The 10 Best Mattresses for Back Pain That Alleviate Aches in 2022

Finding the right mattress can help give you a better night’s sleep.

Woman lying on a bed waking up suffering back ache.
Getty Images

If you or someone close to you is experiencing back pain, you're not alone. Back pain is so common that eight out of 10 adults in the US will suffer from either acute or chronic back pain at some point in their lives. 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.

Michael Breus, PhD, a Los Angeles-based clinical psychologist who's served as the resident sleep expert on WebMD for more than 14 years, tells Health that the wisest mattress choice for anyone with a bad back is one with a medium-firm to firm firmness level that balances support and comfort. "Patients agree the best mattress for back pain has a medium-firm quality. It creates a more balanced feel that aids in reducing aches and pains," said Breus. "I even prefer this type of bed, which has improved my own lower back pain."

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

Top 10 mattresses for upper and lower back pain:

Each of the mattresses on this list has been endorsed as a top-rated bed for back pain by Certified Sleep Science Coach and professional mattress tester Loren Bullock. Mattress Advisor testers, including Loren, arrived at their conclusions based on where the beds excelled or fell short when put to the test. For more information on back pain and how to find the best mattress, scroll farther down for a comprehensive guide that covers everything you need to know, including the causes of back pain and the best mattress type for back pain.

The 10 best mattresses for back pain

01 of 10

Best Overall Mattress: Saatva Classic

Mattress Lifestyle Photos
  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.3/10
  • Firmness: Plush-soft (3/10), luxury-firm (6/10), and firm (8/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 180 nights
  • Warranty: 15 years

Who it's best for: Mattress Advisor testers rated the Saatva Classic as one of the best mattresses for a bad back because of its superior spine alignment, earning a 9.5 out of 10 in the sleep lab. This bed suits all sleep position preferences (back, side, and stomach sleeping) because of its combination system of dual innersprings and memory foam. Its hybrid construction scored well across key areas important to a majority of sleepers: spine alignment, pressure relief (8.75/10), and responsiveness (8.5/10).

How it feels: If you're familiar with the feeling of a cozy hotel mattress, then you have an idea of how the Saatva feels: supportive, yet plush. Hot-sleeping testers also slept cool on this bed, without being bothered by night sweats.

Pros: The Saatva Classic earned perfect scores for durability and customer service. It comes with a 15-year warranty.

Cons: The Saatva Classic falters with motion isolation. The dual-coil innerspring system is supportive but distributes some motion across the surface of the mattress. Light sleepers who share a bed with a partner or pets may prefer an all-foam mattress, which better isolates motion.

What it's made of: Saatva Classic is a five layer composition. At its base lies a layer of durable steel coils, which is surrounded by a layer of high-density foam to further secure the perimeters. Above that lies a second coil layer made up of 884 individually wrapped springs, so you get two layers of coils to reinforce the core of the mattress. Topping off the Saatva Classic are a memory foam layer and a 3-inch Euro pillow top.

The Saatva Classic provides both pressure relief and support to help you wake up feeling restored and free of back pain. Strong steel coils at its base reinforce individually pocketed coils to keep your spine in near-perfect alignment. The foam layers on top come covered in a plush pillow top that lets you sink into the soft surface. Back pain sufferers may be glad to know that they won't have to strain any muscles assembling the Saatva Classic: It comes with complimentary white glove delivery, which includes discarding your old bed and setting up your new one.

From the sleep lab: "I found the Saatva Classic's Euro pillow top balances out the innerspring coil system underneath. When I lay down on the surface, I sunk just enough for the Euro pillow top to cushion and relieve pressure from my sides, while the two-coil system gave that 'on top' of the mattress feeling necessary for spine alignment."

02 of 10

Best Value Mattress: Nectar

Nectar. Nectar
  • Mattress Type: Gel memory foam
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.7/10
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 365 nights
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Who it's best for: Back and side sleepers, in particular, will enjoy the pressure relief this bed offers. The Nectar also excels at motion isolation for couples, and its low price point makes it a good fit for a variety of budgets.

How it feels: The Nectar is a medium-firm bed, but because of its all-foam design, it may feel a bit more plush than a medium-firm hybrid or innerspring mattress.

