Is Your New Mattress Giving You Back Pain? Why & How To Fix It

Written by
 Purple Staff
Last Updated
November 14, 2023
|
7
min read

Key Takeaways:

  • Your new mattress may cause back pain due to the initial adjustment period.

  • Insufficient support from the mattress and base type may also be the cause.

  • Investing in a high-quality mattress and adding pillows for extra support may alleviate new mattress back pain.

 

Over 500 million people report having lower back pain (LBP), according to a Global Spine Care Initiative study. LBP is a major sleep disturbance that can either be exacerbated or improved by your mattress. 

If you have pre-existing back pain that has worsened or have experienced back pain since investing in a new mattress, you’re in the right place. 

This post will go over the signs that your bed may be the cause of your back pain and guide you on choosing the right mattress. Additionally, you’ll find details on equipping your mattress with the right base, toppers, and pillows to support your back for a better night's sleep.

Signs Your New Mattress Is Causing Back Pain 

If you’re consistently waking up to discomfort and back pain that subsides gradually throughout the day, your mattress is likely the cause. You may also find that getting comfortable in bed has been increasingly difficult since purchasing your new mattress or your existing back pain has gotten worse. If you can date these physical symptoms since the day of purchase, the culprit is pretty clear.

A man winces and rubs his lower back alongside four signs of new mattress back pain.

Your Mornings Start With Back Pain, Stiffness, and Soreness

If you wake up with pain, stiffness, and soreness in your back, and the feeling gradually goes away through the day, your mattress is likely the cause. Pain doesn’t have to be limited to the back — it can also extend to other parts of your body. Some additional symptoms that may suggest your mattress is the issue include:

  • Neck, shoulder, and hip pain from poor alignment

  • Joint stiffness if your mattress doesn’t support neutral sleeping positions

  • Numbness and tingling from poor circulation 

These symptoms can also vary depending on your sleeping position. Different sleeping positions tend to work better with different mattress firmness levels. Below are ideal mattress firmness levels based on sleeping position:

Back sleepers: Medium-firm

Medium-firm mattresses help maintain proper spinal alignment and support the natural curve of the lower back. Memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses with a balanced firmness level can be good options for back sleepers.

Side sleepers: Medium-soft

Side sleepers need a mattress that offers good pressure relief, especially at the shoulders and hips. A softer mattress with adequate cushioning, such as a memory foam or latex mattress, can contour to the body's curves and reduce pressure points.

Stomach Sleepers: Firm

Stomach sleepers typically need a firmer mattress to prevent their midsection from sinking too deeply, which can cause an unnatural curve in the spine. Innerspring or hybrid mattresses with a firmer feel are often a good choice.

Your Sleep Quality Is Suffering

If you start noticing a decline in your sleep quality from restless sleep, it could be due to physical discomfort from your mattress. Some symptoms resulting from poor sleep quality include:

  • Increased irritability and mood swings

  • Difficulty concentrating 

  • Impaired memory

While physical pain, stiffness, and soreness may occur from an unsupportive mattress, your cognitive functions suffer when your sleep quality declines. Your brain needs sufficient, uninterrupted sleep to do its job, so it’s time to replace your mattress if it’s getting in the way of your sleep quality.

Existing Back Pain Worsens

If you already have some degree of back pain and you notice that it worsens after sleeping on your new mattress, this is a clear sign of a mattress-related issue. The mattress shouldn’t exacerbate existing back problems but should instead provide relief.

In addition to your existing back pain, if you experience increased stiffness, persistent and more intensified pain, and the pain spreading to different parts of your back, it’s time to change your mattress to prevent making your condition worse.

It’s Been Over a Month

There is often an adjustment period when you get a new mattress. You can generally start to adjust within a month, but if you’re still experiencing pain, stiffness, and soreness after this period, it’s a clear sign that your body can’t adjust to the mattress.

If within one month you haven’t experienced the following, your new mattress may be a bad match for your sleeping needs:

  • Decreased comfort as it becomes harder to fall asleep 

  • Increase tossing and turning as your mattress provides little to no support

  • Worse sleep quality from interrupted sleep

Why Your New Mattress Causes Back Pain 

Your new mattress can be a bad match for you for various reasons. Mattresses should provide support to the natural contours of your body and accommodate multiple sleeping positions. The adjustment period after getting a new mattress may have you experiencing a change in support and sleeping positions to get comfortable which may cause temporary back pain. 

