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The best mattresses for bad backs and back pain

The best mattresses for bad backs and back pain

If you're suffering from chronic back pain, it could be time to consider switching mattresses. Sleeping on the right mattress can help alleviate your symptoms and allow you to get a healthy and restorative night's sleep, so it's crucial to pick a mattress that will give you exactly what you need. Choosing a mattress that supports your spine and creates a good sleeping posture can help you avoid the misery of bad backs, re-establish a regular sleep pattern and help you feel fighting fit every day. But with so many reputable sources giving consumers conflicting advice on which mattresses offer the best solution for back pain, it can be hard to make the right decision and find the right mattress for you. Here, the team aim to help you sort the fact from the fiction and focus on which types of mattresses are best for bad backs.

Can a mattress cause back pain?

If you suffer from a bad back, the wrong mattress can really aggravate the problem. If it's either too firm or too soft, your mattress can cause the spine to become incorrectly aligned, leading to you waking up feeling sore. If the mattress you're sleeping on is too soft to support the weight of your body, it will start to sag in the middle, distorting your lumbar spine and preventing it from naturally aligning (or realigning) during the night. Insufficient support from underneath you means that extra pressure is put on your muscles to do the work and support your body. This is why so many a sleeper wakes up with those annoyingly regular aches and pains in the same places. Even slight sags of just a few centimetres mean your mattress isn't giving you optimal support, and larger indentations mean that your spine isn't being correctly positioned. That lack of support often leads to you tossing and turning all night, meaning you don’t get the sleep you need. As many bad back issues need proper rest in order to heal, this delays your recovery and traps you in a repetitive cycle of pain and sleeplessness.

How can a mattress help with back pain?

For many people, a good mattress can help to relieve back pain. They distribute your weight evenly, avoid pressure points and allow your muscles to completely relax, which in turn will help to relieve back pain and help you get a great night's sleep. Mattress size is also important, as sleeping on a bed that's too small for you can exacerbate any back problems you're already experiencing. The best mattresses for bad backs are those which are cushioned and soft enough to relieve pressure on your shoulders and hips, whilst also having enough firmness to allow good sleeping posture and spinal support.

What is the best type of mattress for a bad back?

Although there's a long-held belief that people with bad backs are better suited to firmer mattresses, it really depends on the individual. A study in The Lancet medical journal suggests that a mattress of medium firmness offers the best results for those suffering from non-specific back pain. But of course, if you find a softer one helps you to sleep more comfortably, then that's the right mattress for you. That means that it's probably best to take a few types of mattress for a 'test drive'. Get comfortable in your usual sleeping position and spend a few minutes on each one before making up your mind.

Is a memory foam mattress good for a bad back?

Originally developed as a multi-purpose material for astronauts, memory foam is designed to mould to the contours of your body and then return to its original shape after use. There are no pocket springs used; the visco-elastic support foam does all the work. This gives memory foam mattresses an extra soft structure and means they can cradle the body very well indeed, reducing pressure on the knees, hips and shoulders while keeping your spine aligned. Many people, no matter if they're back sleepers or side sleepers, find that memory foam offers back pain relief. There is also the option of a hybrid mattress, which uses a combination of pocket springs and a top layer of memory foam to create extra comfort and support.'s memory foam mattresses are available in a wide range of thicknesses, sizes and firmness levels, making it easy to find the perfect product to suit your needs.

Can a spring mattress cause back pain?

Sleeping on a sprung mattress isn't necessarily what's causing you and millions of other people to suffer from a bad back. Pocket sprung mattresses, which utilise springs sewn into individual fabric pockets, are still the most popular mattress type in the UK. Back pain can be caused by a pocket sprung mattress - but only if it's old and sagging or it's not the correct firmness for you. It's not simply because it's a pocket spring mattress! It's advisable to test a variety of soft, medium, medium-hard and firm types to work out which are likely to be the best mattresses to combat your bad back.

Could an old mattress cause back pain?

Old mattresses and back pain go hand in hand. As your mattress gets older, it begins to lose its ability to support you. This is why sleep experts recommended that you should be replacing your mattress every seven to eight years. Over time your mattress springs will break down and its weight distribution capability worsens, which makes your bed softer. This can aggravate all kinds of back pain and other muscular complaints. The same is true with memory foam. If your mattress is at least eight years old it will stop being able to cradle your shoulders and hips as it should.