Pros: Special perks like a lifetime warranty and one-year sleep trial (the best in the industry) give you an extra dose of buyer's confidence when purchasing this mattress.

Cons: This memory foam mattress can sleep hot. It also might not satisfy those who like to feel propped up on their mattress. According to one tester, because it doesn't contain any coils, the top foam layers cushion and cradle you, instead of keeping you elevated on the surface of the bed like an innerspring or hybrid mattress would.

What it's made of: Nectar is grounded by 7 inches of sturdy, standard foam, and follows up with a 2-inch responsive foam layer. The uppermost foam layer is 3 inches of gel memory foam. Nectar's top layer is a quilted, polyblend cover.

In a Nectar mattress review, a Mattress Advisor tester said it delivered her best sleep in years. The Nectar is a layered memory foam mattress with contouring and pressure point relief, which makes it an excellent choice for back support.

In addition to its affordable price, it's typically on sale, making it cheaper than most mattresses on the market. The Nectar consistently rates highly for comfort and pressure relief (8.5/10).

From the sleep lab: "I found the Nectar hugged my curves like a memory foam mattress, but it still had the back support and responsiveness of a hybrid or innerspring bed. You do sink some, but not so much that spine alignment starts to suffer."

03 of 10

Best Luxury Innerspring Mattress: The WinkBed

Mattress Lifestyle Photos
  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.6/10
  • Firmness: Softer (4.5/10), luxury-firm (6/10), firmer (7.5/10), and plus (8/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 120 nights
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Who it's best for: Mattress Advisor testers reported that The WinkBed's memory foam layers make it especially comfortable for back and stomach sleepers, while the springy coils help combination sleepers who toss and turn throughout the night easily switch positions. Coils allow for maximum airflow, making this mattress a good fit for hot sleepers, too. A Euro pillow top with gel-infused foam keeps the surface cool as well.

How it feels: This hybrid mattress is solid and supportive, so you'll feel propped up from the center of the bed to its edges. Testers gave it a near-perfect 9.75 out of 10 score for edge support.

Pros: The WinkBed received excellent scores for spine alignment (8.75/10) and responsiveness (9/10).

Cons: The WinkBed didn't isolate motion well, so co-sleepers may feel their partner's movements. Motion isolation is a measure of how well the bed limits movement from one side to the other.

What it's made of: The WinkBed starts with a support system comprised of individually wrapped springs (1,074 total in a queen size), which are made from high-grade recycled steel. The steels were designed to vary in thickness, or "gauge," in order to provide targeted support to the lower back. Next is a contouring gel memory foam layer, topped off by a quilted pillow top. The WinkBed's protective cover is made from Tencel, a moisture-wicking fiber derived from eucalyptus.

Besides high marks in spine alignment, The WinkBed earned a perfect score for durability, which means this mattress is designed to keep back sufferers supported for years to come. The individually wrapped coils provide solid support, while the soft memory foam fills in the crevice at your lower back for added pressure relief. The WinkBed comes in four firmness levels, making it a universal fit for most sleep positions. However, 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. Side sleepers should look to The WinkBed GravityLux for more body-contouring foam. Handmade in the US, The WinkBed comes with a 120-night sleep trial and a lifetime warranty.

From the sleep lab: "The density of the coil layer provides excellent support, and there's a give-and-take that makes it easy to switch positions. This bed also feels super cool when you sink into the surface. Its added support and responsiveness, combined with its cooling qualities, make it a well-rounded mattress."

04 of 10

Best Mattress for Side Sleepers: Helix Midnight

  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (coil and foam)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 8.9/10
  • Firmness: Medium (5.5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 nights
  • Warranty: 10 years

Who it's best for: The Helix Midnight is a good fit for side and back sleepers as well as hot sleepers and couples.

How it feels: This bed feels like a true medium-firm mattress because it offers a nice balance of comfort and support.

Pros: The Helix Midnight contains thick layers of memory foam overtop coils, which helps it provide excellent pressure relief for your hips, knees, shoulders, and back. It's one of the most affordable beds on this list.

