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Getting a good night’s rest is essential to your daily performance and function, not to mention it can benefit your overall health in the long run too. But a bad mattress can throw a wrench in healthy sleep. The type and quality of mattress you have can make a big difference in how you feel and how well you sleep. Sometimes, in fact, your mattress is the culprit behind your back aches and pain. The best mattress for back pain won’t be the same for everyone, but finding the right one for you can mean that relief is right around the corner.
We spoke to Dr. Andrew Casden, chief of orthopedics and spine surgery at White Plains Hospital in New York, about his thoughts on the best mattress for back pain. He said, “What we know for sure is that too soft or too hard a mattress is not good for your back and can lead to back pain. A good mattress should provide support for the natural curves in our body without putting pressure on the spine.”
You don’t want a super firm mattress, but you don’t want a soft mattress either. If your biggest source of pain is your lower back, you’re better off opting for something supportive like a hybrid mattress with a mixture of soft materials and the feel of a medium-firm mattress. According to Casden, “Medical research does suggest that a ‘medium-firm’ mattress can help reduce the risk of developing back pain and decrease the pain for those already suffering from back pain.” You should also take your specific sleeping position into account, so you maintain proper spinal alignment while sleeping.
There are plenty of excellent mattresses out there that fit the bill. I tested them all to bring you the best mattresses for back pain relief. I’ll update this list periodically as I review new products. Note that the prices shown are for queen sizes, and may vary.
Looking for mattress accessories? We’ve also got recommendations for the, the , the and the for 2022.
Video: Best Beds for Back Pain
Watch CNET Video Producer Owen Poole review the best mattress for back pain.
Memory foam hybrid
7 or Medium-firm
20-year prorated warranty
The AS2 Hybrid mattress from Amerisleep isn’t just a mattress that can help alleviate back pain, it was a mattress that was designed specifically with the sleeper who needs back pain relief in mind. This best mattress for back pain pick is made of a proprietary type of memory foam called Bio-Pur, that’s more responsive, breathable and airy than traditional memory foam. This hybrid memory foam mattress is designed to offer pressure relief, while also providing the right mattress firmness to keep your body properly aligned.
One of the reasons I’m not usually a big fan of 100% memory foam mattress options is because they don’t respond quickly to movement. When you are a combination sleeper and switch your sleeping position, something that I do pretty frequently while I sleep, the mattress takes some time to adjust to your body. But the Bio-Pur in the AS2 Hybrid solves that problem.
This hybrid mattress has a faster response time than regular memory foam, so instead of that slow-sinking then slow-rising feeling that you get with other memory foam mattresses, it bounces back right away. I never felt stuck in the mattress, even when I moved around at night, and it felt more like a traditional spring mattress but without the extra bounce and noise. The improved responsiveness from this medium firm mattress also ensures that your body and spine are properly supported throughout the night, reducing lower back pain and any other aches and pains. Read more in our full Amerisleep mattress review.
Memory foam mattress
5 or medium
As the replacement for the Nectar Lush Mattress, the Nectar Premier bed has a lot to offer if you’re a person who loves that feel of hugging, contouring memory foam. It has a 13 inch all-foam construction, which is thicker than a lot of the other foam beds I’ve tested out. This is partly why it’s the only noncoil in my list of the best mattresses for back pain.
This Nectar memory foam mattress is stacked with three layers, including a gel memory foam layer at the top that is infused with a phase-change material meant to keep you cool. I don’t think this Nectar mattress has a cooling sensation when you lie down on it, but I do think it regulates temperature better than a typical memory foam bed. If the bed’s cooling ability is a big value point for you, take a look at the Nectar Premier Copper.
It took a few moments for the foam in Nectar Premier to start molding around my body, but once it did, it gave me a dense, pressure-relieving feel, especially around my shoulders and hips. It lands around a 6 out of 10 on the firmness scale, making it ideal for back and stomach sleepers. Though, I think a lot of side sleepers will like it too because of how it hugs your curves. With that said, side sleepers under 150 pounds will likely want a softer mattress. Read more about this bed in our full Nectar Premier mattress review.
Note: The US Product Safety Commission recently issued a recall for Nectar Premier king and queen-sized mattresses manufactured on Sept. 24, 2021. Look for a model number CHILL and Prototype ID:ECS2003RHCH on a tag on the bottom of your mattress to find out if yours has been recalled. We have reached out to Nectar for comment and will update the story if it responds.
