Lower back pain is no joke. Whether you have minor aches and pains from time to time (thanks, WFH life), or deal with chronic pain on the reg, the bed you sleep on plays a big role in preventing and alleviating such discomfort. And chances are your old one may not be the best mattress for lower back pain, especially if you’ve had it for a while.
Old mattresses tend to lose their shape and develop dips over time, which can curve the spine and lead to chronic back pain and constant stiffness, according to Gbolahan Okubadejo, MD, FAAOS, a spinal and orthopedic surgeon. He says that having the right mattress will support your spine’s natural alignment helping prevent muscular and joint pain. So instead of waking up feeling sore and achy, you feel well and good (pun intended) and ready to slay the day.
But what features, exactly, make a mattress the best mattress for lower back pain? Below pros break down specifics to look for in a back-friendly mattress. Plus, you’ll also find a doctor-approved pick and other options to shop at different price points too. Buh bye, back pain!
5 pro tips for picking the best mattress for lower back pain
1. Opt for firmness
Although yes, a soft mattress may feel like you’re snuggled up in a cloud, it’s not the ideal type of sleeping surface if you experience lower back pain. “A softer mattress will feel more comfortable as you lay on it, but sinking into one can cause too much misalignment in the spine and more pain and stiffness when you wake up in the morning,” says Brigitte Rozenberg, DC, a board-certified chiropractor in California. Instead, she recommends investing in a firm mattress. “It will give you better support for your spine, your joints, and your whole muscular-skeletal system.”
2. It should pass the “sink test”
As a general rule of thumb, Philip Schneider, MD, an orthopedic surgeon at The Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics in Chevy Chase, Maryland, recommends a mattress with a strong structure that’s firm enough so you don’t sink in but still a bit soft on top, so it’s comfortable to sleep on. “Your back should remain in a neutral position from top to bottom,” he says. And it’s worth trying out mattresses made from different materials such as springs or memory foam as they vary in stiffness, explains Rahul Shah, MD, a board-certified orthopedic spine and neck surgeon.
3. Choose a mattress based on your sleeping position
Dr. Okubadejo says back sleepers can choose any firmness that feels the comfiest since their weight is evenly distributed while sleeping. Stomach sleepers should go for a medium-firm to firm mattress, he says, which will support the spine and keep hips and shoulders aligned. Side sleepers, on the other hand, should opt for a softer mattress, which will help relieve pressure on the shoulder, hip, and arm, so long as it still passes the sink test.
4. Take the mattress out for a trial run
“You may think a mattress is comfortable after testing it in the store, but it actually takes a couple of weeks of sleeping to know if it truly works for your body,” Dr. Schneider says. This is why Dr. Okubadejo recommends asking about the brand or store’s return policy before purchasing. Many will let you take the mattress home for a specific time frame, and if it’s not a good fit, you can return it for a full refund.
5. Experiment with mattress toppers
If investing in a brand new mattress isn’t ideal at the moment, you can still get some lower back pain relief with the help of mattress toppers, which add an extra layer of cushioning. “Every mattress will change its shape as it ages, adding a mattress topper can help navigate through those changes,” Dr. Rozenberg says. “If the mattress becomes too soft with time, you can add a firmer topper. If a mattress is too firm when you buy it, you can add a topper to soften it up.”
The experts name the best mattress for lower back pain
This mattresses’ increased coil count provides more individualized support, Dr. Okubadejo says. Here’s how: The coils adapt to the pressure exerted and the gel-infused memory foam technology supports your core providing a better night’s sleep. On a scale of extra firm to extra plush, it lands just between extra firm and firm, making it just right for lower back pain. It comes with a 120-day in-home trial, too. (Note: Price shown is for a queen size.)
Other top-pick mattresses for lower back pain (all prices shown are for the queen size)
There is no one best mattress for lower back pain because everyone’s individual needs are different. Finding your body’s ideal firmness in a mattress matters more than the brand or type, Dr. Rozenberg says. But, to help make your mattress shopping experience easier, here are four more our experts approved.
This mattress is made with NASA-developed, pressure-relieving material that supports a deeper, pain-free sleep experience. And, the brand’s 90-day sleep trial makes it easy to test out the different firmness levels (comes in medium, medium hybrid, and firm) to find the best one for you.
Avocado is known for its eco-friendly, 100-percent certified organic mattresses. Their standard mattress is a good pick for folks with lower back pain. It features hundreds of steel coils arranged in ergonomic zones that help keep your back aligned, distribute weight evenly, alleviate pressure, and contour to your body. The stiffness is described as a “gentle, yet firm feel,” which is what experts say is ideal for relieving lower back pain. You can also add a mattress topper to customize your level of support.
This mattress is specifically designed to ease back pain thanks to gel pods that ergonomically align your spine and cradle your waist and lower back. Cooling tech also helps keep you from overheating while you sleep which is a nice plus. And best of all, their 100-night, risk-free trial gives you peace of mind knowing that if it’s not the perfect fit you can send it back and get a refund.
The Mattress Nerd review site named Tuft & Needle’s Mint mattress the best for back pain from the popular brand’s suite of products “because of its softer setting and conforming abilities.” It’s made with three layers of foam: two layers of adaptive foam for support, and one made from a material (HeiQ NPJ03) designed to prevent microbes and thus lengthen your mattress’s lifespan.
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