Cons: One tester warns if you love the feel of an all-foam mattress, the coil base of this bed might get in the way of that close, conforming feel that memory foam lovers seek.

What it's made of: Helix Midnight boasts five layers. Making up its core are 789 steel pocketed coils (in a queen) that sit atop a dense 1-inch polyfoam base. Next are 3 inches of memory foam—a 1-inch polyfoam transition layer followed by a 2-inch gel memory foam layer. A polyester mattress cover finishes off the bed.

Hybrid and memory foam beds are often dubbed the best mattresses 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 comfort. The pocket-wrapped coils are uniquely designed for excellent lumbar support. In fact, the Helix Midnight scored impressively high (8.75/10) 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 due to its durable construction.

From the sleep lab: "I was impressed by how well the Helix Midnight contoured to my body. The top layers of foam create a super cozy surface ideal for pressure relief. At the same time, you can really feel the coils underneath offering support."

05 of 10

Best Mattress for Pressure Relief: DreamCloud

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

Who it's best for: A hybrid mattress, the DreamCloud is a universal fit for all sleeping positions. Standout scores in pressure relief (8.75/10) and spinal alignment (9/10) also make the mattress great for those with hip pain, in addition to back pain.

How it feels: The DreamCloud provides a luxury sleep experience. The mattress has a medium-firm feel, but its cashmere and quilted foam cover is what sets it apart from the competition (think plush soft and cloud-like).

Pros: Contouring pressure relief, sturdy support, a balanced feel, and a breathable innerspring base are all part of the package when you purchase a DreamCloud bed.

Cons: DreamCloud isn't the best choice for those on a budget, as the mattress falls on the upper end of the price scale. In addition, those who prefer the close, conforming feel of memory foam may not enjoy sleeping on a hybrid with innersprings.

What it's made of: DreamCloud has a base of individually wrapped coils (682 within a queen), which sits atop a 1-inch base layer. Above the coils are 5 inches worth of comfort layers, including a gel memory foam and supportive polyfoam layer. A blend of foam and cashmere comprises the DreamCloud's quilted top layer.

For sleepers who need a little extra relief on sore spots, the DreamCloud provides plenty of comfort—testers scored the mattress 8.75 out of 10 in the pressure relief category. A hybrid build, DreamCloud also has a supportive base of pocketed coils that keep the spine aligned and limit pressure on the lower back, alleviating aches and pains. Plus, at a 6.5 out of 10 on the firmness scale, the mattress falls in that firmness sweet spot of not too soft and not too firm.

For even more cushioning pressure relief, check out the DreamCloud Premier. The brand's newest mattress has a luxe hotel feel thanks to its addition of a thick Euro pillow top.

From the sleep lab: "The DreamCloud more closely resembles a luxury hotel mattress than any other bed I've tested. Your back feels supported but also cushioned by the foam comfort layers."

06 of 10

Best Cooling Mattress: GhostBed Flex

Ghostbed Flex Mattress
  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (coils and foam)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.2/10
  • Firmness: Medium-firm (6/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 101 nights
  • Warranty: 25 years

Who it's best for: The GhostBed Flex is best for back and combination sleepers because of its supportive yet highly responsive material. It also works well for couples.

How it feels: This mattress has a unique, medium-firm feel that balances the pressure relief of memory foam with the springiness of latex.

Pros: Mattress Advisor testers describe this hybrid mattress as easy to move around on, durable, and cooling. They found the GhostBed's edge support to be equally as impressive, which is helpful if you like to rest near the perimeter of the bed.

Cons: Due to its unique combination of materials, the GhostBed Flex is one of the pricier beds on this list.

What it's made of: GhostBed Flex has an impressive seven layer design, starting with a high-density support layer, and then pocketed coils. The next layer is a contouring foam, followed by two additional layers of gel memory foam. The final two layers of GhostBed Flex are a 1-inch breathable fiber layer, and a quilted cover.