In either case, rather than trying to sleep on a flat, supportive and comfortable surface, you'll end up sleeping on something that’s awkwardly bowed in the middle. One prominent spinal expert actually compared sleeping on an old mattress to sleeping in a hole. Most good chiropractors agree that it's a good recipe for chronic lower and middle back pain. It will likely lead to interrupted and fitful sleep through the night as you try to find more comfortable sleeping positions, and waking up in the morning feeling tired, stiff and sore. Given time, the back pain itself makes it harder to fall and stay asleep, creating a vicious cycle of exhaustion, discomfort and pain.

What firmness of mattress is best for lower back pain?

For many years it has been suggested that people with a bad back should sleep on an 'extra-firm' mattress. But this is not universally true. Contrary to widely-held opinion, sleeping on a mattress that's too firm can actually exert even more pressure on your spine, which can lead to even more back pain. The firmness rating that's right for you depends on variables such as your body shape, which position you sleep in and general comfort preferences. According to researchers in the study published in The Lancet, it was found that patients suffering from chronic back pain proved twice as likely to report an improvement in their condition when sleeping on a medium-firm mattress, as opposed to those who were sleeping on a firm mattress. The scientific trial involved more than 300 people who were suffering from chronic lower back pain. The subjects were assigned randomly into two groups - the first slept on medium-firm mattresses instead of their normal bed, while the second group were given firm mattresses. When compared to the 'firm' patients, those sleeping on the medium-firm mattresses stated they had fewer incidences of back pain in bed and less back pain when they got up. The study results showed that a medium-firm mattress gives sufferers a better balance between comfort for lower back pain and back support than a firm mattress.

How to choose a mattress for back pain:

When choosing the right mattress to help alleviate your back problems, it's important to find one that gives the correct support for your spine. Mattresses that are too hard often put too much pressure on areas of discomfort, whereas one that's too soft won't provide you with support where you need it, forcing your spine to endure long periods in unhealthy and potentially harmful positions.

Despite the survey we've mentioned previously, it's fair to say that many people with back problems will generally benefit from a mattress that's on the firmer side of 'neutral'. The shape of the spine means that the lower back often needs more support. A lot of people opt for a memory foam-style mattress, which can provide support where it's needed and also allow the body to easily move and adjust during sleep. And remember, it's always a good idea to test a mattress you're thinking of buying first, in order to check that it can support you in the right areas.

Can a padded or memory foam topper help to improve back pain?

Mattress toppers are often a sensible and cost-effective option for changing the 'feel' of your mattress without having to commit to the expense of buying an entirely new mattress. Many toppers, which are positioned on top of your original mattress, have extra cushioning, comfort layers, edge support and contouring that can help with and spinal alignment and relieve your back pain.

Memory foam layer mattress toppers can prove to be beneficial for back pain - and they also help with motion isolation - but many sufferers have found that gel memory foam offers more comfort through the night. When choosing a mattress topper and the thickness you need, you should always consider your preferred sleeping position. Back sleepers should be pretty comfortable with a 3–5cm thick topper, while side sleepers will probably need a minimum topper depth of at least 7cm in to comfortably accommodate the weight of your hips and shoulders.

Is an orthopaedic mattress right for me?

An orthopaedic mattress can offer great pressure relief and support to help reduce pain events for people with bad backs. If you're one of those sleepers who actually prefers the feel of a firm mattress, then an orthopaedic mattress might be a good choice.

But it is worth noting that level of firmness in an orthopaedic mattress isn't for everyone, so choosing the right firmness and support for you is vital. Many of the orthopaedic mattresses available are rated as firm or extra firm, which may not suit your body weight, sleeping position or particular ailment. So you may find some feel too hard for you, which could cause more aches and pains in the long term.

In conclusion...

Remember, we spend about a third of our lives sleeping, but after all these years we still haven’t worked out what the ideal mattress should feel like - whether you've got a bad back or not. And that’s because there isn’t just a single type that's going to be perfect for everyone at every stage of their life and health cycle. The best mattress for a bad back depends on your individual symptoms and requirements. We all have different sleeping styles and different health needs, so the right mattress for you is simply the one that properly supports your own individual sleeping posture.

At our specialist team understands the importance of a good night’s sleep. If it’s time to find the best mattress for you, our expert mattress manufacturer team is always on hand to help you with choosing a mattress. Plus, with free next day delivery available on hundreds of products, you can be enjoying a great night’s sleep on the best mattress possible in no time.

16th February 2021

Joanne from London

My bed is as described and delivered very quickly. A change was well overdue and now we have a great night's sleep!

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