The 5 Best Mattresses for Back Pain

Finding the right mattress can help give you a better night’s sleep.
By Sheryl Grassie
April 23, 2020
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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 Institute of Health estimates 80% of adults in the United States suffer from either acute or chronic back pain. While this pain can be caused by a number of variables, your mattress is a fundamental one—it can cause back pain or make it worse if you’re not sleeping on the right mattress.

To find that ideal fit, the primary areas to assess are firmness, sleep position, and mattress type and materials. It’s also crucial to know how your bed affects spinal alignment and supports pressure relief. In this guide, we’ve selected five of the best mattresses for back pain based on customer reviews and extensive testing. 

These are the 5 best mattresses for back pain.  

Keep reading to learn more about how your mattress is linked to back pain and what each of these mattresses has to offer. 

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 best for sleepers suffering from back pain, that is not always the case,” said 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."

Sleeping position 

Depending on whether you're a side sleeper, a back sleeper, or a stomach sleeper, mattresses are designed to accommodate different sleeping positions. 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 depending on your regular sleeping position. 

  • Side sleepers need a slightly softer mattress and can look for something in the 5.5 to 6.5 range for firmness.
  • Back sleepers need a solid medium-firm mattress and should aim for around a 6 to 7 on the firmness scale. 
  • Stomach sleepers need a slightly firmer mattress in the 6.5 to 7.5 range, allowing for individual preferences.

Mattress type and materials

Mattresses can be made of many different materials, natural and synthetic. The most popular types are made with memory foam, latex, air chambers, innerspring, or a combination, also known as hybrids. All of these can be great mattresses, but for back pain, when extra support is warranted, some are better than others.

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, and relieving pressure for reduced pain. Looking for less shoulder pain, hip pain, or back 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 and, although they have improved with 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 have gained in popularity over the last several decades, and there are now more elaborate versions on the market. Basic ones 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 more or less firmness. The ability to customize your bed can be a great asset when trying to get good support to alleviate upper back or low back pain.

Hybrid

Common hybrids have a coil or air base with a plush memory foam or latex top. The combination of two elements can work well to lessen back pain, reduce soreness, and help with a good night’s sleep. Look for a hybrid that has a good size layer of memory foam and preferably multiple layers of foam, not just a topper.

The 5 best mattresses for back pain

Of the many mattresses on the market today, the ones that rise to the top of our list for best back support are detailed below. Prices listed are for queen mattresses, but other sizes are available at different price points.

Saatva Solaire

Best Adjustable Bed: Saatva Solaire

The Saatva Solaire is an unusual hybrid mattress that’s technically an airbed. It is constructed to be customizable, meaning you can adjust the air to 50 different settings to get the perfect level of firmness for your individual needs (a great option if you have back problems). You can also use it with an adjustable base for an even better fit and more support. In addition to its customizable features, this Saatva mattress is also very eco-friendly. It has an organic cotton quilted pillow top over a layer of certified latex, which are two of the best natural materials available for mattresses. Plus, there’s a layer ofCertiPUR-US® memory foam for extra comfort, and customers rave about its impact on their back pain. 

Overall, the Solaire is a luxury mattress at a competitive price point. It comes with a generous sleep trial period, free in-home delivery and set-up, and an amazing 25-year warranty. 

  • Mattress Type: Latex and memory foam with air chambers 
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Customizable 
  • Trial Period for Returns: 120 days

To buy: Saatva Soliare Mattress, $2,695, saatva.com (Click to see exclusive offer)

Puffy

Best for Combination Sleepers: Puffy

The Puffy is a bed-in-a-box, luxury firm mattress constructed with different layers of foam and memory foam—which creates the perfect support balance whether you’re a side, back, stomach, or combination sleeper. Here’s how it works: Puffy is designed with a top layer of gel-infused foam that will keep you cool and comfortable all year round, plus it has a second layer of foam to support the contouring and cushioning of your body. The base layer is made of a firmer support foam that, combined with the top layers, provides excellent back support. 

Beyond the physical components, Puffy has a competitive lifetime warranty, free returns, and 101-day sleep trial.

  • Mattress Type: Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (7/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 101 days

To buy: Puffy Mattress, $1,150, puffy.com (Click to see exclusive offer)

Casper Wave Hybrid

Best for Hot Sleepers: Casper Wave Hybrid

If your back hurts and you also sleep hot, the Casper Wave Hybrid is a solution for both. It has an innerspring base layer with two layers of memory foam: The top layer is a highly breathable foam to disperse body heat and keep you cool; the bottom layer of support foam relieves back pain. 

The Casper Wave Hybrid offers everything 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 earns high marks for its nearly flawless shipping and stellar return policy. 

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (memory foam and pocketed coils)
  • Customer Rating: 4.5 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium (5/10) 
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 days

To buy: Casper Wave Hybrid, $2,595, casper.com (Click to see exclusive offer)

Nectar

Best Value: Nectar

Nectar, considered one of the best buys and most comfortable mattresses on the market, is great for back support and reducing lower back pain. In addition to its price, which is cheaper than most mattresses on the market, Nectar has a host of things in its favor. It’s consistently rated highly for comfort and pressure relief. In Nectar mattress reviews, superlatives like “best sleep” and “best mattress” are common.

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, which means you don’t get hot while sleeping on it. Plus, it comes with an allergen and dust mite-repelling cover, a full year sleep trial (the best in the industry), and a generous return policy to make life easy. 

  • Mattress Type: Foam
  • Customer Rating: 4.8 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6.5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 365 days

To buy: Nectar Mattress, $799, nectarsleep.com (Click to see exclusive offer)

Purple

Best Technology: Purple

Purple is a one-of-a-kind mattress with a unique and innovative construction. The top layer is made of a hyper-elastic polymer that’s molded into a grid pattern. This creates a very unique type of support that’s unlike foam, memory foam, or innerspring. This mattress provides exceptional pressure point support and aids proper spinal alignment, which the International Chiropractors Association stresses is crucial for reducing back pain.

If you want a mattress that will last, Purple is a great candidate. It comes with a 10-year warranty and an almost cult following of satisfied customers.

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and hyper-elastic polymer)
  • Customer Rating: 4.6 out of 5
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6.5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 days

To buy: Purple Mattress, $1,099, purple.com (Click to see exclusive offer)

Sheryl is an academic writer and researcher for Mattress Advisor with a long-time interest in sleep and how it affects health and weight. She writes on topics related to nutrition, diet and lifestyle, and of course good sleep.