Humans ideally spend one-third of their lives asleep, making a mattress one of the most important purchases that can be made for a home. A bad mattress can make you wake up feeling like you were hit by a truck, but sleeping while supported by a good mattress improves your chances of sleeping through the night.
If you have persistent back pain, that’s an obvious sign that something’s off with your mattress. No matter what the original source of that pain is, like sitting at a desk all day or an excessive workout, sleeping on the wrong mattress will almost certainly make you feel worse if your back feels even a little off.
If you have an overly firm mattress, it won’t properly shape your body and that can mean less comfort, more tension and stress for pain sufferers, even with a foam topper or comfort layer. On the other hand, if you have a soft mattress that’s too saggy, it won’t offer the proper spinal alignment. When choosing the best mattress for back pain, the goal is to find one that has just the right amount of firmness, equally distributes pressure and allows your spine to maintain its natural curvature. Some people may rely on an adjustable bed for this magic combination, but achieving your desired comfort and firmness level doesn’t need to be so complicated — a new mattress can help you meet that pain relief goal and get better sleep.
When it comes to back pain, it makes sense to opt for a supportive mattress with a soft material (or mixture of materials) and a medium-firm mattress feel. There are several 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.
Read more: Best full mattresses in 2021
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. It’s 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 back pain and any other aches and pains.
The AS2 Hybrid comes in sizes twin to split king and prices usually range from $1,049 to $2,198.
Editor’s note: The Nectar Lush has been discontinued and replaced with the Nectar Premier, which is similar in construction, with gel-infused memory foam and a denser comfort layer. We are currently in the process of testing the new model and will update this story when testing is complete.
If you’re a dedicated back sleeper, the Nectar Lush is for you. It has five layers, including a high-density memory foam comfort layer that’s designed to provide more pressure relief for back pain sufferers and a plusher, softer mattress feel than traditional memory foam mattress. The Nectar mattress also has a dense foam base, gel-coated memory foam layer and a cooling mattress topper cover that really stays fresh and cool to the touch.
As soon as I settled into the Nectar mattress, I could tell it was different than several others I’ve tried. The foam immediately adapted to my body, alleviating pressure where I needed it and hugging my body in all of the right places. It almost had a zero-gravity feel that made me feel like I was floating. When I sleep on my back on other mattresses, I feel like I’m lying on top of the mattress, rather than sinking into it. This creates an unnatural spinal alignment and an uncomfortable curve in my spine. But with the Nectar Lush, my spine felt completely aligned and I consistently woke up in the morning without pain.
Another selling point for the Nectar Lush is that it works with any type of bed frame, unlike the Amerisleep AS2 and the Ghostbed, which work best with platform bases. You can simply swap out your current mattress with the new mattress, rather than having to upgrade your entire setup.
The Nectar Lush comes in sizes twin to California king and prices range from $1,099 to $1,799.
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 takes stress off your pressure points and keeps your spine totally aligned, especially when sleeping on your side.
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.
The Saatva Classic comes in sizes twin XL to split California king and prices range from $799 to $1,999.
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 chronic back pain. While it would be ideal to change to a side or back sleep position, the Purple Hybrid Premier 4 is the next best thing for a stomach sleeper.
There are a lot of mattresses out there that claim to form to your body, but the Purple Hybrid Premier 4 totally delivers. 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 4. The extra thickness really makes a difference for pressure relief and comfort.
The Purple Hybrid Premier 4 comes in sizes twin XL to split king and prices range from $2,299 to $4,998.
Read our Purple Hybrid Premier 4 review.
If you get really hot at night, 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.
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 foams, 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.
The GhostBed Flex Hybrid comes in sizes twin to split king and prices usually range from $1,395 to $3,300.
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 250 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.
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 keep your spine aligned 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.
The Helix Plus comes in sizes twin to California king and prices range from $825 to $1,999.
Frequently asked questions
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.
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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.