Are Firm Or Soft Mattresses Better For Back Pain
Both firm and soft mattresses can be good for back pain.
Because whilst a study concluded that a medium-firm mattress resulted in a reduction of back pain in the cervical, dorsal and lumbar regions in older adults with musculoskeletal pain , and the status quo is that a firm mattress is better for back pain, the truth is that soft and firm mattresses both help or even CAUSE back pain.
This apparent paradox is true due to the difference in body weights, body types, and the preferred sleeping positions between individuals.
For example, whilst a soft mattress may not provide enough support for a heavier weighted front sleeper over 230 lbs and could actually contribute to back pain, a lighter weighted side sleeper under 150 lbs may find that their back pain reduces because the lower surface tension allows the sleepers hips and shoulders to sink more deeply into the materials to facilitate better posture.
However, the same 230 lbs+ front sleeper may experience a reduction in back pain whilst sleeping on a firm mattress because the increased surface tension can help to guard against excessive material sinkage and thus maintain an ideal posture to combat back pain whilst the lighter weighted side sleeper would likely experience pain and discomfort on the same firm mattress due to the pressure points that it creates as a result of not being able to sink far enough into the mattress materials.
Best Mattress For Back Pain Video
Watch our video below to learn more about our labs top mattress picks for sleepers with back pain.
Below are the mattresses that weve awarded the highest ratings for sleepers with back pain, and each one has received an accolade showcasing its strongest points. Scroll down for detailed information about each mattress, including how and where to buy them. Weve also included a buyers guide further below that covers why people experience back pain in bed, which types of mattresses are best for back pain, and how to pick out the right mattress based on its materials and construction. If youre looking for more bedding solutions to help with your back pain, check out our list of Best Mattress Toppers for Back Pain.
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Pros Of A Soft Mattresses
Soft mattresses feel comfortable to the touch. Theyre what we think of when we imagine a cozy, restful nights sleep. Theyre also excellent for individuals experiencing back pain on firmer surfaces. Side sleepers also gravitate towards them as their sleeping position tends to require softer surfaces that allow for greater contouring at the shoulders and hips to alleviate pressure.
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Best Mattress For Back Pain In 2023
Since youll spend one-third of your life sleeping, a mattress is one of the most important purchases you can make for your home. If you have a bad mattress, you might feel like a truck hit you when you wake up. If you have a good mattress, your chances of getting enough sleep go up.
If you have back pain that doesnt go away, its clear that your mattress isnt right. Back pain can be caused by many things, like an intense workout or sitting at a desk all day, but if your back is already hurting, sleeping on the wrong mattress will almost certainly make it worse.
Even with a foam topper or comfort layer, a mattress that is too hard wont fit your body right. This makes pain sufferers feel more tension and stress. On the other hand, a mattress that is too soft and sags too much could cause your spine to be out of place. If you have back pain, look for a mattress that distributes pressure evenly and helps your spine keep its natural curve. Some people use an adjustable bed to get this perfect level of firmness, but getting the right level of firmness doesnt have to be hard. A new mattress may help you reach your goal of less pain.
When it comes to back pain, it makes sense to get a mattress made of a supportive but soft material that feels medium-firm. There are a lot of good mattresses that meet the criteria, which is good news. I tried them all out so I could tell you which ones were the best for back pain. As I try out new products, Ill add them to this list.
How To Tell If Your Mattress Is Causing Back Pain
If youve recently started to develop back pain then you should go and see your doctor to see if you can pinpoint the exact cause of your back pain and then devise a suitable treatment plan.
However, if one or more of the following conditions are true then it could point to your mattress being the source of your back pain:
Nectar Premier Copper Mattress
With a middle-of-the-road firmness, the Nectar Premier Copper performs very well for back sleepers who suffer from back pain.
The Nectar Premier Copper is a medium-firm, luxury foam mattress made with special cooling materials like gel, copper and phase change material. This bed performs best for back sleepers who experience back pain and need the proper lumbar support to have a restful nights sleep.
When you lie on this mattress, your back will keep its natural S curve alignment, which is optimal for preventing aches and pains. The copper makes the difference in this beds performance by not only being cooling, but also relieving pressure from the lower back and keeping stress off of your joints. Our pressure map test shows the best results for light to average weight back sleepers.
