Woman waking up suffering back ache

The 10 Best Mattresses for Back Pain in September 2021

Finding the right mattress can help give you a better night’s sleep.
By Sheryl Grassie
Updated September 16, 2021
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If you or someone close to you is experiencing back pain, you're not alone. Back pain is so common that the National Institutes of Health estimates 80% of adults in the United States suffer from either acute or chronic back pain. While a number of variables can cause this pain, your mattress is a fundamental one—sleeping on the wrong mattress can cause back pain or make it worse. According to a 2015 study, the best mattress for back pain falls at a medium-firm level, which uses a balanced feel to alleviate aches and pains.

To find that ideal mattress fit, focus on firmness level, sleep position, and mattress type and materials. It's also crucial to know how your bed supports spinal alignment and promotes pressure relief. Sound like a lot to keep track of? Not to worry—the experts at Mattress Advisor have taken all of these factors into account in their rigorous 14-point testing methodology, which they applied to over 150 mattresses. In this guide, we've selected 10 of the best mattresses for back pain based on their feedback from extensive testing.

Our recommendations for back pain relief:

The 10 best mattresses for back pain

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Mattress Lifestyle Photos
Credit: WinkBeds

Best Overall: WinkBed

BUY IT, $1,799 FOR A QUEEN

If you suffer from back pain, the WinkBed mattress has you more than covered—it earned high marks in spine alignment (8.75/10) and pressure relief (8/10), guaranteeing the support and comfort you need to ease your achy back. The WinkBed uses a hybrid design of sturdy coils and contouring foam to keep you supported as you move on the mattress. In addition, soft memory foam fills in the crevice at your lower back for added pressure relief. The WinkBed is offered in four different firmness levels, making it a universal fit for all sleep positions. But the luxury firm and firmer models work best for easing back pain while the softer version is ideal for side sleepers who require more pressure-point relief at their hips and shoulders.

Even better, WinkBed's newest model, the GravityLux, features body-contouring foams for side-sleeping bliss. Handmade in the U.S., WinkBeds offers a 120-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.6/10
  • Firmness: Softer (4.5/10), luxury-firm (6.5/10), firmer (7.5/10), or plus (8/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 120 nights
Mattress Lifestyle Photos
Credit: Saatva

Best Luxury Innerspring Mattress: Saatva Classic

BUY IT, $1,574 FOR A QUEEN

The Saatva Classic uses a dual innerspring system to provide both relief and support, so you can wake up feeling restored without an achy back. Strong steel coils at the base reinforce individually pocketed coils at the core to keep your posture in near-perfect alignment (9.5/10 in the Mattress Advisor testing lab). The Saatva is also covered in a plush pillow top that lets you sink into luxurious comfort. Another reason the Saatva is one of the best mattresses for a bad back? You don't have to worry about straining your back while assembling this mattress—the brand rises above the competition by offering complimentary white glove delivery, which includes discarding your old bed and setting up your new one. 

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.7/10
  • Firmness: Plush-soft (3/10), luxury-firm (6/10), or firm (8/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 180 nights
Helix
Credit: Helix

Best Mattress for Side Sleepers: Helix Midnight

BUY IT, $1,099 FOR A QUEEN

Hybrid beds are often dubbed "the best mattress for side sleepers," and the Helix Midnight is no exception. This popular model from Helix features both firm coils and soft foam, which is ideal for side sleepers who need support but don't want to compromise on comfort. The pocket-wrapped coils are uniquely designed for excellent lumbar support. In fact, the Helix Midnight scored impressively high during spine alignment testing, which makes this one of the best mattresses for side sleepers with lower back pain—the coils prop side sleepers up in a neutral posture, keeping pressure off of the lower back.

In addition to being a great choice for those who favor sleeping on their side, the Helix Midnight is also well-suited for couples thanks to its durable construction.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.9/10
  • Firmness: Medium (5.5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 nights
Ghostbed Flex Mattress
Credit: GhostBed

Best Cooling Mattress: GhostBed Flex

BUY IT, $2,130 FOR A QUEEN

If you're tired of sweaty nights disturbing your precious beauty sleep, a hybrid mattress may be the solution. The GhostBed Flex is especially equipped to deliver a cooling, supportive night's rest. Made from a sturdy base of individually wrapped coils and topped with a layer of gel memory foam and GhostBed's own proprietary foam that feels like a cross between memory foam and latex, the GhostBed Flex excels at facilitating airflow through the center of the mattress. Coils are a key material in cooling mattresses, helping to break up any heat retained by the foam. Plus, the GhostBed Flex's cooling cover keeps the top layer extra icy so you stay sweat-free even as you sink into the surface.

