A large portion of the population suffers from lower back pain that can be induced by many factors, including work, stress, lack of sleep and exercise, etc. The back pain epidemic is rising and a vast majority of sleepers are plagued by it, people for whom pain is an actual part of their nightly routines. It is not only painful but harmful if not tended to correctly.
Going to bed at night shouldn’t add any potential pressure on your back! One of your top priorities while purchasing a mattress should be to make sure that you buy “the best-suited mattress to reduce and prevent back pain.”
In this article, we will break down the specific mattress factors and mattress types that aid in providing concise support and extended comfort levels, especially for them back sleepers who experience that nagging pain in their lower backs, night after night. We will also list our favorite mattresses for back pain sufferers.
Important factors to consider
Two of the most important factors that govern how well a mattress aligns the spine are Support and Contouring ability.
Support can be compromised by excessive hardness or softness but sagging is often the main culprit. Sagging can cause the hammock effect that can cause the middle portion to droop and overtime this can hurt the spine. Greater the sagging, lesser the support and more the discomfort and pain.
Conforming ability defines how well the mattress molds and conforms to the body, thereby helping the spine maintain correct alignment. If there is a deficiency in the conforming ability of the mattress, it causes gaps in support thereby causing some parts of the spine and hip to be put in a stressed unnatural alignment. Conforming ability is very important for side sleepers and the lack of it can cause sore shoulders and hips.
Pressure points usually arise when more than one area has higher frequency of push back than others, causing a misalignment altogether, along your body, therefore along your spine as well. As this occurs, and your body becomes accustomed to it over the period of sleeping, more pressure starts to build (especially in the lumbar area) which causes pain, usually of considerable intensity.
Hence it is important to ensure that your mattress does not place any sort of unbalanced excess pressure on your major joints. This is one of the main points we take into consideration while reviewing a mattress on its firmness as well. A well-balanced mattress can help your body rest comfortably, eliminating the chances of pressure points building along the lumbar areas or the spine.
If you find that your back is aligned poorly with respect to your body, leading to bad posture, it doesn’t matter what position you’re in (sitting, sleeping or even standing), chances are you could experience lower back pain soon, if not already.
Maintaining a good posture while sleeping (and otherwise) can truly bring big improvements to your back pain woes. Remember that all spinal sections and discs are built to work as a team. If pressure is applied to one of the areas, more than the others, the other areas have to work harder than usual.
Firmness and Feel
Now, in my experience, most customers(130 lbs to 270 lbs) suffering from back pain during the night prefer the feel of a medium firm mattress. This is about 5 to 7 on the firmness scale, where 10 is the firmest. This is because the medium to slightly firm leveled mattresses provides a decent balance. They provide the required “push-back” support from the mattress, while still remaining soft enough for the sleeper to feel comfortable.
Firmer mattresses have this property of making the sleeper feel as though they are “floating” on the mattress’ surface. Now, this is a good thing (in moderation) for many sleepers, as opposed to softer mattresses that enable the sleeper to sink into the various layers of fluff and render additive body contouring and the hugging effect, that can make some people with back pain feel stuck.
Lightweight sleepers (less than 230 Lbs) have a tendency of steering clear of medium firm to firm mattresses altogether and prefer softer mattresses, and for good reason. Due to their lack of weight, the push back received from the mattress is not enough, and neither do they sink enough into the layers to benefit from the deep compression support offered by most mattresses. This results in too much of a floating feeling for them, only aggravating the lower back issues.
Really heavy and large people(over 270 lbs) might prefer the firm mattresses.
Best mattress for back pain (by mattress type)
Rank 1: Memory Foam
By far the best mattress type in general for people with back pain mainly due to its supreme conforming ability for average to heavy people. The conforming ability doesnt come through as much for light weighted people as smaller people do not exert much weight on the mattress surface to get that conforming factor going on.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Very Good Support Good Firmness Options Good
Rank 2: Latex
Latex in my opinion is the next best for back pain. Latex has much lesser conforming ability than memory foam and is perhaps not the best for side sleepers, but in general people who like to somewhat float on their mattress will like this. With natural latex being organic, it might even be good for people who are prone to allergies.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Fair to Good Support Good Firmness Options Good
Rank 3: Hybrid (Memory foam + Spring)
They provide decent support and the upper layer being made of memory foam gives that great surface conforming ability - but many users on our forum and other forums complain of sagging within 3 to 5 years of use. Saatva is a good hybrid mattress for back pains.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Fair to Good Support Fair to Good Firmness Options Fair to Good
Rank 4: Foam
Plain Foam mattresses conform reasonably well but well short of what a memory foam mattress provides.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Fair to Good Support Fair to Good Firmness Options Fair to Poor
Rank 5: Water
Waterbeds do not offer adequate support but have good conforming abilities. Firmness can be amped by adding more water. This is not an ideal choice for people with backpain and lot of people complain that the mattress has increased their back pain noticeably.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Fair to Good Support Fair Firmness Options Fair to Poor
Rank 6: Innerspring
Pure innerspring mattress provides good support and average conforming ability, but plenty of sagging reports surface within 3 years of usage.If you go for this, it is important to choose models with significant comfort layer.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Fair Support Fair to Good Firmness Options Fair to Good
Rank 7: Futon
Futons tend to be firm in general and offer fair support and about average conforming ability.
ATTRIBUTE QUALITY Conforming Ability Fair Support Fair Firmness Options Fair to Poor
Based on the important factors, social proof and our personal experience, we have plotted a graph equating back pain relief to mattresses.