3 firmness levels | Plush Soft: Medium or 5 | Luxury Firm: Medium-firm or 7 | Firm: 9/10 or firm
If you prefer a sleeping position on your side, the Saatva Classic has your back, literally. Like the others on this list, the Saatva Classic is classified as a hybrid mattress type — it combines innerspring mattress coils with natural latex foam — but this Saatva mattress really goes a step beyond the rest for pain sufferers. It’s made with what Saatva calls Spinal Zone Technology, or enhancements in the mattress that are designed to reduce stress and tension in your back while you sleep while offering a lot of comfort.
The middle area of the mattress has “lumbar zone technology” that utilizes an active-wire system, which are wires within the center of the mattress that work with the individually wrapped coils to provide the correct spinal alignment. This adds extra support for your middle and upper back, while the high-end memory foam that covers the entire mattress offers pressure point relief and keeps your spine totally aligned, especially when sleeping on your side. It’s one of the best mattresses for back pain if you’re looking for ample pressure relief.
While I wasn’t blown away by this innerspring mattress hybrid the first few nights, after sleeping on it consistently for a couple of weeks, I was hooked. I had been dealing with some chronic pain and with the spinal alignment this new mattress provided, it’s almost gone. It also has a pillow top that’s thicker and more plush than any other online mattress I’ve tried, which is another thing that really sets this mattress apart.
And unlike others that come rolled up in a box, each Saatva Classic mattress is made to order with your choice of firmness level and hand-delivered in its fully expanded form, right to your bedroom — something that I thought was a really nice touch. However, be warned that this mattress has more motion transfer than the others, so if you sleep with someone who tosses and turns, you’re probably going to feel it. Read more in our full Saatva mattress review.
6 or medium to medium-firm
10-year limited warranty
Sleeping on your stomach on the wrong mattress can flatten the curve of your spine, put excess pressure on your muscles and joints and force you to turn your neck to the side — three things that can actually contribute to neck pain and chronic back pain. While it would be ideal to change to a side or back sleep position, the Purple Hybrid Premier 3 is the next best thing for a stomach sleeper who seeks back pain relief.
There are a lot of mattresses out there that claim to form to your body, but the Purple Hybrid Premier 4 totally delivers. It will serve as the best mattress for back pain for many. The exclusive Purple Grid, which is a hyper-elastic polymer grid with open air channels that’s designed to quickly adapt and adjust to any sleep position. As soon as I plopped down on this Purple mattress, I felt the grid bend and move, contouring my body shape perfectly. No matter which sleeping position I was in, I felt like the mattress was made specially for me.
This Purple mattress also isolates motion really well, so if you sleep with someone else, you’ll barely feel it when they move around. Just one thing I want to note: I’ve tried some of the other Purple mattress models before this one and I really recommend splurging on the Hybrid Premier 3. The extra thickness really makes a difference for pressure relief and comfort. To help improve your sleep quality, Purple has the Ascent adjustable base which provides customizable support for your mattress at an affordable price.
My Slumber Yard
Ideally, combination sleepers who suffer from back pain want a mattress that does three things: provides comfort, accommodates all sleeping positions and makes it easy to switch positions. The DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid mattress is a premium, supportive bed with a fluffy pillow top and comfortable memory foam that doesn’t provide resistance to movement like traditional memory foams do.
The memory foam in the DreamCloud Luxury Hybrid provides pressure relief without making you feel like you’re sinking into the foam. The pillow top also gives it a light, fluffy feel that makes your mattress easy to get cozy on. Did I mention the cover is partly made with cashmere? I really meant it when I said it’s luxurious.
I’d rate the DreamCloud in between a medium to medium-firm, or around a six out of 10 on the firmness scale. That means it’s firm enough to support you when you sleep on your stomach or back, but it’s also going to provide pressure relief and promote proper spinal alignment when you’re on your side.
I personally know two different people who sleep on a DreamCloud, and they think it’s the best mattress they’ve had. It also checks a lot of boxes for people who suffer from back pain and want a good balance of pressure relief to support. Read more about this bed in our full DreamCloud mattress review.
My Slumber Yard
Casper is one of the major bed-in-a-box mattress brands and they have several beds to offer from their catalog. However, I think the premium Casper Wave mattress stands out as one of the best for back pain relief for a few reasons.
For one, it has multiple zoned support layers ergonomically designed to provide targeted back support and pressure relief to your shoulders. There are also little gel pods throughout the center layer under the waist and lower back area to promote proper spinal alignment.
