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Best Mattresses for Back Pain

Last updated: April 2024

Sleeping couple

Do you often get back pain after sleeping? It can certainly make getting a good night’s rest challenging. Our guide will help you identify the type of back pain you’re experiencing and how to combat it with your mattress and pillows.

Why your sleeping position might be causing you back pain

Sleeping in a position where your spine is not neutral can cause back pain. However, there are things you can do to aid you in your favourite sleeping position, rather than having to change it.

Back pain from sleeping on your side

Sometimes, this position can cause a numb arm, hip or lower back pain. However, it is good for minimising heartburn or acid reflux – especially when laying on your left side. If you suffer from hip and lower back pain as a side sleeper, this is often caused by a mattress that is too soft, causing your spine to dip. If you have a supportive mattress but still get back pain, a good tip is to try placing a pillow between your knees to help align your hips. A memory foam mattress topper could also help cushion your pressure points.

Sleeping on your side guide

Back pain from sleeping on your back

Back sleepers are less prone to back pain when sleeping, as this position is most likely to keep your spine in a neutral position. However, depending on your choice of pillow and how supportive your mattress is, it can help to relieve any pain by placing a pillow under your knees. This helps to support the natural curve in your lower back. Additionally, a thinner mattress topper can provide comfortable cushioning without taking away the support needed from your mattress to stop your midsection from sinking in.

Sleeping on your back guide

Back pain from sleeping on your front

Those who sleep on their stomach are less likely to snore which is a win for your sleeping partner. However, this sleeping position can cause overarching of the back leading to back pain. It can also cause strain in the neck. To combat this, try placing a pillow under your pelvis to keep your spine aligned. In addition, a Latex mattress topper is often recommended for front sleepers as the elastic material responds to the movement of your body.

Sleeping on your front guide

Types of back pain

Before finding a fix for your back pain when sleeping, it's important to know what back pain you have. Not all back pain is the same and can be caused by different things. You may be suffering from lower back pain, upper back pain, or general back pain when you sleep, and each of these will need different support from your mattress to fix it. If you regularly suffer from back pain, contact your GP for help.

General back pain

Back pain is very common and accounts for a lot of visits to GPs and time off work. If you’re suffering from back pain in any area, it’s best to see a doctor or osteopath to determine where the pain is coming from and how to treat it. General back pain can move around and be different night on night, so be sure to contact your GP if you have this to discover the cause.

Lower back pain

Pain in the lower back is often linked to lack of support while sitting or sleeping. The lack of support can lead to poor posture and put pressure on your coccyx. So, as well as ensuring you have a supportive mattress, making sure you are sitting properly at work and stretching during the day can help to reduce your risk of lower back pain when sleeping.

Upper back pain

Pain in the upper back is less common than lower back pain. It is usually the result of poor posture, muscle overuse, or injury. If your upper back is causing you pain at night, then stretches that can help improve your posture can help to reduce your risk of this pain when sleeping.

What mattresses are good for a bad back?

Different types of mattresses have different firmness ratings and it’s important to choose the correct firmness and type for your body and sleeping position.

The best mattress for a bad back has the correct spring tension for your bodyweight, with enough comfort layers to allow some sink-in in the top layer. The best mattress for back pain depends on the back pain you have and your own preferences. Although, generally you should be looking at a medium-firm to extra firm mattress if you suffer from back pain. Orthopaedic mattresses are a good choice for back pain, we'll take a closer look at these in the next sections of this guide.

Are orthopaedic mattresses good for back pain?

Orthopaedic mattresses are a good choice if you get back pain when sleeping. These mattresses are extra firm and designed to provide maximum support throughout the night. The firm support of an orthopaedic mattress distributes your body weight to alleviate stress on the spine, relieving painful pressure points, and helping to maintain the natural alignment of the spine. The neck, back, hips and lower portions of the body are especially catered for, as these are common weight bearers at night. The support of an orthopaedic mattress gives these areas support and helps you to sleep without back pain.

The benefits of orthopaedic mattresses

An orthopaedic mattress is specialised in support and comfort to provide the following:

  • Maximum support - The firm surface gives you optimum push-back for the ideal sleeping position. You should experience less tossing and turning and wake up feeling refreshed.
  • Even weight distribution - these mattresses prevent the build-up of pressure points in your neck, hips and back.
  • Correct spine alignment – helps to alleviate stress on your spine and reduce back pain.
  • Healthy posture - promotes healthier blood circulation throughout the night.

