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Back Pain Mattress Recommendations

Back Pain and OverweightOne of the questions we get most here at the Healthy Back Institute is: “what’s the best mattress for back pain?”.

A good mattress can make all the difference in the world for getting a good night’s sleep. When sciatica or back pain makes sleeping difficult, picking the right mattress takes on even greater importance.

Conventional wisdom says if you have back pain you should sleep on a firm mattress. This happens to be one convention that isn’t always so wise. In a study of over 300 adults with chronic lower back pain, those who slept on medium-firm mattresses consistently reported less pain both at night and upon arising as well as improvement in back pain related disability than those who slept on firm mattresses.

Before you rush out and purchase a medium-firm mattress, first consider the source of your back pain and your own sleeping preferences.

Mattresses for sciatica
Those with sciatica often find any amount of flexion will aggravate their condition. Selecting a firmer mattress is often helpful.

Mattresses for spinal stenosis
Those with spinal stenosis often find the opposite is true, with a flexed position providing back pain relief. A somewhat softer mattress will often make sleep more comfortable in this case.

Mattresses for lower back pain
While the study referenced earlier found a medium-firm mattress provided the best results for those with lower back pain, some individuals may find either a firmer or a softer mattress provides a better sleeping experience.

Try it before you buy it
One of the most effective ways many have found to select the right mattress is to try them out at different places first. If you achieve a noticeably more restful sleep when staying at particular hotel or sleeping over at a friend’s house and then wake up with less back pain, you have a good clue. At the very least, lie down on the bed at the store before you buy it – that’s why they have those plastic covers on the end. Many higher quality brands also offer a try at home guarantee. Since you’ll likely sleep on the mattress for the next 5 to 10 years, it’s worth making the best investment you can afford.

Here’s another article that you might find helpful: Back Pain While Sleeping?

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27 Comments

  1. Judith Spiteri
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    What about scoliosis?

  2. Danna
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    That was a pretty vague answer… What about memory foam?

  3. Sheila
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Danna. Very vague. What happened to the recommendations of mattresses? Your article was also contradictory. You told us that the firm mattress recommendation was false but recommended mostly medium firm to firm based on your condition. More research on the topic wouldve been helpful.

  4. Mandy
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    This article states nothing about a side sleeper who has back pain. After a surgery several years ago, I trained myself to sleep on my sides. I cannot handle a FIRM mattress.

  5. Pam Braverman
    Posted February 6, 2010 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    The best mattress for back pain is the select comfort sleep number bed. If I am flat on my back watching tv…I make my number higher. Since I sleep on my side and have a bad lower back and sciatica, I make my the bed softer to sleep. I can adjust it all night long if I need to but I have found a number that works for me most of the time. It is expensive but worth it and last longer than spring mattresses. The model I have also has memory foam and latex… depending if you are a warm or cold sleeper, you flip it to that side. It has a separate adjustment for each side of the bed. I have recommended it to several people with back pain and they have been really happy. Now we don’t ask “What is your sign?”…we ask “What is your sleep number?”.

  6. Ashley
    Posted February 7, 2010 at 1:35 am | Permalink

    The conciderations to be made when buying a mattress has to revolve around the weight and body shape of a person. weight being a factor in how much support will need to be there, body shape this more reflects how much the waist goes in at the sides, i.e. how wide the person is at the hips and shoulders, obviously to side sleepers.
    therefore aids such as boulsters to place underneath the knees will keep the Y ligament at the front of the hips pulling the low back towards extension. therefore should feel good. side sleepers should consider the chinnese sleeping pillow. an extra long boulster that they can drape one leg and arm over. bit like when you got together with your loved one and romance was alive !!!!. best suggestion is a good pocket sprung mattress that adjusts to your body. for other health reasons stay away from the man made stuff as much as possible. as they emit chemicals (toxic) and if your in bed 6-8 hours you dont want to be breathing that in.

  7. frances
    Posted February 7, 2010 at 2:12 am | Permalink

    I have 2 prolapsed disk in L5/S1 and I used to sleep on a firm mattress and wake up in agony every morning, but I now have a wave less water bed and dont wake in any pain at all

  8. Fleeta Taylor
    Posted February 7, 2010 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    I sleep on a magnetic sleep system that helps me go into a deeper sleep and removes toxins as I sleep. I have 4 bulging disc’s and would not be able to sleep at all unless I was laying on this system. There is only one like this and it is made by a company called Nikken. They are a Japanese Health & Research Company who strives to help people with their health issues and prevention of future problems.

  9. John Barenbrugge
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Before you rush out to spend big bucks on a Sleep Number bed, my wife and I are at the tail end of an home trial period with a Sleep Number bed. It’s the same bed mentioned earlier, with a layer of memory foam on top. We both suffer from low back pain, although my condition is significantly worse than hers. The Sleep Number bed hasn’t worked for either of us. We feel worse now, and get a worse night sleep now, than we did with our 10 year old inner spring mattress we’re trying to replace. I have no doubt the Sleep Number bed works great for many people, but it’s not for everyone – no bed is. The key is to find the bed that works for you and your condition. The best advice is to find a store or supplier that offers a free in home trial of at least 30 nights, so you can try before you buy.