Another plus about Casper Wave is that it’s incredibly thick, and utilizes multiple different materials including supportive pocketed coils, breathable Airscape foam and cooling gel. This makes it a premium mattress with just about all the bells and whistles you could ask for, especially if you suffer from back pain. This bed even has the stamp of approval from the American Chiropractic Association who endorses Casper Wave.
It’s rated around a medium on the firmness scale, making it suitable for all sleeping positions from back, side, stomach and combination. However, side sleepers will especially appreciate its firm but pressure relieving profile. It’s an expensive mattress, but worth it for people who have the budget to invest in a luxury bed to help ease their back pain.
The Allswell mattress is brought to you by the retail giant Walmart who specializes in low prices. On brand for the company, Allswell is an incredibly affordable hybrid mattress that offers support and durability for a low price. It’s proof you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to buy a good mattress for back pain.
It’s going to be best for back and stomach sleepers because of its medium-firm profile, but it’s one of the cheapest mattresses I’ve tested that includes a supportive pocketed coil base layer. Pocketed coils help to provide support for people who suffer from back pain. Paired with its firmness profile, it offers a good balance of support and pressure relief to help curb the aches.
The Allswell mattress has a neutral and responsive feel, so you don’t feel like you’re sinking into the bed. Instead, the mattress gently cradles your joints and quickly bounces back once pressure is removed. I think it’s an enjoyable feel, especially if you’re not a fan of a memory foam mattress. For more information, check out our full Allswell mattress review.
Memory foam hybrid mattress
5 or medium
25-year limited warranty
If you are a hot sleeper, you may have been turned off from other memory foam mattresses in the past, but the GhostBed Flex Hybrid is your opportunity to give this mattress type another shot. The mattress combines the support of pocketed coils for back pain relief with gel memory foam for comfort and cooling.
While traditional memory foam can trap in heat, leaving you sweaty and grumpy, especially if you have back pain, the GhostBed Flex Hybrid has a quilted cooling cover with specialized fibers woven directly into the material. These fibers improve airflow and prevent heat trapping, so your body temperature stays at the perfect comfort level for an excellent night’s sleep.
When I touched the top of the mattress, I was actually surprised at how cool it was. The latex mattress with gel memory foam felt like it had been sitting in a bedroom with open windows on a crisp, fall day, even though it was actually the middle of summer. And while the cooling cover is definitely one of the best things about this mattress, it’s also excellent for pain sufferers looking to alleviate (or prevent) back pain.
Made up of seven layers, including gel memory foam, a high-density support layer, bounce layer and individually wrapped pocketed coils, the GhostBed Flex Hybrid latex mattress gives you a weightless feeling that’s a welcome break from all of the gravity of the day. When sleeping on this mattress, I felt like my spine was perfectly aligned, without any slow sinking or sagging, and I woke up feeling rested and pain-free. Read more in our GhostBed Flex mattress review.
Memory foam hybrid mattress
7 or medium-firm
15-year limited warranty
There are a lot of mattresses that claim to align your spine as you sleep, but many of these mattresses are designed to support a max of 230 pounds. If you’re over that — or close to it — your body can put extra pressure on the mattress, causing it to sag in all of the wrong places and leaving you with chronic back pain. This can also accelerate breakdown, forcing you to change out your mattress more often. That’s where the Helix Plus comes in. It will serve as the best mattress for back pain for those who are over 250 pounds.
This mattress type is specifically made for heavier sleepers with higher BMIs. It’s 13 inches tall and has an extra layer of four-pound high-density foam that’s designed to offer enough firmness to support up to 1,000 pounds of combined weight (or 500 pounds on each side). This extra comfort layer of support helps delicately push against your weight to help with spine alignment so that you sleep in comfort and wake up pain-free.
Even as someone with a lower BMI, I felt totally comfortable on this mattress. It provided the perfect balance of “give” and firmness level of support to help relieve pressure where I needed it, while also keeping my spine in alignment. It also absorbed movement really well, so I didn’t feel like I was getting tossed around as my boyfriend adjusted his sleep position or when he got out of the bed to go to the bathroom. Read more in our full Helix mattress reviews.
Other mattresses we’ve tested
It’s difficult for the average person to test every mattress they might be interested in, especially when it comes to online mattresses that are exclusively sold through the brands’ websites. That’s why we have our CNET Sleep editors test the mattresses we review, and create round ups that include some of the best beds they snuggled up to. While the beds above are top choices, here are a few that could have easily made the list as an ideal mattress for back pain.
