How To Choose A Mattress For Lower Back Pain

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Best Mattresses for Back Pain 2020


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  • Tencel cooling cover
  • Lifetime warranty and 365-night trial

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  • Premium high-density memory foam
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  • Spinal zone gel-infused layer
  • Eco-friendly 5-lbs premium foam
  • Quilted cotton cover

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  • Lifetime warranty
  • Copper infused memory foam
  • Two firmness levels in one

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How to Choose the Best Mattress for Back Pain?

Based on sleeping 8 hours per day, the average person will sleep for 229,961 hours in their lifetime. This is approximately one third of your life. If you are going to be spending so many hours on your mattress, it’s worth investing in a quality product so that you can have the most rejuvenating sleep possible.

When you have a high quality mattress that offers you restful sleep, it can have huge benefits for your health. People who toss and turn in the middle of the night, or find themselves stretching all morning to alleviate back pain, don’t always know that replacing their old mattress might just be the solution.

But with so many quality mattress brands out there – how can you choose the best one for you? The first step is to learn a little bit about the types of mattresses available and the differences between them. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing your mattress.

Which Types Are Best for Back Pain?

There are many different styles of mattresses out there – so the first step is to familiarize yourself with the many options. As with many things, there is no one single type that fits everyone. However, when focusing on back pain, memory foam and latex mattresses are considered to be the best mattresses for back pain thanks to their pressure relieving qualities:

Memory Foam:These types of modern mattresses are made with a moldable material that responds to temperature and weight. So, when you lie on a memory foam mattress it will adjust to your unique shape- which might be helpful if you have a bad back or sore joints. However, not everyone enjoys the sinking sensation of the mattress molding around you and some people find that it can get quite warm.

Latex Mattress:This type of mattress is filled with high quality latex foam, which is very breathable and will keep you cool. It is considered to be a great option for anyone who has asthma or allergies.

How Firm?

The firmness of your mattress makes a big difference in how well you sleep. So, take some time to consider which firmness level is right for you. As a thumb rule, heavier people should opt for firmer mattresses that are able to provide better support. Lack of support due to an old mattress, or even the wrong type of mattress, could very well be sources of back aches, and lower back pain especially.

From a scientific standpoint, some studies have shown that medium-firm mattresses have a better chance of improving sleep and relieving pain. This supports the claim that the best mattress for back pain or lower back pain should be medium-firm. In the past, it was believed that firmer mattress are the way to go, but recent research favors the medium-firm. However, it is important to emphasize that what works for one sleeper won’t necessarily work for another. We would recommend getting a mattress with a long trial period (like the ones featured in here) in case the medium-firm doesn’t work out for you.

Why People Buy Mattresses Online

Lying down on a mattress for 30 seconds with your shoes on, in the environment of a department store, isn’t enough time to judge whether or not it is a good fit for you, let alone if it will relieve you of your back pain. You will need to actually sleep on the mattress, to see if it works well for you throughout an entire night.

For example, a mattress that feels fine in the store might become too hot after you sleep on it for a few hours, or may cause your back to ache in the morning. Yes, a bad mattress can actually worsen your back pain. Also, a mattress might feel fine for the first few days, but then the materials can shift and adjust and change the support it offers. That is why in order to find the best mattress for back pain we recommend on more than just a few minutes of trial in mattress store.

Fortunately, a lot of mattress brands offer you the option to try the mattress in your own home before you buy. Usually, the trial periods are anywhere between 30-365 days. You can order the mattress, sleep on it and if you don’t like it – you can return it for a full refund. This gives you plenty of time to determine whether the mattress you have chosen is right for you.

Also, make sure that the mattress has an extended warranty or protection plan before you buy it, just in case any issues come up.

*Our team of writers edited this article for informational purposes only. The content provided herein should not be considered or relied upon as a professional or expert advice.