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 for those who sleep hot and also experience back pain. It earned high scores for spine alignment (8.75/10) and pressure relief (8/10) and is made from a sturdy base of individually wrapped coils, gel memory foam, and GhostBed's own proprietary foam that feels like a cross between memory foam and latex. This design helps the GhostBed Flex promote more 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 cover keeps the top layer extra cool so you stay sweat-free even as you sink into the surface. Testers were so impressed with its top-to-bottom breathable construction that they gave it a 9 out of 10 for cooling.

From the sleep lab: "The GhostBed Flex has a unique feel. The foam is very latex-like, with great bounciness and support. The bed's surface also feels super breathable."

07 of 10

Best Mattress for Combination Sleepers: Puffy

Mattress Lifestyle Photos
  • Mattress Type: Memory foam
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9/10
  • Firmness: Firm (7/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 101 nights
  • Warranty: Lifetime

Who it's best for: The Puffy mattress is best for side sleepers with joint pain who tend to switch sides throughout the night. Unlike many memory foam mattresses, the Puffy is responsive to sleepers' movements while still giving that signature huggable feel. Mattress Advisor testers gave it a 9 out of 10 for responsiveness.

How it feels: The Puffy falls at a 7 out of 10 on the firmness scale, which is slightly firmer than an average medium-firm bed. One tester explained that you won't feel like you're sinking into your mattress, but you also won't feel propped up like you would on an innerspring bed.

Pros: A lifetime warranty comes with your Puffy mattress purchase. Plus, the bed's all-foam construction helps isolate motion and prevent sleep disturbance for couples and those who co-sleep with children.

Cons: This mattress's memory foam construction won't give stomach sleepers enough support. It's also not an optimal fit for hot sleepers since all-foam mattresses tend to trap heat.

What it's made of: Puffy's bottom cover helps grip the foundation for stability. Next, a thick 6-inch support foam layer forms the bulk of the memory foam mattress. On top are two comfort-adding foam layers, including 2 inches of memory foam and 2 inches of gel-infused foam. A hypoallergenic top cover for stain resistance is Puffy's final layer.

Back problems often disrupt sleep, and the tendency to switch sleep positions throughout the night may not help matters. That's where choosing a responsive mattress like the Puffy can be crucial. Despite the fact that it quickly adjusts to your movements, the Puffy also does a good job in limiting the ripples of that movement across the mattress. It earned a motion isolation score of 9.25 out of 10. That means you can switch sleep positions without disturbing a co-sleeper. Those with back pain will be well-supported wherever they land: The Puffy also scored well for spine alignment (8.75/10) and pressure relief (8/10).

From the sleep lab: "In a lot of ways, the Puffy feels like a typical memory foam bed, but I also found it to be very responsive to my movements. I didn't feel like I was sinking into quicksand on this mattress. My joints felt cradled but supported."

08 of 10

Best Extra-Firm Mattress: Brooklyn Bedding Plank

Brooklyn Bedding Plank
Brooklyn Bedding Plank. Brooklyn Bedding
  • Mattress Type: Polyfoam
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.1/10
  • Firmness: Firm (7/10) and ultra-firm (9/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 120 nights
  • Warranty: 10 years

Who it's best for: Firm mattress lovers can find comfort on each side of the flippable Brooklyn Bedding Plank. Firm mattresses are a great option for back and stomach sleepers, but side sleepers will also find the cushion they need for joint relief with the Plank. Mattress Advisor testers gave it a 9 out of 10 for pressure relief.

How it feels: If you're a side sleeper who prefers to rest securely atop a mattress rather than sink into it, you'll appreciate the Plank's high-density polyfoam base. Each side of the mattress also has a soft, quilted top layer for comfort.

Pros: With two sides to choose from—firm or ultra-firm—the Plank offers options to back pain sufferers to find the best relief. If you can't get comfortable on the ultra-firm surface, simply flip the mattress to its softer side. Testers rated the firm side at a 7 out of 10 on the firmness scale, with the ultra-firm coming in at a 9 out of 10.

Cons: Hot sleepers will have to pay an extra $250 to add a cooling panel to a queen-size mattress. This may be well worth the cost to customize a firm memory foam mattress.