And if you're struggling with back pain on top of sleeping hot, the GhostBed Flex earned equally high scores for spine alignment (8.75/10) and pressure relief (8/10), so you can rest assured your back will get the support it needs.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (coils and foam)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.2/10
  • Firmness: Medium-soft (6/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 101 nights
Mattress Lifestyle Photos
Credit: DreamCloud

Best Firm Mattress: DreamCloud

BUY IT, $1,598 FOR A QUEEN

While a firm bed may not be top of mind as the best mattress for lower back pain, DreamCloud's hybrid mattress uses a supportive base of pocketed coils to keep your spine aligned, limiting the amount of pressure on your lower back. At a 6.5 out of 10 on the firmness scale, it falls in that firmness sweet spot of not too soft and not too firm. Topped with a cashmere and quilted foam cover, the DreamCloud mattress provides plenty of comfort to sleepers who need a little extra relief.

Need even more cushioning? Check out the DreamCloud Premier, the brand's newest mattress with a luxe hotel feel thanks to its thick Euro pillow top. DreamCloud sets itself apart from competitors by using high-quality materials—like cashmere and gel-infused foams—yet pricing their hybrid mattresses under the typical $2,000 mark.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.1/10
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6.5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 365 nights
Mattress Lifestyle Photos
Credit: Puffy

Best Mattress in a Box: Puffy

BUY IT, $1,249 FOR A QUEEN

Finding a mattress that relieves your back pain doesn't have to be inconvenient. Made from 10 inches of high-density memory foam, the Puffy mattress offers a cloud-like feel, while also supporting your back and spine. Not only did the Puffy mattress perform well in Mattress Advisor's lab in all of the key categories that matter for back pain—it earned a 8.75/10 score for spine alignment, 8/10 for pressure relief, and 9/10 for responsiveness—but it also comes with free shipping and returns, a 101-night sleep trial, and a trusty lifetime warranty. The best part? This bed-in-a-box ships straight to your doorstep and is available for ordering at the click of a button.

  • Mattress Type: Memory foam
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9/10
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (7/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 101 nights
Mattress Lifestyle Photos
Credit: Brooklyn Bedding

Best Pressure Relief Mattress: Brooklyn Aurora

BUY IT, $1,749 FOR A QUEEN

A key factor sleepers with back pain should look for in a mattress is pressure relief, and the Brooklyn Aurora mattress excels in this category. A Mattress Advisor tester told Health that the Brooklyn Aurora kept nearly all pressure off of testers' sensitive spots, earning it an impressive 9.5/10 score. Thanks to its exceptional pressure relief, Mattress Advisor regards the Brooklyn Aurora as the best mattress for upper back, shoulder, and neck pain, so if you're aching all over—this could be the bed for you. Made from a combination of memory foam and individually wrapped coils, the Brooklyn Aurora also provides plenty of support to keep your spine aligned with little to no strain placed on your back.

Oftentimes, the best mattresses for pressure relief are made from stuffy layers of memory foam, which can make for a rather warm night's rest. But because this is a hybrid mattress, hot sleepers will appreciate the extra airflow the coil layer provides.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (coils and foam)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.9/10
  • Firmness: Soft (3/10), medium (5/10), and firm (7/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 120 nights
Mattress Lifestyle Photos
Credit: Leesa

Best Memory Foam Mattress: Leesa

BUY IT, $1,099 FOR A QUEEN

Some memory foam mattresses don't provide enough support for those with back pain, but the Leesa mattress earns high marks in key categories like spine alignment and pressure relief. The bed uses three medium-firm foam layers to keep you resting in a healthy posture. Its memory foam recovery layer contours to your back, hips, and shoulders for a comfortable night's sleep, which also makes it a contender for the best mattress for back and shoulder pain. Unlike most memory foam beds, the Leesa feels cool and balances comfort and support, meaning you won't feel "stuck" in your mattress. With a 6-inch supportive foam base, this bed should last you for at least seven to 10 years.

  • Mattress Type: Memory foam
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.3/10
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 nights
Nectar
Credit: Nectar

Best Value Mattress: Nectar

BUY IT, $1,298 FOR A QUEEN

Mattress Advisor considers the Nectar mattress to be one of the best buys and most comfortable beds on the market, but it's also great for back support and reducing lower back pain. In addition to its affordable price—it's usually on sale, making it cheaper than most mattresses on the market—the Nectar consistently rates highly for comfort and pressure relief. In Nectar mattress reviews, superlatives like "best sleep" and "best mattress" are common.

