How to Find the Best Mattress for Back Pain

You may have heard that the best bed for back pain is one that's as hard as a rock. Thankfully—that isn't true

The best mattress for back pain is one that is supportive yet comfortable. It's crucial to find a healthy balance between a too-plush mattress that can throw your spine out of alignment and a too-firm mattress that can keep you from comfortably settling in for a good night's rest.

The right mattress for you should relieve pressure and promote better posture, not exacerbate existing back pain. 

If you want to wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free, you may want to reconsider the type of mattress you own and make sure you have the right bed for the type of pain you experience.

Contents

  • Understanding the Types and Causes of Back Pain
  • Is Your Mattress Making
  • g Your Back Pain Worse?
  • Factors to Consider When Buying a Mattress for a Bad Back 
  • Finding the Best Mattress to Alleviate Back Pain

Understanding the Types and Causes of Back Pain

According to the Mayo Clinic, back pain is the most common reason people see a doctor and a leading cause of disability worldwide. However, back pain can be a complex issue to resolve.

Have you ever tried to explain your back pain to your doctor? For many people with back problems, the pain is difficult to pinpoint and describe. 

Plus, back pain is unique to every individual. For some, back pain may present as a dull, constant pain, while other cases start with sudden, shooting pain.

Back pain can also be sporadic or aggravated by overuse. It can sneak up on you out of nowhere and last for days on end, disappear for weeks, and return out of the blue.

It's easy to think of the back as one general area of your body, but the truth is that your back is a complex network of large muscles, spinal nerves, facet joints, and intervertebral discs. These components act as shock-absorbers, spine support, connectors, and signal senders, respectively. The lower back is where most back pain occurs, as the five vertebrae (classified as L1-L5) in this region support much of your upper body weight.

From injury to natural joint degeneration, there are many potential causes of back pain. Before you take action to address your back pain, you should consult with your doctor to diagnose the root cause. That way, you can alleviate the underlying issue.

Common Classifications of Back Pain

When speaking with your doctor, try to describe your pain in as much detail as possible, including where and how often you feel the pain. Typically, back pain presents in one of in three distinct ways:

  • Axial Pain– Axial pain is confined to a single spot or region of the body. It can feel either sharp or dull and can occur continuously or intermittently. Typical causes of axial pain include injuries like muscle strain or disc tears.
  • Referred Pain– Referred pain may feel like a dull ache or a searing pain that moves throughout the body with varying intensity levels. For example, degenerative disc disease may present with pain that radiates down your glutes and thighs.
  • Radicular Pain–  Radicular pain radiates through nerve pathways. This type of pain may feel like a searing or burning sensation similar to an electric shock. Often caused by inflamed or compressed nerve roots, radicular pain follows that spinal nerve path and can radiate to the lower back and legs. Sciatica (also known as radiculopathy) is a common form of radicular pain.

Back pain is a complex issue, and the first step to relieving your pain is to seek the guidance of a medical professional. However, ensuring you have the right mattress to accommodate your back pain is an important step to reducing pain and getting better rest.  

Is Your Mattress Making Your Back Pain Worse?

While finding the best mattress for lower back pain—or any type of back pain—won't cure a herniated disc or chronic back pain, a pressure-relieving mattress can help you rest more comfortably by providing full-body support.

A good mattress for back pain should help you maintain proper posture and spinal alignment while you sleep. As you lay in bed, watch how your shoulders and hips sink into the mattress. If your mattress is too soft, you'll notice your hips sinking lower into the mattress and causing your spine to become misaligned.

Graphic showing misaligned spine on mattress

While memory foam is a common culprit for exacerbating back pain, innerspring, foam, and hybrids are not immune from sagging and developing uncomfortable potholes.

A worn-out, sagging mattress of any type can have a negative impact on your physical health, especially your back. If your hips and shoulders sink too far into the mattress, your spine will curve out of alignment, causing strain on your muscles and ligaments.

A pressure-relieving mattress offers the best of both worlds: comfort and support. The ideal mattress conforms supportively to the curves in your body, sinking slightly but not enough to throw the spine out of alignment.

Nolah's AirFoam™ technology is the product of years of research and development. The material has the unique ability to cushion and comfort the body's essential pressure points while providing able support to maintain spinal alignment.