What it's made of: If you opt to add the Brooklyn Bedding Plank's cooling cover, the phase-change material will be affixed onto both sides of the mattress. The next layer will depend on which side of the Plank you sleep: On the extra firm side is a .75-inch quilted comfort layer, and then a 7-inch base foam. On the less firm side, Plank has a denser 1.5-inch quilted comfort layer and the addition of a responsive latex-like foam between the quilted top and ultra-firm base.

The firmest bed in the Brooklyn Bedding family, the Plank has two choices that will help keep your spine aligned, easing lower back pain. Even though side sleepers don't necessarily gravitate to ultra-firm mattresses, those who prefer feeling held up—rather than held tight—by their mattress should enjoy the Plank. Brooklyn Bedding's flippable mattress is also one of the best value beds featured, often coming in under $1,000 during sales. However, hot sleepers might consider a $125 upgrade on their Plank in the form of a cooling panel, sewn on both sides of the flippable mattress.

From the sleep lab: "This mattress felt more sturdy than just about every all-foam bed we've tested, and that definitely makes the Plank a good choice for back pain for a lot of people. The firmer support helped us maintain good posture without fear of sinkage that might torque the spine."

09 of 10

Best Memory Foam Mattress: Leesa

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

Who it's best for: The Leesa is good for back sleepers as well as side and combination sleepers. Testers said if you love the classic memory foam feel, you'll enjoy this mattress. Its affordable price point also makes it good for those on a budget.

How it feels: The Leesa is a true medium-firm bed with a super-plush top layer, so you'll sink into it without dipping too far into the mattress. A high-density polyfoam base adds extra support and stability.

Pros: Rather than memory foam, the first foam layer of this bed is made from polyfoam, which is more responsive. A second and third memory foam layer follow, so you can still enjoy that close contouring feel while being able to move around on the surface of the mattress.

Cons: Testers warned that hot sleepers may find themselves a bit uncomfortable on this bed since it is an all-foam construction. Some stomach sleepers may also not get the support they need.

What it's made of: Leesa is a foam mattress top to bottom, starting from the bottom with a 6-inch polyfoam base. The next two foam layers are each 2 inches deep, providing 4 inches total of cooling and contouring foam. Leesa's cover is a gray twill that features the brand's signature stripes.

Oftentimes, 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 (9/10) and pressure relief (8.5/10). The bed's three medium-firm foam layers keep you resting in a healthy posture. The third layer of memory foam, designed for recovery, contours to your back, hips, and shoulders for a comfortable night's sleep. This also makes it a contender for the best mattress for back and shoulder pain as well. Unlike most memory foam beds, the Leesa feels cool and balances comfort and support, meaning you won't feel "stuck" in your mattress. With the 6-inch supportive foam base that adds sturdiness and durability (the Leesa earned a 9 out of 10 in this category), this bed should last you for at least seven to 10 years.

From the sleep lab: "When I tested the Leesa, I was impressed by its good scores across so many categories: spine alignment, pressure relief, responsiveness, and even cooling. I'm a combination sleeper who sleeps hot, so this bed addressed my needs and then some."

10 of 10

Best Hybrid Mattress for Back Pain: Casper Wave Hybrid

Best Mattresses for Back Pain
  • Mattress Type: Hybrid (foam and coils)
  • Mattress Advisor Score: 9.3/10
  • Firmness: Medium (5/10)
  • Trial Period for Returns: 100 nights
  • Warranty: 10 years

Who it's best for: The Casper Wave Hybrid is an excellent match for all sleep positions as well as hot sleepers, according to the experts at Mattress Advisor. They gave this luxury mattress a 9 out of 10 score for both spine alignment and cooling. It performed nearly as well (8.5/10) for pressure relief.

How it feels: The Casper Wave Hybrid feels a bit more plush than a true medium-firm bed. Testers said the memory foam layer hugs your body, while the latex foam and coil base prevents you from sinking into the bed.

Pros: This hybrid mattress uses a unique zoned support system that's softer at the shoulders with gel pods supporting your waist and lower back. Back pain sufferers receive continuous support from their shoulders to the base of their spines, so they can get comfortable no matter which sleep position they choose.

Cons: The Casper Wave Hybrid is the most expensive mattress on this list, so it's not the best choice for those on a budget.