The Nectar is a layered memory foam mattress with contouring and pressure point relief, which makes it an excellent choice for back support. It has gel memory foam for temperature neutrality, so you don't get hot while sleeping on it. Plus, it comes with a year-long sleep trial (the best in the industry) and a generous return policy for peace of mind.

  • Mattress Type: Foam
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.7/10
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6.5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 365 days
Best Mattresses for Back Pain
Credit: Casper

Best Mattress for Combination Sleepers: Casper Wave Hybrid

BUY IT $2,695 FOR A QUEEN

The Casper Wave Hybrid offers everything that someone with back pain could want and more—it's the brand's most luxurious mattress. It cools, supports, and aligns, plus it's extremely durable. At a solid 5 out of 10 on the firmness scale, this model is especially supportive for side sleepers. And restless sleepers will appreciate its great bounce back, which makes turning from side to side a frictionless experience.

Casper scored high in a number of other areas as well. The company earned Mattress Advisor's highest marks (10/10) for its nearly flawless shipping and stellar return policy.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (memory foam and pocketed coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.3/10
  • Firmness: Medium (5/10) 
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 days

Keep reading to find out how lingering back pain affects your sleep and how it could be causing you to miss out on precious ZZZs.

How back pain affects sleep

If you've been experiencing increased discomfort in your back, it could be affecting more than just your posture or workouts. Back pain can negatively impact sleep, causing you to catch less shuteye than normal, so it's important to resolve your pain ASAP and get back to snoozing peacefully through the night.

Back pain makes it…

  • Harder to fall asleep: It can be more difficult to drift off to sleep if you're suffering from an achy back. You're more aware of the pain when you're lying in bed at night since there isn't much to distract you.
  • Harder to get comfortable: When you're struggling with back pain, it can feel like it takes all night just to find a comfortable sleep position that doesn't aggravate your condition. You may have to try multiple positions, which leads to lots of frustrated tossing and turning. Some sleepers have had success pairing their mattress with an adjustable bed frame, which allows you to control your sleep position by using a remote to raise or lower your frame into the position that feels most comfortable to you.
  • Harder to stay asleep: And even when you do eventually fall asleep, back pain can make it harder to stay in the deep, restorative sleep your body desperately needs. One study found a high prevalence of sleep disturbances in patients with lower back pain—no matter if it was acute or persistent. By resting on a supportive mattress, you can not only relieve your achy back, but also enjoy a more restful slumber.

Sleeping position

The position you sleep in also plays an integral role in either mitigating or worsening back pain. Authorities like Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic emphasize the correlation between sleep position and back pain and offer tips on how to reduce pain in each position. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the firmest), here's what to look for in a mattress depending on your regular sleeping position.

  • The best mattress for side sleepers with back pain is a slightly softer bed that cushions the pressure points and has a firmness between 5.5 to 6.5.
  • Back sleepers need a solid medium-firm mattress that maintains spine alignment while softly supporting the hips and should aim for a 6 to 7 on the firmness scale. 
  • Stomach sleepers need a slightly firmer mattress in the 6.5 to 7.5 range that keeps their hips elevated for a neutral spine posture.

What people with back pain should look for in a mattress

Buying a new mattress is a very personal decision, but there are a few factors that anyone who suffers from back pain should look for when choosing a bed.

Firmness

It was once believed that a firmer mattress offered the best support for your back, but that is no longer the current wisdom. "While it's a commonly held belief that a firm mattress is the best mattress for a bad back, that is not always the case," says Dr. Luis Peña-Hernández, MD, FCCP, at the Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Institute of South Florida. "A firm mattress doesn't always provide adequate contouring for the spine, which can cause additional problems. A better approach is to select a mattress aligned to your unique sleep preferences and needs instead of a one-size-fits-all option."

Support

It's crucial that those with back pain rest on a supportive mattress that maintains spinal alignment. Spine alignment ensures you maintain the natural 'S' curve of your spine, which keeps pressure off of your back and promotes healthy posture. So you may be wondering: Can a soft mattress cause lower back pain? The answer is yes. By resting on an unsupportive mattress that causes your hips or other parts of the body to sink too far into the bed, you run the risk of experiencing spine misalignment, exacerbating any existing pains and potentially causing new aches to form.