Mattress Isn’t Supportive Enough

Your mattress should provide proper spinal alignment, edge support, and even weight distribution unique to your body and sleeping preferences. If you feel your mattress isn’t serving one of the below purposes, it may not be the right fit for you.

  • Spinal alignment: The mattress should conform to the body's natural curves and not cause the spine to bend or twist into unnatural positions. This means it needs to be responsive enough to meet different sleeping positions while keeping the spine aligned.

  • Edge support: This is the support along the edges of your mattress and determines how well it can accommodate those who sleep near the edge of the mattress. It should feel just as supportive as the center, prevent you from rolling off, and provide ease in getting in and out of bed.

  • Even weight distribution: A supportive mattress will distribute the sleeper's weight evenly across the bed. This helps promote better circulation for your limbs.

Mattress and Base Don’t Pair Well

The base, or mattress foundation, lies under the mattress and gives it support, elevation, and weight distribution. Not all bases are created equal, and you may be using the wrong base for your mattress. Some common base and mattress compatibilities include:

Box Spring

These bases are made of wood or metal and contain layers of coil covered in fabric.

  • Compatibility: Innerspring mattresses

Platform Bed

These are made of wood and metal and provide a flat support. They are the most compatible base for mattresses.

  • Compatibility: Innerspring, memory foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses

Slatted Base

These are made of wood and metal and consist of slats (narrow flat planks of wood/metal) horizontally laid across the frame to create a platform. If slats are too far apart, the mattress can start to sag or dip in the areas where support is lacking. This uneven support doesn't just damage the mattress; it can also lead to discomfort or back pain for the user due to improper spinal alignment.

  • Compatibility: Innerspring, memory foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses

Adjustable Base

This is a motorized platform that can be adjusted with a remote. Individuals who experience sleep apnea, acid reflux, or poor circulation often opt for this type of base.

  • Compatibility: Innerspring, memory foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses

Whether it’s due to the coils piercing through worn fabric or slats spaced too far apart, your mattress base can possibly compromise your mattress support, so it’s important to double-check if you’re using the right base for your mattress.

Low-Quality Mattress

You can determine the quality of your mattress by its support, comfort, durability, and materials. If your mattress exhibits any of the characteristics below, it may be contributing to your back pain:

  • Durability: Mattress wear and tear can lead to sagging and indentation. This uneven surface can cause soreness and stiffness over time.

  • Materials: Lower-grade materials, like low-density foams, degrade more easily. As foam degrades, so does its breathability, increasing the chances of overheating during sleep.

  • Comfort: Your mattress can’t adequately support your sleeping positions and you find yourself tossing and turning throughout the night to get comfortable. Lack of proper cushioning can increase pressure points in the body, leading to stiffness.

How To Fix Your Mattress Causing Back Pain

Now that you have an idea of the signs and reasons why your new mattress may be contributing to your back pain, aches, and stiffness, it’s time to consider solutions. Depending on your specific needs, you may need to invest in a new mattress or frame or rely on mattress add-ons like pillows and toppers.

Let’s take a look at some solutions below.

1. Invest in a High-Quality Mattress

There are many high-quality mattresses to choose from for those seeking to relieve their mattress-related back pain. Four mattress types to consider are:

  • Hybrid: This type of mattress consists of a blend of two or more materials such as coils with foam layers. This combination is meant to provide balanced support and added breathability. Purple’s RestorePlus™ Hybrid provides increased responsiveness to pressure and motion and offers enhanced breathability with the addition of our propriety GelFlex® Grid.
  • Latex: These mattresses are generally made of synthetic foam. They come in various firmness levels depending on whether it's a full or partial latex mattress. These mattresses are known for their durability, with many lasting up to twenty years or more.
  • Memory foam: These mattresses consist of viscoelastic foam (memory foam), which gives it a viscous, slow response to pressure. This mattress type adheres to body contours and comes in various densities.  
  • Innerspring: This traditional mattress utilizes coils within layers of fabric. This mattress is breathable and offers a buoyant sleep surface.