To further enhance your slumber, visit our Sleep Cycle Calculator. It'll help you gain insights into your personalised sleep patterns and optimise your bedtime and wake-up routine to achieve ultimate rest.

Pillows to help with back pain

It may come as a surprise that your choice of pillow can also cause back pain or help to alleviate it. If you are sure you have the correct mattress for you but are still getting back pain, checking your pillows is the next step. A pillow roughly supports a third of your body while lying in bed and is needed to keep your neck and spine aligned. Choosing the correct pillow for your sleeping position can have a huge effect on your back pain risk while you sleep.

Do I need an orthopaedic mattress?

Identifying what needs you have when it comes to achieving a restful night's sleep is an important step. What is ideal for one person may not be suitable for another and knowing that your aches and pains may need special attention is important.

Orthopaedic mattresses cater for those who suffer from discomfort, especially in their back and joints. These types of aching pains need particular consideration and there are certain ways that an orthopaedic bed can help with this.

However, an orthopaedic mattress and the firmer feel aren’t for everyone. Choosing the right level of firmness is important for your individual needs and support. Orthopaedic mattresses are firm or very firm, which may not suit your body weight and be too ‘hard’ for you. This will cause more back pain and aches, so opting for a softer mattress might be better for you.

Can orthopaedic mattresses help people with disabilities?

Some disabilities and wheelchair use can cause back and joint pain. And without the right approach to bedtime, this can be aggravated by the way you sleep. Orthopaedic mattresses are tailored to relieve and ease that pain.

This spreading of body weight can help to relieve muscular pain, ease pain from pressure points, and help to maintain the natural alignment of the spine. It can also help to improve blood circulation, helping prevent bedsores.

Although orthopaedic mattresses can be a great help if you need extra support due to disabilities, there are some conditions where a soft mattress may be more suitable. Before choosing which mattress is best for you, seek advice from a medical professional and assess your personal needs.

Are memory foam mattresses good for back pain?

Memory foam has pros and cons for back pain. It moulds around the body and has heat retention properties which can alleviate pain. However, memory foam mattresses hold you in one position during the night and are slow to respond, so it can be harder to turn with a bad back. Because a memory foam mattress lacks the spring support it doesn’t offer the same level of support for the back as a pocket spring mattress.

Although some people do find that memory foam mattresses help with back pain, for most people, memory foam mattresses aren’t always good for back pain, instead we recommend firmer mattresses like orthopaedic mattresses. But for those who want a memory foam mattress we recommend a memory foam mattress topper on top of a sprung mattress, or a combination mattress which give that extra level of support and comfort.

Memory foam mattresses can be beneficial to those with back and joint pain due to disabilities and wheelchair use, as they provide the ultimate comfort by moulding around your body’s con-tours. This helps them provide pressure point relief as they respond to natural curves such as our shoulders and hips. These can also help to prevent bedsores, which can be an issue for wheelchair users.

However, before you change your mattress to help with disabilities, consult a health professional to talk about your needs first.

Pillows for disabilities causing neck and back pain

If you suffer from neck or back pain due to a disability, and your mattress gives you the support you need, try using specialised neck pillows which are contoured to support the natural curvature created by your head, neck and shoulders. This helps to align your spine when sleeping. One great example is our Tempur Queen Original Neck Pillow which is designed to alleviate back and neck pain.

Adjustable beds to help with back pain

If back pain is a regular occurrence, and your mattress is the right comfort grade, an adjustable bed could be the solution. Our Sleepmoation beds are advanced bed frames that can be adjusted at the head and foot end, at the touch of a button. The Zero Gravity technology creates a feeling of weightlessness and alleviates pressure points to help reduce aches and pains.

Dr Pixie Mckenna said: “As well as the mattress, you should also consider the bed frame too. With more Brits opting to work, rest and play from bed, an adjustable bed frame that allows you to vary your position – depending on activity – may be well-worth considering. The Sleepmotion range, available from Dreams, is the perfect lifestyle choice for any bed-lover. The adjustable frame allows you to change the angle and height of the head and foot of the bed, giving you the comfort to sit up and read your book, or put your feet up after a long day.”

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