The Best Mattress for Back Pain
This guide will help you select a mattress that will help alleviate your back pain without creating other problems. Often people find a mattress that addresses lower or upper back pain only to find that they then get shoulder soreness. Below are some mattresses that should make your bed a more welcoming and relaxing place. While the right mattress will go a long way to alleviating back pain, it’s not a silver bullet. There are other health factors to consider that go beyond the limits of a good mattress. Keeping a healthy weight and stretching your body so that you are in alignment before getting to bed will help dramatically.
This guide provides useful tips on how to optimize your bedroom for the best sleeping experience with the least amount of pain.
What Causes Back Pain while Sleeping?
Back pain is caused by your spine being out of alignment while you sleep. No matter what your sleep position your are vulnerable to back pain.
According to Web MD, 80 percent of the population experiences some form of lower back pain at some time in thier lives. This is also known as nocturnal back pain.
There are 3 major causes of back pain that could be contributing to poor sleep at night.
- Mechanical problems with the spine, the most common of which is disc degenerations. Discs act like a shock absorber between your vertebrae and can break down with age.
- Injuries such as a fall or car accident can sprain or fracture your spine causing your discomfort.
- A disease such as scoliosis or spinal stenosis which is a narrowing of the spinal column can lead to back pain. Even kidney stones, pregnancy or arthritis could cause lower back pain.
Despite these common causes, sometimes the cause of your back pain cannot be determined.
Best Stretched for Back Pain Before Bed
Before you even get into bed you should work on loosening your muscles and get into alignment. Because our lives are mostly sedentary we are usually contorting our bodies in unnatural positions as we sit at our desks. When it comes time to lay down, our body needs to adust. Stretching out before you go to sleep will allow you to get the full benefit from your mattress.
Check out these recommendations from Seasoned that you can do before bed. While you may not have time to do them every night, try and get some stretches in at least 3 nights a week and start reaping the benefits of better flexibility and longer and more productive sleep.
Back Pain and Side Sleepers
Back pain for side sleepers can best be addressed in 2 ways. First, make sure you have a pillow that is giving you proper support. This goes for all types of sleepers but is especially applicable to side sleepers. I have noticed that most side sleepers sleep on pillows that do not have enough loft. This means their neck is out of alignment causing other issues.
Secondly, make sure that the middle of the mattress is giving your hips proper support. Check out this nice diagram from the Cleveland Clinic that illustrates this point.
I have found that side sleepers need to pay extra attention to spinal alignment.
In the picture below you can see that this sleeper is using a body pillow to keep from falling forward and her knees separated this keeps her from moving onto her stomach and with alignment.
Back and stomach sleepers should look for firmer mattresses that don’t allow their lower back to sink too much. Conversely, if you have upper back problems it could be that your mattress is too firm. It’s a delicate balance so you need to listen to your body.
There are now new coil systems on the market that can be found in many of the online brands that ensure you are getting optimal support around your hips. The quantum coil system from Legget and Platt is a perfect example. It is a zoned coils system that has firmer coils in the middle of the mattress and softer coils on the top and bottom that help balance you out over the entire mattress.
The Brentwood Home Oceano mattress has this system and is one of my top picks for side sleepers with back pain because it is still a relatively soft mattress but also offers great support where it needs to. This is probably your best bet overall if you want quality, craftsmanship, value and comfort all in one.
How to Shop for A Mattress for Back Pain
Usually, every new mattress is going to feel better than your existing mattress. Chances are your existing mattress has worn down from years of use. I find that mattresses now start to break down after 7 years. Anything beyond that seems like bonus time.
If you are searching online for a mattress or heading out to the mattress store, make sure that you understand a bit about construction. In my opinion, a dense memory foam mattress is one of the best types of mattresses to alleviate back pain. That’s because they conform so well to your body that there isn’t any part that is not supported.
If you prefer a spring mattress, ask if the coil system is zoned. A zoned coil system will offer more support near your hips and lower back and allow your shoulders to sink towards the top of the mattress to keep you in alignment.
While shopping in stores, take your time. There’s no pressure to buy right away. The longer you lay on the mattress the better sense you will have of how it feels in your home during the night. I also advise people to shop when they aren’t too tired. If you shop for a mattress after a long day, just about anything will feel great and it will be harder to distinguish between mattresses.
Don’t Forget Your Pillow
While mattresses bear the majority of the blame for back pain, pillows play a part too. Often people sleep on pillows with the wrong amount of loft. If you have broad shoulders and sleep on your side, you need a pillow with a lot of loft so that your head won’t sink to far down. An adequately sized pillow will also prevent you from wanting to sleep with your arm under the pillow which causes shoulder pain.
Stomach sleepers need a thinner pillow. A thick pillow for a stomach sleeper often leads to lower back pain. The same is true for back sleepers although they can get by with a bit more loft, especially if they snore.