Type

Details

Benefits

Considerations

Hybrid

Made of multiple materials

Usually consists of innerspring coils with layers of foam or latex

Balanced support and comfort

Motion isolation

Temperature regulation

Durable

Tends to be more expensive due to complex design

Generally heavier than other mattress types

Latex

Made of synthetic foam

Comes in various firmness levels

Can be a hybrid mattress

Durable

Motion isolation

Tends to be expensive if opting for a hybrid configuration

Generally heavier than other mattress types

Emits a rubbery odor in the beginning that fades over time

Memory Foam

Made of viscoelastic foam

Adheres to natural contours of the body

Comes in various thicknesses and densities

Pressure relief

Motion isolation

Allergen resistant

Less breathable than other mattress types

Sinking feeling may feel uncomfortable

Innerspring

Made of coil springs within layers of fabric

Bouncy and responsive surface

Temperature regulation

Most affordable

Less motion isolation

less durable

Less pressure point support 

2. Use a Mattress Topper

Mattress toppers are removable padded layers you can place on top of your mattress. They add comfort through extra cushioning and can relieve your body’s pressure points. They are especially useful in making a firm mattress softer.

Mattress toppers come in different sizes, thicknesses, densities, and firmness levels. You should also consider the materials depending on your sleep goals. Mattress toppers are not recommended with Purple mattresses because they limit the benefits of the GelFlex® Grid such as pressure point relief, back and limb support, and temperature balance, to name a few.

  • Memory foam: This material provides contouring comfort and pressure relief — ideal for those with pressure point issues or body pain.

  • Latex: Latex offers both support and comfort. Natural latex is durable and hypoallergenic. 

  • Gel-infused: This type of material offers cooling properties to help regulate body temperature during sleep.

3. Consider Upgrading to an Adjustable Bed Frame

Adjustable bed frames come with a motorized mechanism you can control with a remote to adjust the position and angle of the bed. You can adjust sensitive areas that support the head, feet, and back. 

Adjustable bed frames can accommodate most types of mattresses aside from older innerspring mattresses. They are widely beneficial but are especially ideal for:

  • Individuals with sleep apnea, acid reflux, or back pain

  • Elderly individuals 

  • Recovering medical patients

4. Use Pillows for Extra Support

There are also situations where extra support is what makes the difference in comfort. Pillows can provide the extra support you need to feel more comfortable and alleviate your back pain.

One useful way to utilize pillows for comfort is to place them according to your sleeping positions. Let’s look at some useful placements below:

  • Back sleepers: Behind the knee and under the arm for proper head and neck alignment

  • Side sleepers: Between the knees and under the arm to reduce pressure on the lower back

  • Stomach sleepers: Low loft pillow under your stomach to reduce strain on the lower back and maintain spinal alignment

  • Combination sleepers: Body pillow to hug when you’re side sleeping or place under the knees for spinal support

FAQ

It’s common to have high expectations for your new mattress, but you also risk choosing the wrong one for your needs. Mattresses have many considerations, from the type and firmness level to whether it can accommodate your sleeping positions. It can be difficult to figure out if this may be the case for you, so we answered some commonly asked questions about new mattress back pain below.

Is It Normal To Have Back Pain With a New Mattress?

It’s normal to experience some discomfort like slight aches and soreness for a short time, but if this pain persists for longer than a month, it's a sign of a mattress issue. Some things you can check for to determine the source of your back pain include:

  • Mattress type: Check if your mattress type matches with its base.

  • Firmness: Determine if the firmness is within your comfort level.

  • Material: Examine if the material quality can conceal discomfort from coil springs.

How Long Does It Take a Body To Adjust to a New Mattress?

It generally takes a month to adjust to a new mattress, though that time can vary depending on several factors, including:

  • Body adaptation: If your new mattress is very different from your previous one, you may require additional time to adapt to the new mattress.

  • Underlying health issues: If you have health issues like sleep apnea or joint stiffness, your adjustment period may take longer, especially if your mattress isn’t specially designed for your condition.

Can a Too-Firm Mattress Cause Back Pain?

Yes, too-firm mattresses can cause back pain and even worsen existing pain. While mattress firmness is a matter of personal preference, there are multiple reasons why back pain can occur or worsen due to firmness levels:

  • Lack of pressure relief: A very firm mattress might not give enough support to side sleepers as hips and shoulders lack padding.

  • Spinal misalignment: Very firm mattresses may not conform very well to the natural curvature of the spine.

Wake Up Refreshed With Purple

A new mattress is a long-term investment in your sleep quality and overall well-being, so it can feel disheartening when you find your new mattress isn’t meeting your expectations. Purple offers quality mattresses to accommodate your individual needs and promises a 100-night trial so you can feel confident with your selection. Look to Purple to find the perfect mattress for you and relieve your back pain.