The Nectar Premier Copper comes with a 365-night sleep trial, as well as a lifetime warranty, and free shipping to the contiguous United States! If you order from Alaska or Hawaii, you will be charged an added shipping fee.
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Creates Pressure Points For Side Sleepers
If youre among the majority of people who sleep mostly on your side, a firm mattress could be uncomfortable. Its lack of give can create pressure points, especially around your hips and shoulders. The good news is that Casper mattress experts have succeeded in creating zoned mattresses that ergonomically align spines and support various sleeping positions.
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A Flippable Model With Two Levels Of Firmness
Type: Foam| Firmness: Soft on one side, medium-firm on the other | Delivery: Bed in a box | Trial: 120 nights | Warranty: Lifetime
Laylas mattress has a four layer construction, including a 4.5-inch layer of support foam thats specifically aimed at keeping your back aligned. This layer also combats the sinking feeling that you get with other memory foam mattresses, so you dont feel like youre dropping too far into the mattress when you sleep. The mattress is flippable, with both a soft and firm side . That said, back pain sufferers will likely feel the most comfortable on the firm side.
What the reviews say: Best mattress Ive ever had, begins one satisfied customer. three years old now and its been three years since I had any major back pain. And the price is one-third the price of a conventional mattress. Another adds, Great balance of comfort and support. Just firm enough, but also has a soft element.
A Mattress With Reactive Memory Foam Adapts To Your Body
Type: Memory foam | Firmness: Very firm | Delivery: Bed in a box | Trial: 100 nights | Warranty: 20 years
Thanks to its Bio-Pur memory foama proprietary foam thats more responsive and adaptive to movementthis mattress contours your back and neck, promoting proper sleep posture and relieving pressure points. When you have back pain, soft spots can be detrimental to your comfort, but this mattress bounces back in seconds, alleviating sinking and misalignment that can contribute to aches. The Amerisleep AS1 also keeps you cool throughout the night by allowing air to quickly pass through its open-cell design. And it includes its Refresh Cooling Cover. This is the companys firmest mattress.
What the reviews say: We used the Amerisleep King AS1 mattress for close to 3 years and sleep has never been so comfortable, writes one reviewer. It has a great cover and the right amount of firmness. We liked it so much that when we needed another mattress we didn’t even think twice before ordering another one.
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Best For Lower Back Pain: Leesa Legend Hybrid
Leesa recommends this mattress for people experiencing lower back pain. It is suitable for all sleeping positions.
This hybrid luxury mattress features two layers of springs for edge support, alongside hip and shoulder support. It also comes with patented premium foam and provides medium-firm support.
The hypoallergenic cover uses 100% organic cotton, moisture-wicking merino wool, and fiber from recycled water bottles. The mattress has CertiPUR-US certification.
It comes with two free down alternative pillows.
The price depends on the mattress size chosen, as follows:
- Twin XL: $1,899
The following are common questions and answers about mattresses for back pain:
Effects Of Sleeping On A Soft Bed
The Hammock-effect.When the bed is too soft and sags too much, the body will follow the curves of the sagged mattress. In this case, we speak of the hammock-effect, illustrating the abnormal curve in the spine. Different researchers point out that in order to support the body, there should be no sign of the hammock-effect visible. As illustration A shows, the spine is not aligned correctly and will not relieve back pain.
Limited freedom of movement and moisture drainage. A mattress that is too soft, would contour the body too extensively. In this case, the sleeper would need to use muscles to stabilize the body in an adequate sleeping position. As continuously making use of our muscles during our sleep is next to impossible, the body will bend back into the sagged pit, causing limited freedom of movement and strain for certain muscle groups – this explains why you wake up feeling so tired and stiff in the mornings!
What Is A Firm Mattress
Based on our firmness scale, we consider a firm mattress to be anything rated a 7 and above. However, some people may experience a 7 rating as more medium-firm depending on their body weight. Typically, heavier sleepers will feel a bed as softer than a lighter sleeper will, and vice-versa. Medium-firm is another popular choice and is also the most common range manufacturers use since its the most versatile. Beds in the medium-firm range between a 5 and 7 rating. These models typically have sturdy support while keeping vital pressure relief.
A Word From The Mattress Nerds
We test a lot of affordable mattresses in the lab and are always impressed when they perform as well as or better than some of the expensive products that come through our doors. The Nolah mattress is one such mattress, as at its relatively low price it still did a good job of keeping our spines aligned and our pressure points supported.