Mattress type and materials

So what is the best mattress for a bad back? Mattresses can be made of many different natural and synthetic materials but some materials are better than others when it comes to providing the extra support needed to alleviate back pain.

Memory foam and latex

The most commonly recommended beds for back pain are memory foam and latex. Memory foam mattresses and their natural alternative, latex mattresses, both offer amazing support and contouring. They hug the body and cradle all your natural curves, supporting pressure points like shoulders and hips while relieving pressure for reduced pain. Memory foam and latex also help keep your spine aligned while sleeping, which further reduces stress on the back and lowers pain in all areas.

Innerspring

An innerspring mattress, sometimes referred to as a traditional mattress, is a bed of coils with a foam layer on top. These mattresses were the standard for around a century, but, despite improvements like pocketed coils and better motion isolation, a regular innerspring with a foam top generally doesn't offer enough support for substantial back pain relief.

Airbed

Airbeds don't offer the kind of contouring that memory foam or latex does. However, there are beds with air components that can be mechanically adjusted for more or less fill and firmness. The ability to customize your bed can be a great asset when trying to get good support for alleviating upper or lower back pain.

Hybrid

Common hybrid mattresses have a coil or air base with a plush memory foam or latex top. The combination of two materials brings together both comfort and support to lessen back pain, reduce soreness, and help with a good night's sleep. Look for a hybrid that has multiple layers of foam or latex, not just a topper, for maximum comfort. Hybrids are known as the best type of bed for lower back pain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Which type of mattress is best for back pain?

A: Memory foam mattresses seem to be the most popular mattress type, but it's not necessarily the most supportive. While some memory foam mattresses contain denser foams for added support, hybrid mattresses combine foam in their top comfort layers with innerspring coils at their core to properly align the spine while cushioning tender joints. Latex mattresses are also a good choice because they contour to your curves without letting the hips sink too deeply and out of alignment.

Q: Is a soft or a firm mattress better for lower back pain? 

A: The answer might surprise you: Neither! The right firmness level allows the spine to rest in its natural "S" curve. While a too-soft mattress may not offer enough support, an overly hard mattress may also shift the spine out of alignment. Too-firm mattresses can press the pelvis too far forward while back sleeping, and place too much stress on the hips and shoulders while side sleeping. Studies show that the wisest choice is a medium-firm to firm level that balances support and comfort. Very firm or very soft mattresses can reduce your sleep quality and create more lower back pain.

Q: Which sleeping position is best to alleviate back pain?

A: Side sleeping or back sleeping are the best positions to ease your back pain. Even better, you can place a pillow between your knees while side sleeping to take strain off your spine. Likewise, you can slip a pillow under your knees while back sleeping to maintain your spine in its normal "S" curve.

Q: What kind of mattress causes lower back pain?

A: Mattresses that are too old and sagging cause lower back pain. Today's modern mattresses can last seven to 10 years on average. So if you're sleeping on a 20-year-old mattress that has lost its structure, it's no surprise you're experiencing lower back pain. When you're selecting your new mattress, be sure to choose a medium-firm to firm level that will support your back without placing too much stress on your shoulders and hips.

Q: What mattress firmness level is best for lower back pain?

A: Extra-firm mattresses used to be the go-to for sleepers looking to alleviate lower back pain, but that's no longer the case. Your best bet is to try a medium-firm to firm mattress that allows your spine to rest in its natural "S" curve and provides cushioning for sensitive joints like the hips and shoulders.

Q: Is a memory foam mattress good for back pain?

A: Memory foam can help relieve pain at pressure points, and it evenly distributes a sleeper's body weight across the surface of the mattress. If you're experiencing pain in your upper back and your shoulder blades, a memory foam mattress will cushion those spots by contouring to your curves. Like traditional innerspring mattresses, memory foam beds come in different firmness levels, and a medium-firm to firm option ensures that your spine stays well-supported throughout the night.

Mattress Advisor's Review Process

Each mattress on this list was put to the test (literally) in Mattress Advisor's lab, which is located in Raleigh, North Carolina. Bedding experts spent over 1,200 hours evaluating and comparing mattresses using a 14-point testing methodology to find the best mattresses that help relieve back pain. 

While some of the factors tested are tied directly to performance, like responsiveness, edge support, and pressure relief, others are based around brand operations, such as customer service, shipping policies, and trial period. The Mattress Advisor team combines this proprietary methodology with in-depth interviews and customer experience to arrive at a weighted score out of 10.

Sheryl Grassie is an academic writer and researcher for Mattress Advisor.

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