  10. vincent
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    i agree with the writer – it all depends on the person and their preference– i find a hard mattress gives me a very restless sleep – and a medium suits my body better and i sleep very well on one

  11. Cindy
    Posted February 8, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    This info did NOT help me at all. I have sciatic pain and also have been diagnosed with stenosis. So the above comments about trying before you buy is much more beneficial, altho a friend of mine with simialr issues bought the memory foam mattress and she said it was best purchase she could have made. On further research, I found out as long as the topper is a minimum of 6 inches thick ( the larger sized you are,etc) the better it will be.?? TRUE OR FALSE I’m not 100 % sure about that yet. Will find out myself .

  12. Ann
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    From all of the comments above, it just goes to show you that it’s most difficult to recommend the perfect mattress. I have scoliosis and noticed that my symptoms greatly improved (after about 2 months) when I purchased and slept on a a magnetic mattress. Mine is now almost 10 years old and still working fine, it was purchased from Nikken. If I ever need to buy another bed, it will most definitely be another magnetic one. I paid around $1,000 for a king sized magnetic mattress, a good bed will run about $1,000 also, and it doesn’t have a single magnet in it! I just don’t get it. Whenever my friends or family are bed shopping, I tell them my story, they never listen, and they still have back pain!

  13. Tyler
    Posted February 9, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I love my sleep number, it has changed my sleep completely. It takes a couple months to get used to, but I would never give it back now after 3 years of use.

  14. mark petty
    Posted February 11, 2010 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I purchased a Temperpedic 5-6 yrs ago.I love the way it sleeps,but still have some lower back problems.Mainly when I get up,you know alot of my muscles or tight when I get up,but the mattress is wonderful.

  15. Tom
    Posted February 21, 2010 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I have a pincore 100%latex mattress It has given me such a good sleep I don’t know why more people don’t use them or know about them! You Al should look into it . It is half the cost of all the other mattress. It does’nt loose support.It is the best.

  16. Candace
    Posted February 26, 2010 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    I used to sell Mattresses for A living so I know
    a little bit.If you are a side sleeper you should get a mattress that does not feel hard aganist the shoulders,you should test it by laying on your side for a good ten minutes at least.If you feel pressure of pain,go softer.When testing a mattress on your back,you should not have big gaps in your lower back,in other words,the mattress should rise to meet the lower back.I am a little on the heavier side,I choose a memory foam mattress,it conforms to my back and is still
    comfortable on my shoulder and hip.Go test out your bed first,you don’t have to buy,the salesperson will not bite you I promise.

  17. Christina
    Posted February 27, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    I love my sleep number bed. I’ve had it for four years now and it made a significant difference in how I slept. I stopped tossing and turning and didn’t wake up with excruciating hip pain. A mattress alone cannot take away your back pain, but I personally found this bed helpful.

  18. Carol Phillips
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    I am surprised that no one mentioned a waterbed. I love it! We have slept on a waterbed for over 20 years and I just hate the thought of having to give it up. I may though because it’s getting harder and harder to put the sheets on the older I get.

  19. Mattresses in Indiana
    Posted March 28, 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    Have you heard anything well worth scanning about the more sophisticated foam/latex mattresses?

  20. Zach Smith
    Posted April 8, 2010 at 1:57 am | Permalink

    Memory foam mattress may seem like the best mattress for back pain because of the current hype surrounding it. But not every memory foam mattress is ideal for back pains. Customers should consider their body type (lean frame, athletic frame, full built). The density is also crucial. Many people find memory foams with lesser density better for lower back pains. It is ideal to test the mattress first before sealing the deal. Take advantage of 30 day comfort trials.

  21. organbrett
    Posted May 31, 2010 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I have had a broken back (in 3 places) & had surgery on it twice (the first was an 11 bone fusion). After surgery, I could not sleep on any conventional bed anymore. I finally tried a friend’s waterbed. I have a deeper, more restful sleep and unless there is noise, don’t wake up during the night. I get up every morning and have no pain until I sit for a while. Anytime I want relief, I can always stretch out on the waterbed. I have to buy supplies online now, but I couldn’t be more impressed with a matress!

  22. Posted July 10, 2010 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Be sure to check out the new post we just added about “Memory Foam Dangers”.

    Jesse

  23. Rose
    Posted September 20, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I have family and friends that do not speack English,can you post your web with a program for easy automatic translation.Example MERCOLA.com.they are deeply interested in the inversion table,sinse I already have one.Thank you for all the good info you have on your web

  24. Jesse Cannone
    Posted September 24, 2010 at 6:43 am | Permalink

    Rose: we are working on that now though it will likely be months before we have the new software set up and in place to automatically translate to other languages.

    Jesse

  25. Lynda
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I write as a former massage therapist of 25 years and as a business owner. Along with the right mattress it is also most helpful to position yourself correctly while in bed. For years I have recommended a full length body pillow where you can align your spine by placing your leg and arm over the pillow at the same distance. This takes a lot of twist out of the spine and you wake freer of pain and less stiff. Great for pregnant women as well.

  26. Johann Sickinger
    Posted June 26, 2011 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Thoroughly enjoyed your info of mattresses and back pain. Sometime ago I viewed your video on the back pain chair and really want of these but must wait til I win the lottery to purchase one. Keep up your good work of sending out important info.

  27. Dave
    Posted July 28, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m a sousaphone player, what about me? Its like spinal compression over a period of hours. My back always hurts, all of it.

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