Best Mattress for Back Pain

If you suffer with back pain, you’re not alone – estimates reveal that up to 80% of the population experience back pain at some point during their lifetime. Back pain can affect all aspects of your life, including your sleep. Sleeping on the wrong mattress can lead to, or worsen, back pain. Choosing a mattress for chronic back pain can be overwhelming because there are so many options to choose from.

We’ll break down what to look for in the best mattress for back pain, which will hopefully help make your decision a little bit easier.


Firmness Level

The Nectar uses good quality memory foam on top which provides good pressure relief but also uses one of the best foam cores we have reviewed. Under the top layer it has very firm support under the comfort layers so your back stays in good alignment.

Memory Foam / Price

The memory foam layers on top ensure you have very good pressure relief. The gel infused top quilt layer ensures the mattress doesn’t get as hot as regular memory foam. It cradles your lumbar and supports the lower back like a high end mattress but the price is very competitive.

Firmness Level

The IDLE comes in Medium or Luxury Firm. It will depend on your weight and preference but the medium was great for me and supportive for my lower back.

IDLE Bouyancy Foam

The IDLE Hybrid s foam has a good fast response while providing good pressure relief. The foam IDLE uses is also top notch for pressure relief.

Brentwood Home Oceano

Firmness Level

The Oceano firmness is optimal for combo sleepers but has a good firmness level that will provide good support for back pain.

Coil on Coil

The Oceano removes one layer of foam and has a 2nd coil unit on top of the support base coil unit. In my opinion this design offers premium support where it’s needed most and also good breathability paired with motion isolation.


Firmness Level & Latex Support

The Avocado uses latex foam. This can be a great choice for those seeking firmer support with added bounce and those who do not want the “stuck” feeling of memory foam.

Latex + Coils

The Avocado pairs latex with hybrid coils. This combination will provide excellent bounce, and more of a sleeping on the mattress vs in the mattress. The latex is very durable and will provide firmer support for those seeking less sinkage and better support for low back pain.

Common Causes of Back Pain

The back is a complex structure made up of bones, joints, muscles, and ligaments. Common causes of back pain include strained/sprained muscles and ligaments, disc herniation and ruptures, and/or irritated joints. Various conditions including obesity, arthritis, poor posture, and psychological stress can complicate back pain. Additionally, certain internal organ diseases including kidney infections, kidney stones, blood clots, and osteoporosis can result in back pain

Effect of Back Pain on Sleep

Many patients with chronic back pain experience sleep difficulties, whether it is difficulty finding a comfortable position, staying asleep due to pain, or getting into and out of bed.

Sleep difficulties become an issue because sleep is restorative in nature, both, both psychologically and physiologically, and plays an essential role in memory, immune function, weight regulation, and other vital functions. Sleep deficiency, on the other hand, is associated with a variety of health issues. Short term problems include altered judgment, mood changes, decreased ability to learn and retain new information, decreased work productivity, and higher rates of injury. Long-term issues include an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death. Ultimately, inadequate sleep due to back pain can drastically affect quality of life.

Mattress Longevity

The lifespan of a mattress depends on the degree, and type, of usage. If you’re constantly waking up with back pain, or if you’ve noticed that your mattress is starting to sag, it’s probably time to invest in a new one. However, even if you’re not waking up with pain, you should still replace your mattress every 7 to 10 years to maintain a healthy spine.

The Question Is What Should I look for in a Mattress?

When looking for a new mattress for chronic back pain, there are things you should keep in mind, including:

Spinal Support

While back pain most commonly occurs in the lower back, it can be felt in other areas of the back too. Therefore, it’s important that your mattress provides continuous support for your body so that your body weight is distributed evenly to alleviate stress on your spine. If there are gaps between your mattress and your body, you’re lacking support and this will eventually lead to joint pain upon waking.

Spinal Alignment

You spine consists of three natural curvatures:

  • C-shaped curve of the cervical spine (neck)
  • Inverse C-shaped curve of the thoracic spine (mid-upper back)
  • C-shaped curve of the lumbar spine (low back)

When you’re lying in bed, it’s essential to maintain these natural curves.


