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Which Type of Mattress is Best for Back Pain?

Which Type of Mattress is Best for Back Pain?

Back pain is an absolute nightmare for sleep, but there are some things you can do about it—like choosing the right mattress firmness for your body weight and a material that keeps your spine in a natural arc. You should focus on two areas: overall firmness and cushioning type.

Back Pain and Sleep Position

The position that's most comfortable for managing your back pain plays a significant role in what mattress is best for your specific case.

You might hear that very firm mattresses are bad for back pain or the opposite, but it depends on whether you are a back, front, or slide sleeper.

Here's what we recommend:

  • Side sleepers – buy a medium mattress that your hips can sink into or get a medium-firm one if you weigh more than 185 lbs.
  • Back sleepers – a medium-firm mattress will suit you best to provide a flat surface, but if you are over 220 lbs, get a firm one.
  • Front sleepers – always get a firm mattress unless you are under 180 lbs, in which case a medium-firm mattress will do.

Remember that the heavier you are, the softer a mattress feels, so you should 'firm up' or go down based on how much you squish the surface.

It's crucial to know that no mattress on the planet can claim to resolve back pain, not even 'orthopaedic' mattresses or those with fancy medical labels. All we can do is choose one that reduces pressure on the spine and surrounding muscles.

The Right Materials Matter

Beyond firmness, what a mattress is made of impacts its ability to alleviate back pain. Look for these pressure-relieving and supportive materials:

Memory Foam

It contours closely to your curves to distribute weight evenly and reduce tension build-up. It is perfect for back pain, although the density of the foam matters; the denser it is, the better it will support your middle and upper back.

Memory Gel

Gel-infused foams are an upgrade over memory foam in terms of cooling qualities without reducing the feel or performance. They disperse heat—perfect for those summer nights when high temperatures have you tossing and turning.


Natural or synthetic options offer a bouncier feel while still easing pressure points. It's also cooler and more durable than memory foam. A latex hybrid with pocket springs is an excellent choice for back pain thanks to its support and cushioning.


Laygel is a synthetic latex with gel infusion to improve breathability and bounce back. It's a fantastic choice for back pain because it bounces back instantly to improve mobility, whereas memory foam stubbornly retains its shape.

Pocket springs

Individual pocket springs contour independently to relieve pressure and isolate motion better than traditional innerspring. More springs equals greater support, although anything over 2,000 is overkill.


Look for a hybrid that pairs micro-coils with thick foam layers for enhanced pain relief. The coils allow airflow for cooler sleep, and the thick foam layers are fantastic for relieving pressure on the upper and lower back.

Open Coil

This is one technology we recommend you avoid for back pain because open coil systems distribute weight evenly across the entire surface, which can be problematic if you need extra support in specific areas like the lumbar region.

Edge Support for Full Usability

A bed with sturdy edges lets you sleep or sit comfortably near the sides without feeling like you'll roll off - especially important for back pain sufferers, as a larger usable surface area means more room to find a comfortable position.

However, not all hybrids are created equal. Pocket springs provide more targeted support, and some hybrids feature dedicated edge support systems for even greater stability.

Motion Isolation to Prevent Partner Disturbance

Motion transfer is a problem when you're trying to manage back pain because tossing and turning, getting in and out of bed, or even shifting positions can create movement that ripples across the mattress, jarring your sore spots.

Memory foam is one of the best materials for reducing motion transfer because its slow-response properties allow it to compress and conform without sending waves across the surface. Latex foam also performs well, though it has a bit more bounce.

Depending on their construction, hybrid mattresses can be hit or miss for motion isolation. Look for models with pocket springs and thick foam comfort layers. The individually wrapped springs minimise transfer, while the foam absorbs any remaining vibrations.

Adjustable Beds for Back Pain

An adjustable bed is your ticket to finding the best sleep position to take pressure off your back. Raising your head also helps to open your airway, and elevating your legs above your heart improves circulation. Many beds have adjustable head and foot positions, and some have vibration features for sore spot relief.

Buying an adjustable bed and a mattress together is best to ensure compatibility. However, most pure foam and pocket spring mattresses under 24 cm thick are compatible – just check before when buying them separately.

We recommend adjustable beds for people with mobility problems, such as the elderly and people struggling with injuries. Couples can also get a twin adjustable bed.

How Much to Spend

A good king-size mattress will set you back at least £400, although sales like Black Friday can offer a good discount. Some people spend thousands on a mattress, but it isn't necessary for back pain relief. Upping your budget gives you more substantial products, but there's a marketing premium built in, too.

Mattresses to Avoid

  • Waterbeds – these have zero support and suck heat away from your back, which will only make your back pain worse. If you're stuck on one, throw a duvet on top of it or add lots of padding with cushions and sheets.
  • Air mattresses – perfect for camping with the kids but not for back pain. Air mattresses provide a flimsy sleep foundation with fussy support and a scratchy surface that'll keep you awake.
  • Cheap innerspring mattresses – Innersprings are far too bouncy unless they operate independently (a la pocket springs). A bouncy bed equals back pain whenever you or your sleep partner moves around.

Summing Up

The ultimate mattress for back pain is a pocket spring mattress with latex foam or Laygel. Latex improves mobility versus memory foam, and the springs work independently, reducing motion transfer and making it easy to get comfortable.

The worst mattress is something thin and fussy, like a cheap open coil one or (god forbid) an air mattress or a put-up bed.

Modern hybrid mattresses are a tempting choice, and they can work exceptionally well, provided they have generous layers of memory foam. The micro-springs in hybrids offer less support than full-size ones but are still better than open coils.

Remember to consult your doctor about your unique circumstances first.


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