Below are my top picks for best mattress for back pain…
Best Memory Foam Mattress for Back Pain
Best Spring Mattress for Back Pain
The Winkbed skews a little firmer than most online mattresses but it gives you great support along your lower back. If you have upper back pain as well, I recommend going with the soft version over the luxury firm. This mattress sleeps cool as it is primarily a spring mattress with a Tencel cover.
Best Performance Mattress for Back Pain
The Layla Hybrid is a flippable mattress with a firm and soft side. It incorporates next generations foams that are cooler and more responsive along with a quality spring system for superior support. Even sleeping on the soft side, you will still feel supported along our lower back while getting excellent pressure relief. Chances are this mattress will be your favorite.
Best Natural Mattress for Back Pain
No other mattress that I know of has received more certifications and awards in the natural mattress category than the Avocado. It is truly in a class all its own. The quality of materials and craftsmanship is on a level all its own. In regards to back pain, they have two options, the regular and pillow-top option. The Avocado is a firmer mattress so go with the pillow top if you want to get good pressure relief.
With all of the mattresses listed above, you get a generous trial period, so if by chance they don’t address your back pain properly, definitely return them and try another. Eventually, you will land on the right mattress to get you back to a sound sleep and refreshed mornings.
The Science Behind Mattresses and Back Pain
Even your favorite plush mattress could be the hidden culprit behind your back pain. Several noteworthy studies, published in esteemed peer-reviewed journals, have shed light on the link between mattresses and back discomfort. These studies consider a variety of factors including mattress firmness, age, and type, in relation to triggering or exacerbating back pain.
A pivotal study, published in “The Lancet” in 2003, examined this very issue. Researchers Jacobson, Boolani, and Dunklee compared “firm” and “medium-firm” mattresses and their influence on chronic, non-specific lower back pain. They found that medium-firm mattresses reduced clinical symptoms of pain and disability among the participants, challenging the long-held belief that firmer mattresses were universally better for back health (Jacobson, Boolani, & Dunklee, 2003).
In 2015, “Applied Ergonomics” published an intriguing study by Radwan, Fess, James, Murphy, and Myers. Their research revealed that individuals sleeping on older mattresses, aged 9.5 years or more, experienced more back pain and spinal stiffness compared to those using newer models. This highlights the importance of both the mattress’s type and age (Radwan, Fess, James, Murphy, & Myers, 2015).
And we certainly can’t ignore the significance of mattress type. A systematic review published in “Sleep Health” in 2016 by Kovacs, Abraira, Peña, et al. concluded that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all “best” mattress for everyone suffering from low back pain. However, the review stressed that each person might have a specific type of mattress that provides the optimum comfort and support, depending on their unique body shape, weight, and preferred sleeping position (Kovacs, Abraira, Peña, et al., 2016).
The findings from these scientific studies underscore the importance of our choice of mattress on our spinal health and comfort. Therefore, it is paramount to select a mattress that is not overly aged, offers an optimal level of firmness tailored to personal comfort, and matches our unique physical characteristics and sleeping preferences. With this knowledge, we can make more informed decisions to mitigate back pain and promote healthier sleep.
The Correlation Between Back Pain and Sleeping Position
When it comes to managing back pain, your sleeping position can have a significant impact. Some positions can help keep your back aligned, reducing the chance of waking up with aches and pains, while others can exacerbate the problem. Let’s take a look at each sleeping position – side, back, and stomach – and discuss their implications for both lower and upper back pain, citing relevant scientific studies.
Side sleeping: Side sleeping, particularly on the left side, is often recommended for overall health, but there are mixed opinions when it comes to back pain. Research conducted by De Koninck et al., published in the journal “Sleep” in 1992, showed that side sleepers had less nighttime wakefulness and reported better sleep quality. However, without proper support, this position can lead to misalignment and exacerbate back pain. A pillow between the knees can help keep the hips, pelvis, and spine aligned (De Koninck et al., 1992).
Back sleeping: Lying on your back with a pillow to support the natural curvature of your spine can be beneficial. This position evenly distributes your weight and minimizes pressure points. A study published in “Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation” by Gordon, Grimmer-Somers, and Trott in 2007 found that sleeping in a neutral position, which is often best achieved on the back, may significantly improve both upper and lower back pain (Gordon, Grimmer-Somers, & Trott, 2007).
Stomach sleeping: Sleeping on your stomach is generally not recommended for people with back pain, as it can strain the neck and lower back. This conclusion is supported by a study published in the “Journal of Physical Therapy Science” in 2012, which found that stomach sleeping often leads to discomfort and disturbance due to an unnatural twist or tilt of the spine (Kubo, Kaneoka, & Maeda, 2012).
It’s important to note that individual comfort varies and what works best for you might be different from what works for others. If you suffer from chronic back pain, it is always recommended to consult with a healthcare professional to get personalized advice.