Comfort of your mattress is just as important as finding one that’s supportive. So ensure that the mattress you choose is comfortable before investing it in.


You’ll want to look for a mattress that is breathable. This allows for a cooler, and more comfortable, sleeping temperature

Look for Correct Spine Support on Mattress Firmness

Best Mattress Types for Back Pain

There are a variety of mattress types available if you suffer from chronic back pain, including memory foam, latex, and spring. Let’s take a closer look at these three types of mattresses.

Memory Foam

Many individuals find memory foam mattresses to be quite effective for improving sleep and reducing back pain. These improvements occur due to the unique properties of memory foam – mainly, that it has the ability to conform to your body, and relieve pressure points, thereby helping to reduce pain.

When looking at the firmness of foam mattresses you need to look at the density of the foam, options include high, medium, and low. High-density foam (at least 5lbs) provides the most support and encourages proper spinal alignment. Medium density (4lb) offers less body contouring, and low-density (2 to 3lb) provides the least amount of support, and therefore provides the least amount of pain relief.


Latex mattresses have a springy action, which provides pain relief and encourages proper spinal alignment, making them a good choice if you’re suffering with back pain These benefits occur due to the fact that the springy material gently pushes into your body, allowing for natural body contouring and support. Research has found that one third of latex mattress owners report some degree of pain relief in the neck, shoulders, and hips


Orthopedic mattresses consist of thousands of individual springs that are pocketed inside fabric. These mattresses offer full body support because the springs act to contour the body, thereby providing support. When looking at the number of springs, 1,000 to 2,000 springs is adequate for an average sized person, but if you’re heavier than 420lbs, you’ll want to invest in one that has over 2,000 springs. While spring mattresses are adequate for back pain relief, memory foam or latex mattresses are superior.

Optimal Mattress Firmness for Back Pain

When selecting a mattress for chronic back pain, it’s important that you also consider firmness. While research is limited in this area, one study evaluated over 300 people with lower back pain and found that approximately 82% of individuals that used medium-firm mattresses reported decreased pain, compared to 68% sleeping on firm mattresses. Another study supported this research and found that medium-firm mattresses reduced back pain by approximately 48%, and improved sleep quality by 55%.


Patients who used medium firm mattresses were more likely to have improvements in pain related disability than were patients who used firm mattresses (table). The groups did not differ for improvement in pain while lying in bed or improvement in pain on rising

Understanding the Components of a Quality Mattress


The coils of a mattress are made of wire that comes in varying thicknesses. Lower gauge numbers indicate coils made of thicker wire, which equate to a firmer mattress. A higher concentration of coils is indicative of a higher quality mattress but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best option for you. You should test out the different options and determine which mattress suits your body the best.


The padding that is on top of the mattress adds an extra layer of comfort and may indicate a higher quality mattress. The more extensive the padding is, the more expensive the mattress tends to be, however, most people find that the extra comfort is well worth the extra cost.


The padding that sits just below the quilted top is typically made of foam. Softer foams tend to feel damp when you touch them while firm foams won’t bounce back as quickly after touching them. The next layer of padding is made from cotton, and the thickness of this layer varies among, and even within, individual mattresses. This results in differing firmness levels throughout the mattress.


This padding sits on top of the coil springs and cannot be felt from the top of the mattress. This type of padding protects the coils from damaging layers near the top of the mattress.


Ticking, which is typically polyester or a cotton-polyester blend in high quality mattresses, is on the outer layer of a mattress. The quilting attaches the ticking to the top layers of padding. When evaluating mattresses, take a close look at the quality of stitching, looking for consistent and uninterrupted stiches.