What it's made of: The hybrid bed has multiple memory foam layers that cushion its support layer of pocketed coils. The coils are flanked by polyfoam bumpers for edge support. The Casper Wave Hybrid includes a perforated foam layer to promote airflow, and a memory foam layer for contouring support. The mattress also has a polyblend knit cover made from recycled materials, including upcycled cotton and lycra.

The brand's most luxurious mattress, the Casper Wave Hybrid offers back pain relief and more. It cools, supports, and aligns, plus, it's extremely durable. A base of individually wrapped coils is topped with nearly 90 gel pods, which flex under areas of pressure. This way, your hips stay supported without sinking too far into the mattress, an ideal setup for side sleepers. Side sleepers are further supported by a top layer of latex foam, helping you rest in a healthy posture without losing out on comfort.

Testers who frequently switch sleep positions during the night appreciated the Wave Hybrid's exceptional bounce (it earned a 9.25 out 10 for responsiveness). This makes turning from side to side to stomach a frictionless experience. The Casper Wave Hybrid comes with a 100-night sleep trial and 10-year warranty.

From the sleep lab: "The Casper Wave Hybrid is one of our favorite beds we have tested. It has a high level of support and durability, but the bed is still super comfortable, with a plush top layer you can snuggle into."

Why you should trust us

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.

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 shut-eye 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.

What are the different types of back pain?

Now that you're aware of the direct impact back pain has on your rest, it's helpful to know which type of back pain you may be experiencing.

Acute vs. chronic

Acute pain comes on suddenly, while chronic back pain develops over a longer period of time (at least three months or periodically over a six-month period). While the cause of chronic back pain is a bit more vague, acute back pain is typically caused by strains of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the back. So something as simple as bending over to lift a heavy object or using improper form at the gym during a grueling workout could possibly cause you to tweak your back.

Acute back pain typically feels sharper and more intense, while chronic back pain can feel like a subtle ache or stiffness in the back that doesn't go away despite efforts to alleviate it. Sometimes chronic back pain can be tied to a specific injury or event, but because it develops over time, it can be tricky to pinpoint the exact cause.

Lower back pain

Lower back pain is so common that around four to five people will experience it at some point in their lives. It spreads across the base of your lumbar region and can be caused by lifting a heavy object, poor posture over a long period of time, sports injuries, and quick movements that place too much strain on the lower back.

It's crucial that a mattress provides enough support to keep the hips raised so that they don't sink too deeply. If the hips dip too far into the mattress, your lower back could distort, and your spine could fall out of alignment.

Mid back pain

Less common than lower back pain, mid back pain affects the region above your lumbar spine but below the rib cage. Typical causes include poor posture, overuse or muscle strain, fracture of one of the vertebrae, or pressure on the spinal nerves that is perhaps caused by a herniated disc.

If you feel stiffness or a dull ache in your middle back, that may be a sign that your current bed doesn't provide enough support or cushioning for your pressure points or that it's contributing to ongoing pain.

Upper back pain

Upper back pain spans across the thoracic region (the base of your neck to the bottom of your rib cage). Common causes are similar to that of mid back pain, but upper back pain can also be caused by muscular irritation or joint dysfunction.

To ensure it's not placing undue strain on your thoracic region, it's important to make sure your mattress properly relieves pressure off of your shoulders, while still supporting your back.

Neck pain

Another common type of pain associated with back pain includes neck pain. That's because neck pain can be caused by problems with the vertebrae, which is a common catalyst to back pain. If you work at a sedentary job, and struggle with maintaining good posture, you're also more likely to experience strains and soreness in the neck.

You might feel a constant ache in this region, or more tension and a tightening sensation in the neck and shoulder. Headaches or tingling in the arms can also accompany neck pain. While resting on a supportive and pressure-relieving mattress is crucial for both back pain and neck pain, to better mitigate tension in the neck, take a closer look at the pillow you're using. Your pillow should have a high enough loft (or pillow height) to keep the neck in line with the spine and hips.

However, the exact loft will differ depending on the position you rest in. Stomach sleepers need more of a flat pillow since they rest face down, while side sleepers need a higher loft to maintain spine alignment. Back sleepers are typically well-supported by a pillow that has a medium to high loft.

