Symptoms of Sleeping on the Wrong Mattress

Let’s talk about why it’s important to get a good night’s sleep.  Studies have shown that poor sleep can have serious consequences for your health. Waking up multiple times per night because you’re hot, uncomfortable or tossing and turning is not part of your normal sleep. Here’s a list of some of the symptoms that could be caused by sleeping on the wrong mattress or having the wrong sleep setup in general:

  • Excessive tiredness/fatigue
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Migraines
  • Back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Stiffness
  • Numbness
  • Tenderness

Back Pain is a Major Barrier to Healthy Sleep

This may go without saying, but it’s really hard to sleep when you’re hurting. And when you don’t sleep well, your pain often intensifies. And when your pain intensifies, you don’t sleep well, meaning you’re trapped in a vicious cycle of pain and poor sleep, with no end in sight. Getting a handle on what’s causing your pain, along with how to relieve back pain, is a must for setting you up for sleep success.

It probably comes as no surprise that fitful, disturbed sleep is a top complaint of chronic back pain sufferers. In fact, the National Sleep Foundation reports that people dealing with chronic back pain get about 42 fewer minutes of sleep per night than those who are pain-free. People with pain can easily feel like they have no control over their sleep, which makes them worry about whether they’re sleeping enough – and this only aggravates the problem.

Your Current Mattress Might Be Working Against You

An old innerspring mattress or a lumpy memory foam mattress can often lead to back pain. If you already have a bad back, bad hips, or suffer sleeping with sciatica, your current mattress or pillow might be making things worse.

If your mattress isn’t properly cradling your body, you may be resting at an unnatural angle – so your spinal alignment is off. Your muscles can’t fully relax and recharge. And if you’ve been sleeping on the same mattress or pillow for more than 10 years, you are way overdue for a replacement. A new bed will be better for your back and deliver more comfort, pressure relief, and support than your old, worn-out mattress.

What to Look for in a New Mattress

Your Mattress is Important – Really Important

It’s impossible to overemphasize the role your mattress plays in taking care of your back and helping you get a comfortable night’s sleep. If your bed doesn’t provide the right level of softness, pressure relief, and support, you’re in trouble. A mattress that’s too firm won’t accommodate the natural curve of your spine, which leads to pain. And if it’s too soft, it won’t provide proper support for your back, also causing pain. The same goes for your pillow.

You should think of your mattress as Goldilocks would – you need one that’s just right. The best mattress is one that helps both chronic and acute back pain by helping you sleep with a straight and natural spinal alignment. Any bed or pillow that forces your body into unnatural positions will lead to tense muscles and pain.

Your spine has a natural, healthy shape it wants to stay in. When you stand with good posture, your spine has an S-shape when viewed from the side. It’s straight up and down when looked at straight on.

The right mattress maintains your spine’s natural curves so you feel rejuvenated in the morning, rather than achy and sore. You’ve heard lectures about how important good posture is when you’re standing and sitting, but rarely will you hear the all-too-important benefits of appropriate sleep posture. explains:

There are quite a few things you can look for when buying a new mattress to make sure it will offer support where you need it most. Everybody is different, and there are many causes and symptoms of back pain. Choosing the best mattress for your back pain is a personal decision – though there are a few standard qualities to consider.

Your Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position can be just as important to overall back health as your standing posture. When you’re standing, your body naturally applies pressure to your spine simply because of gravity – this keeps your spine aligned in a natural arc. But once you lie down, that pressure is released from your vertebrae. Sleeping in a bed that supports your full body weight and maintains your spine in its natural alignment can encourage overall back health. You’ll wake up feeling better and with less pain if your muscles and joints are able to relax while you sleep.

Different sleeping positions work better with different types of mattresses. For example, if you are a side sleeper, a softer mattress offers additional cushioning. This can take pressure off of your hips and shoulders, so you are less likely to wake up with pain. However, a medium-firm mattress is often recommended as having the greatest impact on back pain relief. Side sleeping may not be the best position if you have back issues.

Back Sleeping
Traditionally considered to be the healthiest position for your back, but one of the least common sleeping positions.
Pros: Good for reducing or preventing neck and back pain and acid reflux. Helps avoid early wrinkling and breast sagging.
Cons: Worse for sleep apnea and snoring. May not provide the most comfort.
Helpful Hint: Use a pillow under your knees—this eases your body into a more natural position. It reduces stress on your back, feet, and heart.

Side Sleeping
The most popular sleeping position, which also has several health benefits including reducing back pain!
Pros: Good for reducing or preventing neck and back pain, helps reduce snoring, and is the best position for pregnant sleepers.
Cons: May cause premature wrinkles and sagging of your skin and breasts.
Helpful Hint: Sleep with a thin pillow between your knees—it helps
keep your spine and hips aligned for great relief.

Fetal Position
It brings a whole new meaning to “sleeping like a baby” and it’s a pretty common position to sleep in…but it’s not great for your back.
Pros: Helps reduce snoring and is good for pregnant sleepers.
Cons: Not good for reducing back or neck pain. May cause premature wrinkles and sagging of your skin and breasts.

Stomach Sleeping
Stomach sleepers, brace yourselves – the number one cause of lower back pain during the night is sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, you disrupt the natural shape of your lumbar area, which puts added pressure on your vertebrae and your joints. The result? Wrecked spinal alignment and back pain.
Pros: Eases snoring.
Cons: Could increase neck or back pain. Stomach sleepers may notice premature wrinkles and sagging of your skin and breasts.
Helpful Hint: Sleep with a thin pillow under your hips to help your body relax back into its original alignment. It will take a lot of the stress off your lumbar, reducing lower back pain.