The box spring provides the foundation for the mattress, adds an extra layer of support to the mattress, and helps to prolong the lifespan of a mattress. Foundations typically consist of a metal or wooden frame with springs

Keys to Purchasing a New Mattress

Consumer Reports outlines some shopping tips to ensure that you invest in a mattress that is suitable for your body and your needs.

Lie Down on It in the Showroom

Once you’ve narrowed down your choices, lie on any mattress that you’re seriously considering. Aim to spend at least 5 to 10 minutes on each side, on your back, and on your stomach if you’re a stomach sleeper.

Know the Return Policy

At times, you’ll get home and try out your mattress only to find out that it’s not improving your sleep. It’s therefore important to make sure that the store that you’re purchasing from either offers a full refund or credit towards the purchase of another mattress.

Understand the Warranty

Warranties on mattresses range from 10 to 25 years and usually only cover manufacturing defects (broken coils, sagging, etc.). Often times, warranty coverage is pro-rated so the value will decrease over time. Understanding your warranty before you purchase will help to avoid confusion if something goes wrong with your mattress down the road.

Some Simple Tips for Making Sleep More Comfortable

While investing in a new mattress can help to reduce your back pain and improve sleep, there are a number of tips that WebMD suggests for decreasing back pain while you sleep.

Sleeping Position

Find a sleeping position that is comfortable for you. While sleeping on your back is optimal for back pain, many people find this position difficult. Side sleeping is often beneficial for individuals with back pain. Keep in mind that stomach sleeping should be avoided because it places excess strain on your lower back and neck.

Pillow Loft (Height)

While mattresses are important for preventing and relieving back pain, the choice of pillow is equally important. If your pillow loft isn’t compatible with your mattress, meaning that it’s either too high or too low, then you may experience increased neck, upper back, and/or shoulder pain.

Be Careful Getting In and Out of Bed

When getting in and out of bed use extra caution and avoid bending forward at your waist. Also try to avoid quick and jerky movements as these movements can aggravate back pain. When getting out of bed, roll onto your side, and use your arms to push yourself up. Then swing your legs out of bed and stand up slowly. These movements can then be reversed to get back into bed.

Exercise (especially your core!)

Engaging in regular exercise has many health benefits and can also help you get a better night’s sleep. However, strengthening the muscle of your lower back, pelvis, hips, and abdomen (your core muscles) can help to provide back pain relief by lowering your risk of straining your back and experiencing muscle spasms while you sleep.

Stretch Before Bed

Yoga poses, or stretching, before bed has been shown to reduce lower back pain and can also help to relieve stress, thereby helping you sleep better.


Keep in mind that there isn’t a single mattress that is good for every person. Don’t get discouraged – sometimes finding the perfect one takes a bit of trial and error, but once you’ve found the right one, you’ll be on your way to a better night’s sleep

Choosing the Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain

Sleeping on the wrong mattress can cause or worsen lower back pain. Lack of support from a mattress reinforces poor sleeping posture, strains muscles and does not help keep the spine in alignment, all of which contribute to low back pain.

Sleep comfort is also sacrificed if a mattress does not match one’s individual preferences. A mattress that provides both comfort and back support helps reduce low back pain, allowing the structures in the spine to really rest and rejuvenate during the night.

With the vast variety of mattresses on the market, choosing the right mattress can be difficult. The following practical guidelines are designed to help patients with low back pain choose the best mattress for both back support and sleep comfort:

    Personal preference should ultimately determine what mattress is best.There is no single mattress style or type that works for all people with low back pain.Any mattress that helps someone sleep without pain and stiffness is the best mattress for that individual. Patients with low back pain should choose the mattress that meets their standards for comfort and support and allows them to get a good night’s sleep.

  1. Understand and inquire about the physical components of the mattress.The coils or inner springs of a mattress provide the support. Different mattresses vary in their number and arrangement of coils. Padding on top of the mattress comes in many different thicknesses. Mattress depths typically range anywhere from 7 to 18 inches deep. Choosing the number of coils, type of padding and mattress depth should be determined by individual preferences.