: For individuals who live green or are particularly sensitive to household allergens, an organic mattress like Avocado might be appealing. With the optional pillow top, the Avocado mattress has a medium-firm profile that keeps the back in neutral alignment and prevents it from sagging into the mattress. At the same time, there is ample pressure relief around the points you need it most. Though, it might be a little too firm for side sleepers. Another plus about this bed, is thanks to its latex foam construction, it’s hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
: There are several perks to a WinkBed mattress that make it an ultra comfortable option for people who suffer from back pain. It’s offered in three firmness levels, but the firm model (rated around a medium-firm) is what I recommend, thanks to its golden ratio of support to pressure relief. Not only is it made with supportive pocketed coils, but it also has a “LumbarLayer” specifically designed to offer targeted support to your lumbar region.
: Offered in two firmness levels, medium-firm and firm, the Loom & Leaf mattress is a memory foam mattress that can help prevent back pain and offer cooling relief at the same time. It’s a thick, foam mattress with a firm profile that keeps your spine from sagging into the bed. If you happen to sleep hot, it also has a cooling gel layer that’s very effective at keeping you and the bed at a comfortable temperature.
How we test mattresses for back pain
CNET editors pick the products and services we write about based on editorial merit. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.
To test the best mattresses for back pain, we considered the beds that provide great support with ample pressure relief. Once we had a roundup of the ones that stood out the most, we carefully considered the beds with designs that are meant to help promote a neutral spinal alignment. We also looked to mattresses that have been endorsed by the people who know best at the American Chiropractic Association. For even more expertise, we consulted specialized doctors who have the necessary knowledge on the best and worst mattresses for back pain.
Read more on how we test mattresses.
What to consider when buying a mattress for back pain
Shopping for the proper mattress that fits your needs is important to any buyer. That said, people with back pain especially have to be considerate of their new bed purchase because they don’t want it to contribute to even more aches. Here are the key things to look out for when searching for a bed to help with back pain relief.
Firmness level: As our medical experts have said, the best beds for back pain seem to be in the medium-firm range; you want a mattress that’s neither too firm or too soft. A medium-firm mattress mostly offers great support, but it’s not too firm where it loses its pressure-relieving abilities. At the same time, it’s important to consider your sleeping position to properly accommodate your needs.
Sleeping position: Medium-firm mattresses will be perfectly suitable for many people with back pain including back, stomach and combination sleepers. However, the key is to have a mattress that keeps your spine in a straight alignment with your neck and head. As such, side sleepers with back pain may want a slightly softer mattress that gives underneath the curves of your shoulders and hips. A medium mattress is best for petite and side sleepers because you get more pressure relief without compromising support.
Hybrid construction: Between foam beds and hybrid beds that incorporate both foam and coils, hybrid beds are typically best at helping alleviate back pain. Foam beds are more prone to sagging and indentations, and this wear and tear can help contribute to your back pain. Hybrid beds with coils in the foundation layer provide more support for all body types, and do a better job at keeping your spine in proper alignment.
Special ergonomic designs: Some beds have average designs while others are made with back pain sufferers in mind. Keep an eye out for these ergonomic mattresses. Beds like the Casper Wave with multiple zoned support layers or the Saatva with special lumbar support will likely prove to be more beneficial for back pain than a standard hybrid or foam mattress.
Signs your mattress is causing back pain
“If you’re frequently waking up with a crick in the neck, back pain, stiff joints, experiencing mental fogginess, and having trouble falling asleep can all be signs of a mattress that is hurting your back,” Hascalovici said. “A bad mattress can mean a bad night’s sleep. It can also add up to more pain, both in your back and in other muscles and joints that are forced out of alignment or have to compensate for a lack of support.”
That’s why it’s so important to sleep on an accommodating mattress. “Over time, pain and lost sleep can lead to memory problems, lack of concentration, mood swings, lowered immunity, and even weight gain and a higher risk of heart trouble,” Hascalovici said. “Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for multiple areas of your mind and body, so it’s worth prioritizing.”
Different types of back pain
“The back is such a large and important part of the body, it’s not unusual for it to develop aches and pains,” Hascalovici explained. “While back pain can be characterized in many different ways, it can be convenient to classify it by where it shows up.”
Neck pain: “Unfortunately common, neck pain can happen for quite a few different reasons. The neck can get sore from supporting an out-of-alignment head — if you carry your head thrust forward, for example, hunch, or have ‘ ,’ you may notice soreness and difficulty turning your neck. Arthritis can happen, or the neck can get injured. It’s also not uncommon to wake up with neck pain from unsupportive pillows, from sleeping on your stomach, or from tooth-grinding during the night, among other things.”
