Can a bad mattress cause back pain?
There are many reasons someone might struggle with back pain.
Back pain, especially lower back pain, is exceedingly common, and an estimated 80% of adults struggle with it at some point or another.
According to a clinical study by the Allied Health Research Unit of the University of Central Lancashire, the number one cause of lower back pain relates to poor posture, which can have a variety of root causes.
Perhaps the cause is too many hours stuck in front of a laptop, typing away at work tasks or studies. 👨💻
Perhaps it’s strenuous exercise and a tad too much physical activity.
And, perhaps, it’s simply just because you have an old mattress that's sagging or unsuitable for you and your needs.
Regardless of the cause of back pain, a good mattress can help alleviate pain and ease some tension.
A good mattress will allow for even pressure distribution and alleviate pressure points, which allows your muscles to relax fully while you sleep.
The right mattress will also allow for optimal spinal alignment. 🦴
Regardless of your sleeping position, a good mattress will ensure that the heavier parts of your body sink in a little more and the lighter parts of your body receive more support.
This allows your spine to remain in its natural position.
So how do you know if your current mattress isn’t good enough for you?
The British Chiropractic Association recommends that you look at the following:
- The age of your mattress.
- Whether you feel well-rested or tired in the mornings.
- If you have a spring mattress, whether the mattress’s springs squeak.
You can also look at when your pain is the most pronounced.
If you feel the most pain in the mornings after waking up and it decreases during the course of the day, then you definitely know your mattress is at fault.
A poor mattress that causes back pain will also create various knock-on effects. 🧮
Back pain sufferers will know how chronic back pain can affect the quality of your sleep - and your life.
That's why finding a quality mattress for back pain that allows for a good night’s sleep is so important.
Of course, if you’re struggling with upper back pain, you’d also need to consider the pillow you use.
The best pillows will keep your upper spine in alignment, preventing the build-up of tension and pressure points.
We’ll look at pillows in a little more detail further down in this article. 👇
Different mattress materials for back pain
If you’re looking to buy a mattress to help you with back pain, one of the prime factors to consider is the composition of the mattress.
The type of mattress you choose will impact both its level of firmness and the level of comfort it can provide.
Memory foam is a very common choice for anyone struggling with bad back.
This is because memory foam adapts extremely well to your body shape and has pressure-relieving qualities.
This promotes optimal spinal alignment, which, as we’ve seen, can help with back pain relief.
Memory foam is also hypoallergenic, which is great for people struggling with allergies. 🤧
Our favourite memory foam mattress is the Nectar mattress.
It features three layers of high-density foam and offers excellent back support.
Pocket sprung mattresses
Pocket spring mattresses are often the first choice for people struggling with back pain.
In pocket sprung mattresses, springs are wrapped in individual pockets, meaning they can respond to the body individually.
This increases body contouring and provides pressure relief.
In addition, the space between the springs creates natural ventilation channels, enhancing airflow and making pocket sprung mattresses very breathable. 💨
This is great for hot sleepers.
Most pocket sprung mattresses also feature comfort layers or a pillow top layer to enhance comfort.
The Silentnight Mirapocket 2000 Deluxe Box Top Mattress, for example, is a hand-tufted pocket sprung mattress with 2000 zoned springs and a luxurious pillow top for optimal support.
Spring mattresses usually offer extra support and greater edge support than all-foam mattresses.
This makes them very suitable for pure stomach or back sleepers and people of a larger build.
You’re also likely to find other types of innerspring mattresses on the market, like open coil mattresses, that are much cheaper than pocket sprung mattresses. 💷
These may offer the same levels of breathability but won't provide adequate pressure point relief, so we wouldn't recommend these.
Latex mattresses are similar to memory foam mattresses in that they give you that “hugging” feeling - but they are often more supportive. 🤗
They are best described as moderate contouring mattresses.
This means they provide some cushioning, without giving you that ‘sinking-into-the-foams’ feeling commonly associated with memory foam.
The Sealy Nostromo Latex 1400 is an excellent latex mattress that even featured pocket springs for superior breathability.
Natural latex mattresses are a great choice for anyone concerned about sustainability and environmental impact. 🌱
Hybrid mattresses are among the top mattresses to choose from. 🥇
They incorporate a combination of different materials and often consist of pocket springs and various layers of foam, latex, cotton, down, or wool.
The foam layers will allow for high contouring and good relief of pressure points, while the springs add in additional thermoregulation properties. ❄️
Pocket sprung memory foam mattresses are very popular hybrid options.
These combine the best features of pocket springs and memory foam, ensuring optimal comfort, support, and spinal alignment.
The Simba Hybrid Luxe is one of our favourite hybrid pocket sprung memory foam mattresses, combining multiple layers of memory foam with pocket springs.
Best mattress density for a bad back
If you’re struggling with back pain, you not only want to look at the materials a mattress is made from, but you’d also need to consider the density of these materials.
The density of a mattress refers to:
- The amount of foam in a cubic metre.
- The number of springs in a mattress.
Generally, the higher the density, the better the quality of the mattress and the more support it can give.
Conveniently, higher-density mattresses will also last much longer. 🥳
You can use the below table as a rough guideline to density and lifespan:
|Density in kg/m³||Quality indicator||Expected lifespan|
|Under 30||Inferior quality||Up to 3 years|
|30 - 40||Average quality||3 - 6 years|
|40 - 50||Good quality||6 - 8 years|
|50 - 60||Very good quality||8 - 10 years|
|Over 60||Excellent quality||10 years and more|
Should you choose an orthopaedic mattress for back pain?
Many people struggling with back pain will want to choose an orthopaedic mattress.
Orthopaedic mattresses are great but they are not always necessary.
If you’re struggling with an actual physical injury, such as a herniated disc, then an orthopaedic mattress is a great choice. 👌
These are often much firmer than other mattresses and are designed to offer excellent support.
But, nowadays, many brands throw around the term “orthopaedic” without any medical or professional assessment. 👨⚕️
Many brands simply use the term orthopaedic to describe their firmest mattress.
Firm mattresses can be great for some people - but they’re not great for all people.
If you’re of a very small build, for example, you won’t be able to sink into a firm mattress enough, which will lead to improper spinal alignment.
This, in turn, will lead to increased lower back pain. 😩
It’s more important to look for a great mattress that’s right for you than to settle on an orthopaedic mattress.
Best mattress toppers for back pain
If you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s too firm for you and waking up with back pains, then a mattress topper could be your saving grace.
Mattress toppers are thin layers of additional padding that can be placed on top of your mattress to add extra comfort and softness.
They are primarily used to make firm mattresses feel a little softer. 🐑
Of course, if you've just bought a new mattress, and you're still within your trial period, you can return the mattress and receive a full refund.
This is a better option.
Most quality bed-in-a-box mattresses come with a risk-free trial period. 📦
This gives you the chance to test the mattress in the comfort of your own home for 100, 200, or even 365 days!
But if your trial period has expired, then a mattress topper can help.
Our favourite UK mattress toppers:
What's the best mattress for back pain?
Several factors will influence which mattress will be best for a bad back.
- Mattress materials
- Mattress density
- Mattress firmness
Ultimately, the best mattress for back pain will guarantee optimal pressure relief and keep your spine in perfect alignment.
This ensures you wake up refreshed and tension-free!
All of our recommended mattresses feature high-quality materials and have been specifically designed to enhance comfort, stability, and support.