Find a mattress with back support.A good mattress should provide support for the natural curves and alignment of the spine. The right amount of back support also helps the patient avoid muscle soreness in the morning. While there is not much clinical data about mattresses, one study found that medium-firm mattresses usually provide more back pain relief than firm mattresses.

How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress

Ready for a new mattress? Here’s how to find the one that suits you best.

Getting a good night’s sleep depends on a lot of different factors — comfort, stress level, room temperature – but to get it right, you’ve got to start with the basics and your mattress is the first building block to a restful slumber.

If you’re in the market for a new mattress and have recently taken a stroll down the aisle of a bedding store, you know that there is a dizzying array from which to choose. How do you know which mattress is best for you?

To start, says Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center, the mattress needs to support your body in a neutral position, one in which your spine has a nice curvature and your buttocks, heels, shoulders, and head are supported in proper alignment

"If the mattress is too firm, it will push on those main pressure points and take you out of alignment," Shamie tells WebMD. "If it’s too soft, those pressure points won’t be properly supported, so your whole body flops back." Both of these scenarios can lead to an achy morning.

Generally speaking, one type or brand of bed isn’t better than another, says Michael Breus, PhD, a WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep.But he does find that a firmer bed seems to be better for people with lower back pain.

In fact, researchers in Spain studied people with long-term back pain and found that on a 10-point hard-to-soft scale people who slept on a medium-to-firm mattress (5.6 on the scale) had less back pain than those who slept on a softer mattress.

Is It Time for a New Mattress?

How do you know if the bed you’re sleeping on is the right one?

"If you wake up in the morning and have some low back pain and can stretch and get rid of it in 15 or 30 minutes, that means you’re on an inappropriate mattress for you," Breus says.

The right mattress, on the other hand, is one on which you feel no pressure, almost like you’re floating in air, Breus says.

If you’re looking for a new mattress, experts suggest testing it in the store and laying down on each mattress in the position in which you normally sleep. Breus suggests spending at least 10 to 15 minutes on the bed. And, bring your own pillow! The more you can replicate the way you’ll be sleeping on the mattress once you get it home, the better your chances of picking the right one.


Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses are still by far the most widely used. They support you with coil springs, and in most built today, each coil is individually enclosed. This helps the bed weather years of use and prevents the coils from popping out of the mattress. On top of the coils are a wide variety of materials added for comfort, from pillow to latex to memory foam. It’s all a matter of preference.

Salespeople may try to sell you on the idea that more coils mean more comfort, but that’s not necessarily true, Breus and Shamie say.

"You don’t really need a coil count above 390," Breus says. Beyond that, the difference in feel is so small it would be difficult to notice.

Pros:There are plenty of innerspring mattresses on the market from which to choose. They range in firmness, the fluffiness of the pillow top, and in price to fit nearly every preference and pocket book.

Cons:There’s no direct relationship in most cases between price and comfort, but Shamie suggests steering clear of the cheapest innerspring mattress. If there aren’t enough springs and cushion to offer you proper support, he says, you’ll likely wake up with an aching back.

Conditions:For someone who is very overweight, spring mattresses may offer a firmer support, making them easier to get in and out of, Breus says. Firmer versions are good for people with back pain. But spring-based mattresses can be comfortable for almost anyone.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam mattresses are growing in popularity. They are made of layers of different densities of foam that respond to weight and temperature, and are known for comfort because they contour to the specific shape of your body. Memory foam toppers are also available.

Pros:By molding to the shape of your body as your weight shifts through the night, memory foam reduces pressure points, and relieves pain. Memory foam also absorbs movement, so if you sleep with a partner, you’re not likely to be disturbed by his tossing and turning.

Cons:One of the biggest complaints with memory foam mattresses is that because these mattresses are temperature sensitive, softening and molding with your body heat, they can make you feel extremely hot during the night. Breus also says memory foam mattresses have been known to emit an unpleasant chemical smell.