Your best approach may be to take advantage of a mattress sleep trial to see if a medium-firm mattress has the right level of support for you. Firmer mattresses are often recommended for back pain sufferers because they can prevent the abdomen and pelvis from sinking too far into the bed.

Your Body Weight

A good rule of thumb is that the lighter you are, the softer your bed should be and conversely, the heavier you are, a firmer mattress will likely work better. Here are a few general guidelines:

  • If you weigh 130 pounds or less, veer toward softer mattresses
  • If you weigh between 130 and 230 pounds – choose a medium-firm mattress
  • If you weigh more than 230 pounds – go for a firmer mattress

Mattress Types

Mattress materials can make a big difference in your level of sleeping comfort. From memory foam and innerspring technology to gel and open-cell foam, there are many choices. As a general rule, memory foam does a decent job of cradling your body, though the foam tends to crater after extended use. You can also find latex mattresses that offer back support. If you check out mattress reviews, memory foam and latex mattresses seem to get average ratings, while innerspring mattresses often perform more poorly.

Mattress Firmness – Firmer Doesn’t Always Mean Better

You might have heard that theory that the firmer your mattress, the better it is for your back – which means that people who suffer from back pain should basically sleep on a rock. That sounds downright miserable to us – and the fact is, it just isn’t true. At the same time, you don’t want a mattress with a foam layer that’s too soft, either.

Firm Mattress

Too firm a mattress blocks your hips and shoulders from sinking in, which causes your lower back to strain as it tries to reach a supportive surface. It also puts uncomfortable pressure on your hips and shoulders.

Soft Mattress
While a good pillow-top may provide comfort to your pressure points, it offers little-to-no-support for your back, pulling it into an unnatural U-shape…which may look like a smile, but it’s definitely more of a grimace.

Average Mattress
The in-between foam mattress isn’t firm enough for back support or soft enough to be comfortable on your hips and shoulders. It’s an awkward middle ground that compromises your back’s comfort, support, and overall health. Not. Worth. It.

Other Considerations For Reducing Back Pain

When it comes to the right material for back pain, Purple may be just what you need. Scientifically engineered to be soft where you want it and firm where you need it, a Purple mattress can be an ideal choice for back pain relief. This bed is literally science you can sleep on.

A Purple mattress provides a gentle firmness like nothing you’ve ever experienced – because it’s designed using a patented material made of a hyper-elastic polymer grid. As the world’s first “no-pressure” mattress, the proprietary Purple Grid™ can give you a good night’s sleep so you wake up every day feeling great. When you lie down on a Purple mattress, the grid is designed to collapse under your weight, instantly providing soft comfort and pressure relief. At the same time, Purple maintains a level of firm support, so your spine stays in a neutral position all night long. It’s a little bit of magic and a whole lot of science.

The Purple® Mattress provides just the right firmness for back pain sufferers. It features a 2-inch Purple Grid™ atop a high-density foam layer that closely conforms to your body’s curves to relieve tension in both your joints and pressure points.

For added support and airflow, the Purple Hybrid is another great option for back support. The responsive pocketed coils provide firm support with a 2-inch Purple Grid™.  For a luxurious, weightless experience, the Purple Hybrid Premier allows you to customize the thickness of the Purple Grid™ so you can feel like you’re floating on a cloud. This mattress best supports a range of sleeping positions and works well for back, side and stomach sleepers. If you have a partner with a different sleeping style, you’ll both be able to get a good night’s sleep and wake up feeling great.

Mattress for Bad Back

If you have a bad back, you have to be careful and vigilant to stay pain-free. To stay healthy, you need to make smart choices about your posture, your physical activities, and — perhaps, most importantly — your mattress. A lumpy or worn-out mattress can put a lot of strain on your spine, especially if you have a bad back. A supportive mattress that contours to your neck and spine while cushioning your hips and shoulders is essential for maintaining good posture while you sleep.

When it comes to choosing the best mattress for a bad back, there are three main factors to consider:

  1. Mattress Firmness
  2. Sleeping Style
  3. Return Policy

Mattress Firmness

It’s important to have a mattress that’s firm enough to support your spine while still cushioning your body — especially your hips and shoulders. If your mattress is too soft, your spine may not get enough support, and you could wake up with pain. And a mattress that’s too firm can prevent your hips and shoulders from sinking into the mattress, which can interfere with proper spine alignment and create discomfort.

Sleeping Style

Your sleeping style plays an important role in determining the best mattress firmness. If you have a bad back, avoid sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, it puts too much pressure on the curve of your spine. Instead, try to sleep on your back or side. Back sleepers do well with a medium firm mattress, and it can help to put a pillow under your knees while you sleep. Side sleepers tend to prefer a slightly softer mattress, so their hips and shoulders are properly cushioned. If you sleep on your side and have a bad back, put a pillow between your knees to help keep your hips and spine aligned.

Return Policy – Trial Period

Sometimes, a mattress simply doesn’t work out — especially if you have a bad back. A mattress may have felt good when you briefly tried it at the mattress store, but it’s hard to know for sure until you have time to try the mattress at home.

For anyone with back problems, it’s important to choose a mattress that has a trial period and hassle-free return policy. Purchasing a new mattress is a big investment, and it’s important to feel confident that your mattress comes with a guarantee. That’s why all Purple Mattresses include a 100-night sleep trial and free returns. Try Purple for 100 days, and if your bad back gives you trouble, we’ll pick up the mattress at no charge and donate it to charity.