Can your mattress cause back pain?

Because you spend so much of your life in bed (about one-third, to be exact), a mattress can absolutely cause back pain: It plays a key role in supporting your body's posture for a large portion of the day.

If your bed is old and worn out, meaning it's lived long past its 10-year lifespan, then it's no longer able to provide the support you need for proper spine alignment. An old mattress can sag, allowing your hips to dip into the bed and shifting your spine out of alignment.

Also, if your mattress is too soft, the same issue outlined above can happen. It's crucial that your bed provides lasting support so that your spine and joints can relax in a healthy, neutral posture without added strain. If you wake up in the morning and immediately notice discomfort in your back or a new ache, it may be a sign that your mattress is contributing to your back pain.

Can mattress firmness level affect back pain?

Yes, studies have shown that an overly firm or an overly soft mattress can increase back pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the firmest), here's the firmness level 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.


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," said Luis Peña-Hernández, MD, at the Pulmonary, Critical Care & Sleep Disorders Institute in Palm Beach County, 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."


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.


A mattress made from high-quality materials will provide support for your back for a longer period of time. Lesser quality beds can soon start to sag, and once sagging begins, the mattress can no longer maintain your spine in its healthy S curve posture. Sagging can also cause your hips to sink too deeply into the mattress, knocking your spine out of alignment, which can lead to more aches and pains in the morning. Steel coils, latex, and thick, high-density memory foam are more durable, supportive materials that are built to last.

Trial period

One benefit to purchasing a mattress online is the trial period that typically comes with your purchase. Mattress brands will give you anywhere from 100 nights (industry standard) to a full year to try out the mattress and ensure it's to your liking. Keep in mind most beds take around 30 nights to fully break in. When purchasing the best mattress for back pain, it's also crucial to monitor how well the bed keeps your spine aligned during the trial period. That way, you can feel confident in the mattress's ability to relieve your aches and pains. If it's not up to par, simply return the bed for a full refund (some brands charge for shipping) before the trial period is up.

What mattress type is best for back pain?

The best mattress for a bad back depends on the type of back pain you're experiencing. Mattresses can be made of many different natural and synthetic materials that provide support at different points—one might be better for upper back pain while another is suited for lower back pain.


Hybrids are known as the best type of bed for lower back pain. 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.

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 strong support and contouring. They hug the body and cradle all your natural curves, supporting pressure points like the shoulders to alleviate upper 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.

What type of mattress is not a good fit for those with back pain?

Traditional innerspring mattresses and airbeds aren't the best fit for those with back pain because they generally don't provide adequate support.


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.


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.

How to relieve back pain on a budget

If you're not able to fork out a ton of cash on a brand new mattress—have no fear. There are many budget-friendly ways to alleviate back pain, all while improving the quality of both your bed and your rest.

Consider buying online

Unlike traditional brick-and-mortar mattress stores, online mattress retailers offer a more convenient, affordable way to purchase a new mattress. Online brands are able to cut out the middleman costs, which results in lower price tags. You're able to enjoy the same high-quality materials and constructions that in-store brands offer, but for a much lower cost. Most bed-in-a-box mattresses also come with lengthy trial periods, allowing you to test run the bed before committing.

Plus, you can't beat the convenience of purchasing a mattress from your laptop or mobile device. Skip the lines and pushy salesmen, and take all the time you need to browse various options from home.

Try a mattress topper

Typically measuring 1–3 inches in thickness, mattress toppers are an affordable way to add an extra layer of support or plushness to your mattress. For people struggling with back pain, mattress toppers offer a simple way to customize the feel of your bed to better suit your needs. For example, someone resting on a too-hard mattress without enough contouring may find more relief by adding a soft mattress topper to balance out the feel and firmness of their bed.

It should be noted, though, that a mattress topper is not a replacement for an old, worn-out mattress. If your mattress is sagging or deteriorating, then adding an extra layer on top won't revive the bedding system. The mattress topper will inevitably sag, too. This type of accessory is best for making small tweaks in feel to your mattress rather than serving as a substitute for a fatigued bed.