Conditions:"If you have a hard time getting comfortable, if you have chronic fatigue, or some type of muscle pain, then a memory foam mattress would work well for you, assuming you don’t have temperature issues," Breus says.


Latex Mattresses

Latex mattresses are made from either natural or synthetic rubber, and are known for providing a very firm, bouncy support that is uniform throughout the bed.

Pros:"Quite frankly, I think one of the best materials is latex," Breus says. He likes it for being very firm and supportive, but also for providing comfort similar to memory foam. Unlike the memory foam mattresses, however, Breus says latex pushes back, ultimately providing more support.

Cons:If you don’t like the feel of a firm mattress, latex is probably not the right choice for you.

Conditions: Either a latex mattress or latex mattress topper is great for relieving back pain because they offer the best combination of comfort and support, Breus says.

Air Mattresses

We’re not talking about the blow-up mattresses you put your holiday guests on for a few days. Higher-end air beds look like a standard innerspring mattress, but use air-filled chambers instead of coils, and are covered by a foam layer on top.

Shamie notes that air beds have long been used for patients with spinal cord injuries who are lying in bed for a long time. They can be adjusted so they don’t continue to press on the same areas of the body, which helps to avoid skin breakdown in patients who can’t move.

Pros:"Couples who have dramatic differences in their individual preference for comfort and firmness levels might do very well with an air mattress," Breus says. The reason is that the firmness of each side of the bed can be altered. If you like it firmer than your partner, these beds can be adjusted for that.

Like latex and memory foam, you can also find air toppers for your mattress.

Cons:Shamie says people sometimes fail to make their air bed firm enough and wake up with back aches. Less sophisticated air mattresses also pop up on one side when you sit on the opposite end. For that reason Breus says, you want multiple chambers so that doesn’t occur.

Conditions:These beds are particularly useful when sleeping partners have different needs. If one of you has a bad back, one side can be made firmer than the other to provide greater support.


Adjustable Beds

These beds are able to bend and elevate at varying angles. As a result, the mattress has to be flexible. Different types of mattresses can be used on an adjustable bed – memory foam, latex, or air, for example. Spring mattresses are more difficult to use, however, because the springs don’t handle the bending well.

Pros:For people who have difficulty getting in and out of bed or who like to watch television in bed, Shamie says, adjustables can make life easier by moving you closer to where you need to be.

Conditions:If you suffer from sleep apnea, sleeping flat can make the condition worse by cutting off airways and causing the tongue to fall into the back of the throat, Shamie says. People who experience acid reflux can also benefit by sleeping in a bed that elevates their upper body.

Shamie also suggests adjustable beds for people with hip or back pain who have a hard time moving from a lying position to sitting up or standing.

Sofa Beds

When you have guests staying for a night or two, sofa beds come in handy. The mattresses in these beds tend to be very thin so they are flexible enough to fold and collapse into the couch. It’s a great convenience to have a sofa bed, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who raves about their comfort.

Pros:Sofa beds are convenient, especially if you have limited space. But from a health perspective, Shamie and Breus don’t see any advantages.

Cons:A night or two on a sofa bed is OK. But "this is probably the worst kind of bed you can sleep on long-term," Shamie says. The mattresses used in most sofa beds are very thin and the springs quite weak. "It really leads to an uncomfortable situation," Shamie says.

If you’re really tight for space and need a bed that folds up, Shamie says that futons, while not the most supportive, are better for your back than the typical sofa bed.

Conditions:There are no conditions for which a sofa bed will be helpful, according to the experts. But if you have a bad back or hips, these beds will be especially uncomfortable.


When to Part With Your Old Mattress

Today’s mattresses are made to last a lifetime. But you probably shouldn’t plan on keeping yours for that long. Our bodies change over time, Breus says, so the mattress that was once a joy to sleep on may no longer feel comfortable a few years down the road.