Upper back pain: “The upper back, or thoracic spine, can suffer from musculoskeletal pain,” Hascalovici said. “Discs can slip, strains can occur, and nerves can get pinched. Often, however, the causes of upper back pain can be traced back to being sedentary, to having relatively poor posture, or weakened, or to weakened muscles that let the spine tilt out of alignment. Upper back pain can affect the shoulders; shoulders may also hurt if you’ve been putting pressure on them unevenly while sleeping.”
Lower back pain: “Only five vertebrae comprise the lower back, but those bones bear a lot of weight and pressure,” Hascalovici said. “Herniated discs, muscle strains, nerve damage, and arthritis can all cause lower back pain. Doing heavy, repetitive labor, lifting heavy weights, toting a hefty bag around, or slumping don’t help, either. For people with lower back pain, a medium-firm or firm mattress can sometimes yield some pain relief.”
“Wherever pain shows up in the back, it can be frustrating,” he continued. “The back is vulnerable to damage and to soreness caused by inflammation and arthritis; stress also contributes to back pain, since it often makes people clench their muscles.” As a remedy, Hascalovici suggested “supplements, regular exercise, good posture, an anti-inflammatory diet, managing stress, and getting enough sleep all help to prevent and manage back pain.”
Other ways to reduce back pain
Hascalovici said some sleeping positions are better than others for back pain, and offered a few tips to help you sleep more comfortably.
- If you can, try to sleep on your side while bending your knees a little. It may help to put a firm pillow behind your back to help hold you in place.
- A soft body pillow or feather between your knees may make you feel more comfortable.
- If you naturally prefer sleeping on your back, tuck a small pillow under your knees to keep your lower back from arching and possibly hurting more.
- Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, but if you can’t, you can at least stick a pillow under your hips at night to keep your back from arching too much.
- Consider a to make your bed feel more supportive or more pressure relieving, depending on what you need out of your current mattress. If your bed is too soft, consider a latex topper to add firmness. If your bed is too firm, a plush memory foam topper can help soften things up.
Can a mattress cause back pain?
Yes. A poor mattress or ill-suited bed for your needs can be a contributing factor to your back pain. If your bed is fairly new, less than a few years old, it’s possible your bed is too firm or too soft for your needs.
A soft mattress can cause back pain for back and stomach sleepers because it allows the lower back to sag into the foam. On the other hand, a firm mattress can press into the shoulders and hips of a side sleepers, causing the spine to be misaligned.
If your mattress has sags, indents or visible wear and tear, it’s a sign your bed is too old. Old mattresses with lumps and bumps aren’t efficient and promoting proper spinal alignment, and can lead you to wake up with back pain.
What type of mattress is best for back pain?
Memory foam and latex are the most commonly recommended mattress materials for back pain. These materials conform to your body and provide pressure relief where you need it most. One hundred percent memory foam mattresses and hybrid mattresses — which combine springs with memory foam and/or latex — are both good choices.
Are memory foam mattresses good for back pain?
Memory foam mattresses are among the best for back pain. They contour your body, alleviating pressure on your joints and reducing aches and pains. The memory foam also aligns with the natural curvature of your spine, providing lumbar support.
Is it better to have a firm mattress for back pain?
Very firm mattresses were often recommended for back pain in the past, but based on feedback from sleepers, a mattress that’s too firm can disrupt sleep and contribute to back pain. On the other hand, mattresses that are too soft also contribute to poor sleep quality and back pain, by throwing your spine out of alignment and putting too much pressure on your joints.
In general, the best mattress for back pain is one that’s rated medium to medium-firm, but it also depends on how you sleep. For example, side sleepers need a mattress that’s softer than back sleepers who generally need a firmer mattress, so the right mattress depends on your existing sleep habits.
What is the best mattress for back pain?
Some of the best mattresses to help alleviate back pain include:
- AS2 Hybrid
- Purple Hybrid
- Nectar Premier
- Casper Wave
- GhostBed Flex
- Helix Plus
What sleeping position is best for back pain?
The best sleeping positions for back pain are on your back with a pillow underneath the knees to alleviate pressure or on your side with a pillow in between the knees. If you sleep on your stomach and can’t make the switch, sleep with a pillow underneath the lumbar region (your lower back area).
More recommendations for a good night’s rest
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.
Go to Publisher: CNET
Author: McKenzie Dillon