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How Can I Make My Back Stop Hurting In Bed
There are a few things you can do to help treat your back pain in bed.
First, you can consult with a physician.
They may use high-end procedures like X-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or EMGs to determine why youre experiencing back pain in bed.
However, not all back pain merits seeing a doctor.
Generally, youll want to make an appointment with your physician only if your back pain.
- Feels especially severe or radiates to other parts of your body.
- It quickly gets worse over time.
- It started with a specific injury.
- Is showing signs of infection like fever or swelling.
- It may be causing weakness, numbness, or tingling in your lower body.
If that doesnt sound like you, though, there are a few things you can do at home to help treat your back pain.
How To Pick A Good Mattress For Your Back
Every one has different sleep preferences, which can make it hard to find the perfect mattress. Look for one that is not too firm or too soft. If the mattress is too firm, it will push on your pressure points and cause misalignment. Similarly, if the bed is too soft, it will allow your body to sink into the bed causing bad posture while you sleep, which can then lead to pain. The right mattress should make you feel like you are floating on air.
Financial times might be tough at the moment, but one should consider in investing in a good mattress. Think about it, you should be spending 7-9 hours on your mattress each night, which makes it an important piece of furniture. You want to invest in something that will give you better sleep and less pain, instead of going frugal and buying a mattress that is not right for your body.
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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:
Softness Vs Firmness Is A False Dichotomy
People have debated the merits of soft vs. firm mattresses for years. However, this debate is primarily based on a false dichotomy. Modern beds are constructed with a mix of soft and firm layers, providing the perfect balance of comfort and support. The soft layers help to cushion the body, while the firm layers provide support for the spine and hips. As a result, people of all shapes and sizes can find a mattress that suits their needs. Whether you prefer a softer or firmer mattress, theres no need to choose one side of the debate you can have the best of both worlds.
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How Can A Firm Mattress Cause Back Pain
Mattress firmness is a setting configured by the manufacturer that influences how hard or soft a mattress is likely to feel when you lie on it.
However, the final firmness, feel, and overall comfort level will depend on how your individual body weight, body type, and dominant sleeping position interact with the mattress.
This means that a firm mattress will typically feel softer to heavier weighted sleepers over 230 lbs who sleep on their back or front, whilst a firm mattress is likely to feel even firmer the lighter you are and sleep on your side .
Furthermore, back pain can have many causes and is highly dependent upon your individual circumstances and medical conditions.
All of this variability, subjectivity, and uncertainty means that its NOT accurate to make the sweeping generalization that a firm mattress causes back pain, nor would it be fair to say that a firm mattress is automatically the best choice if you have back pain.
For example, Eileen Vollowitz, BS, PT a physical therapist specializing in orthopedics and occupational health who is the founder of Health by Design says that the traditional medical advice of sleeping on a firm mattress may help some individuals but also harm others potentially exacerbating lower back pain .
Based on my own experience of sleeping on mattresses with different firmnesses and what I know about mattresses in general, here are the 3 primary ways that sleeping on a mattress thats too firm for you could cause back pain:
Mattress Firmness Suitability For Back Pain
Mattresses can potentially be available in any of the following firmnesses .
Extra soft mattresses are typically best for side sleepers that weigh less than 130 lbs because they allow you to sink more deeply into the mattress materials to remove pressure on your hips and shoulders.
This means that an extra-soft mattress may be suitable if you have back pain thats primarily triggered by surface pressure such as sciatica or nerve-related back pain because the softer surface is less liable to create pressure points.
Soft mattresses are often preferred by side sleepers and lighter weighted sleepers under 150 lbs again due to the greater give afforded by the upper comfort layers that may also provide relief for back pain that is brought on through pressure points.
Softer mattresses are often best avoided by heavier weighted sleepers over 230 lbs especially if you sleep on your front because youre more likely to sink into the mattress and experience back pain due to spinal misalignment and bad posture.
Medium-soft mattresses are often enjoyed by side and back sleepers in the 130 230 lbs range, whilst front sleepers under 200 lbs who prefer more pressure relief may also feel well supported.
A medium firmness mattress is the most popular mattress firmness and is typically best suited to front, back, and side sleepers in the 130 230 lbs range .
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