How Do I Know If My Mattress is Causing My Back Pain?

Is your mattress to blame for your back pain? While chronic back pain may point to an underlying health issue, your mattress and sleeping posture can also contribute to lower back pain.

Back pain and poor sleep tend to go hand-in-hand, but your mattress should provide the comfort and support you need to rest comfortably through the night and wake up refreshed. If you find yourself experiencing any of the following symptoms, your mattress could be hurting more than helping:

  • Difficulty falling asleep and/or finding a comfortable sleep position
  • Night tumbles (tossing and turning) 
  • Waking up with numbness or stiffness 
  • Experiencing joint, back, or neck pain upon waking up
  • Daytime fatigue

Personal Factors to Consider Before Buying a Mattress for a Bad Back

Before deciding on a mattress to help alleviate back pain, you need to consider your individual needs and preferences. As previously mentioned, back pain is unique to each individual, and the best mattress to reduce back pain varies from person to person.

Sleep Position

While many people find that side sleeping helps relieve back pain, you should always listen to your body to find the best sleep position for you. Just make sure to consider your preferred sleep position when choosing a mattress, as some features suit certain sleeping positions better than others. 

One of the best sleep positions for treating back pain is side sleeping with your head on a pillow and another pillow between your knees for added comfort. The pillow between your knees aids hip, pelvis, and spine alignment. Side sleeping has innumerable health benefits such as better airway circulation, spine alignment, help with digestion, and snoring and sleep apnea relief. 

For those dealing with herniated discs, a curled-up fetal position could offer sleep comfort.

Weight

A plus-size sleeper may be tempted to choose the thickest mattress available, thinking it will be more comfortable and less likely to sag. However, a thick mattress can actually cause harm to those experiencing back pain. 

Don't forget to consider how you'll be getting into bed every night. If your mattress is 15 inches tall and coupled with a high bed base, you could risk making your back pain worse from the added strain of climbing in and out of bed.

Finding the Best Mattress to Alleviate Back Pain

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to choosing the right mattress for you, there are certain factors you should consider when shopping for a mattress to alleviate back pain.

Mattress Firmness and Pressure Relief

As previously mentioned, a too-soft mattress can sink the body, throwing the spine out of alignment, and a too-firm mattress pushes the hips, shoulders, and shoulder blades into the body. People suffering from back pain will need a "Goldilocks" mattress that is not too soft or too firm.

Recent studies show that medium-firm mattresses are optimal for promoting sleep comfort, quality, and spinal alignment.

The mattress material you choose will also dictate how much pressure relief it provides. Look for a mattress that distributes your weight properly and offers superior pressure relief. Nolah AirFoam™ is proven to offer four times greater pressure relief than even the most expensive memory foam mattress.

Durability

Durability and price point are two significant factors to consider when choosing the best bed for back pain. A well-made, quality mattress could last up to 10 years and costs much less than replacing a poor-quality mattress every two to three years.

Before making a mattress purchase, ask your chosen retailer for their ASTM Constant Force Pounding Dynamic Test results, the industry standard for durability testing.

Free In-home Trial

With a no-obligation free trial, you can test the mattress in your own bedroom. If your bed setup still keeps you up at night, you can return it risk-free.

Free Delivery & Returns

The only way to really tell if a mattress is right for you is to try it out, and if it doesn't work, customers need an easy way to get their money back and try again. 

While it's pretty standard for online retailers to offer free delivery and returns, many physical stores charge for delivery and returns. If you choose to buy from a brick-and-mortar retailer, ask about their return policy. Avoid sellers that make customers jump through hoops to return or exchange a purchase.

Warranty Protection

Always check the seller's warranty policy before purchasing a new mattress. You should expect a minimum 10-year warranty that offers a replacement for excessive sagging, broken coils, burst seams, and so on. A reputable company will be completely transparent about the terms and conditions.

Conclusion

While sleeping on a quality mattress is a critical step in dealing with back pain, it’s always best to combat the underlying causes. Be sure to consult our doctor first to rule out any severe underlying issues. 

That being said, replacing an old mattress with a higher-quality model can do wonders for your back. Studies show that introducing new bedding systems can both reduce back discomfort and improve overall sleep quality.