In addition, mattresses collect dust mites, fungus, and other germs that can exacerbate allergies and impact your sleep patterns. After 10 to 15 years, it’s time to think about buying a new bed.

Ultimately, the experts say that the best bed for you is the one that feels most comfortable. And remember, Shamie says, "There’s no mattress that’s going to save your body when you get only five hours of sleep." In order to feel your best, you need to get enough rest… no matter what type of mattress you’re sleeping on.


Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center.

Breus, Michael, PhD, WebMD sleep expert and author ofBeauty Sleep: Look Younger, Lose Weight, and Feel Great Through Better Sleep

Kovacs, FM.The Lancet, November 2003; vol 362: pp 1599-1604.

Best Mattress for Lower Back Pain

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If you have a bad back, you should buy the firmest mattress you can find — right? Not so fast. While that used to be the common wisdom, there’s no solid research behind it. The latest thinking is that there isn’t one type of mattress that’s best for everyone, including people with chronic back pain. Let personal preference guide you, and choose what feels most comfortable.

But making the right choice can be tricky. So many products are on the market, and just because a mattress feels good when you lie down on it in a showroom doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy sleeping on it for the next several years.

Here are a few tips to guide you:

It Needs to Keep Your Spine Aligned

You may not realize it, but good posture is important when you sleep. The muscles and ligaments (tissue that holds joints together) in your back need to relax and recover while you snooze. If a mattress is too firm — or too squishy — it won’t support your spine at your neck or lower back the way it needs to. What’s firm enough (but not too firm) is different for everyone: If you have wide hips, for instance, a slightly softer surface may be better. You need some more give in order to keep your spine in alignment. Someone with narrower hips might be better off with a firmer surface.

When in Doubt, Go ‘Medium-Firm’

Research is limited, but in one study, researchers assigned new mattresses to more than 300 people with low back pain. They used either "medium-firm" or "firm" mattresses for 90 days. Those in the medium group reported the least amount of discomfort.

You might consider getting a memory foam mattress (instead of a traditional innerspring one). The foam molds to your body. The downside: Some memory foam mattresses keep in heat; and the material might have more chemicals.

Take a Longer Test-Drive

If you have a great night’s sleep and wake up pain-free after staying at a hotel or in a friend’s guest room, copy down that mattress’s model number. Or choose a mattress that comes with a money-back guarantee: A growing number of companies will let you buy a mattress and use it for anywhere from 30 to 100 days and send it back for a refund if you’re not happy with it.


Just Buy Something

When researchers from Oklahoma State University randomly assigned 62 people to sleep in a variety of new beds for 28 days, they found that almost everyone started to sleep better. That was true regardless of which model they were given, though people who slept in the cheapest beds did report more lower back pain than those in the medium- and higher-priced beds.

The most important thing seemed to be that the beds were new. They noted that the average age of the participants’ old beds was 9.5 years. And they concluded that "sleep quality may be dependent on timely replacement of bedding systems." The takeaway: If you’ve been sleeping on the same mattress for 9 or 10 years (or more), it’s time to get a new one. Almost any new replacement is going to be better than the saggy foundation of an old mattress. But it may pay to spring for at least a mid-priced model.

Pillows and Positions Matter

Even if you have the right mattress, it’s not the only thing that counts when it comes to managing your back pain as you rest. Sleep position is important, as are the kind of pillows you use and where you place them.


Cleveland Clinic: "Is Your Sleep Position Causing You Back Pain?"

Consumer Reports: "Mattress Buying Guide."

Harvard Healthbeat: "What Type of Mattress is Best for People With Low Back Pain?"

Jacobson, BH. "Grouped Comparisons of Sleep Quality for New and Personal Bedding Systems."Applied Ergonomics, 2008.

Kovacs, FM. “Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain."Lancet, November 2003.

Mayo Clinic: "Slide show: Sleeping positions that reduce back pain."

University of Utah Health Care: “Good Sleeping Posture Helps Your Back."

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