Use a new pillow

Another wallet-friendly way to combat back pain is to experiment with different types of pillows. Pillows are key for supporting your neck, and thus assisting with neutral spine alignment. When picking the best pillow for back or neck pain, loft is the most important factor to keep in mind. Loft is the height of the pillow when your head is actively resting on it.

Depending on the position you sleep in, the ideal loft will differ. Back and side sleepers should look for a medium loft (side sleepers could even try something on the higher end), while stomach sleepers should aim for a low loft since they rest face down. Anything too high for stomach sleepers will cause them to strain their neck upward.

Besides sleeping with a pillow under your head, you can also use a pillow to provide extra support for other areas of the body to better maintain a healthy posture. Side sleepers can put a pillow between their knees to reduce tension on the hips and lower back. Those who rest on their back may find it helpful to place a pillow beneath their knees to create a more comfortable, healthy curve in the low back. And for stomach sleepers who are worried about their hips sinking too deeply into the mattress, try placing a thin pillow just below the pelvic region to prevent any sinkage.

Look at bed platforms and bases

The base or platform that your mattress sits on is key to maintaining a supportive bedding system—and thus warding off back pain. Some sleepers like using an adjustable base with their mattress, which gives them the freedom to raise or lower their upper and lower body to their liking. Adjustable bases can also aid in relieving back pain, as long as you switch them to the right settings based on your sleep position.

For example, back sleepers should slightly raise their torso and legs, which can help take pressure off of the lower back. Side sleepers can put their back and legs into a fetal position by pressing the incline, so that their knees are at a 90 degree angle, allowing their upper body to curl into them. This maneuver relieves the lower back by releasing pressure. Stomach sleepers, however, are not advised to use an adjustable base. It's already an unhealthy position to begin with, and raising or lowering either your upper or lower body in this position can put more strain on your neck and your lower back.

Should you choose to forgo an adjustable base, make sure the base you already have or choose to buy matches well with your mattress. Most mattress brands list specific parameters for the type of base that works best. By adhering to these specifications, you can help your mattress avoid premature sagging and stay in top-notch condition.

Switch up your sleeping position

The position you sleep in 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. Perhaps the most cost-effective way to alleviate your back pain is to try changing your sleeping position. While this is not a cure-all solution for every sleeper, if you're a back or stomach sleeper resting on a too-soft, unsupportive mattress (without room in the budget to splurge on a new bed), switching to your side can be a game changer for your back. The side-sleeping position doesn't require the same amount of lumbar support from your mattress and helps to take pressure off of your lower back.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are memory foam mattresses 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: 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: Is a firm or soft mattress better?

A: Sleeping on a mattress that's at either end of the spectrum isn't always the best solution for back pain. Too-firm beds offer great support, but they don't always provide enough cushioning for pain relief. On the contrary, too-soft mattresses typically aren't able to maintain the level of spine alignment needed to keep pressure off your lower back. It's typically better to find a mattress in the middle, around the medium to medium-firm mark, that fills in around your sides while still supporting healthy spine alignment. However, remember that each sleeper differs in body type and nighttime needs so the main thing to keep in mind is how the mattress works for you specifically. As a general rule of thumb, it should be firm enough to support a healthy posture, but soft enough to cushion your sides.

Final thoughts

By now, you should have a good understanding of all things back pain, but especially what makes a bed the best mattress for back pain. Pro tip: it's helpful to take note of your budget, personal preferences, and type of back pain you are experiencing so that you can narrow down your options as you're shopping. Just think—by investing in a new mattress or accessories, you're one step closer to better sleep and less aches and pains.

Sheryl Grassie is a longtime advocate in the field of health and wellness with a special interest in sleep and how it affects health and weight. She has a doctorate in educational leadership and professionally writes about sleep, health, community, and disability. Grassie studied sleep with Henry Emmons, author of "The Chemistry of Joy." She also produced several health and wellness conferences where sleep was a primary topic. Grassie resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where she is a mother of three. She makes pottery in her spare time.

Sign up for our Health Shopping newsletter to get your daily dose of retail therapy with great deals handpicked by our editors — straight to your inbox.

Was this page helpful?