If you suffer from back pain, you are most certainly not alone. According to a survey published in 2000, 49% of the UK population over the age of 18 report back pain that lasts for 24 hours or more. Further to the study, it was estimated that around 80% of adults will experience back pain at some point during their lives.
The NHS reports that the most common types of back pain are "non-specific" - one with no obvious cause, or "mechanical" - usually originating from the spinal bones, muscles, and joints.
While many cases of back pain tend to be temporary, others may require ongoing medical treatment. By taking steps to reduce the chances of developing back pain, is possible to alleviate symptoms and limit the impact of any existing conditions.
Causes of back pain.
Whether your back pain is due to poor posture, the wrong mattress, or ongoing health conditions, a great night's sleep can sometimes feel like a long way off when you are regularly experiencing discomfort.
Back pain sufferers may sometimes find it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the pain, but often it can be triggered by:
- Poor posture
- Sudden injury
- Lack of muscle strength
- Pulled muscle
- Old mattress
- Sitting at a computer
- Sleep position
- Repetitive movements
- Slipped disc
- Osteoarthritis or osteoporosis
- Spinal stenosis
While many of these can be temporary, chronic back pain caused by medical conditions is often a lot more difficult to manage. Sleeping on a mattress that does not provide adequate support for the spine can compound back pain issues and lead to more discomfort.
The best mattresses for back pain will always support the spine in its correct alignment, this will alleviate back pain symptoms and promote good sleep quality. Your sleeping position can also play a part in maintaining the correct posture during the night.
In much the same way that we need to regularly check in with our posture during the day, we also need to ensure that we are maintaining the correct spinal alignment during the night. While soft mattresses can be comfortable, they can also lack the support needed for a good sleep posture.
A slightly firmer mattress can provide the proper support that the body needs to relieve pressure points and keep the spine aligned to maintain a good sleeping posture while you sleep.
Suffering from upper back pain, middle back pain, or lower back pain is something that can be exacerbated by your preferred sleeping position. We spend up to a third of our lives in bed, so adopting a sleep position that optimizes recovery and relieves stress on the spine is a great way to ensure a good night's sleep.
A high-quality mattress that can provide adequate support to minimize neck pain and back pain will help to reduce back pain, whatever your preferred sleeping style.
Sleeping on the back is the second most common sleep style. Back sleepers can evenly distribute weight and the spine can stay in alignment. This is also the best position for neck pain, particularly when using a medium-firm memory foam pillow to provide extra support.
The most common sleep style in adults is side sleeping. Side sleepers have the benefit of being able to keep the spine aligned correctly, especially when supported with pillows. This sleeping position also reduces heartburn and snoring and is the optimum position for pregnant women to get a restful night's sleep.
This is the least recommended position for good sleeping posture as it increases pressure on the spine and neck. If your existing mattress isn't very firm, it will also lead to the stomach and hips sinking into the bed, causing strain on the spine and back muscles.
Is your existing mattress providing the right support?
If you are experiencing regular back pain, it may well be that your mattress is contributing to it. So, how can you tell when your mattress is no longer providing the right support?
The Sleep Foundation recommends replacing a mattress if it is between 6-8 years or older, though this all depends on the material the mattress is made from, how it has been maintained and cared for, and the quality of it.
Other factors to look out for are:
- Sagging in the middle of the sides
- The mattress is making more noise
- You are waking with aches and pains
- You sleep better elsewhere
- The mattress is showing signs of wear and tear
- Springs are sticking through the material
If any of these apply to your mattress, it may be time to replace it with the right mattress for your back.
Types of mattresses
When looking for a supportive mattress, the first thing to consider is which type of mattress is right for you.
There are many different types of mattresses on the market these days, that use lots of different types of manufacturing techniques and materials. A key point to remember is that while softer mattresses tend to be comfy and enveloping, firmer mattresses provide much more support for the spine, whatever your body shape.
Orthopaedic mattresses are firm mattresses that provide pressure relief and spinal support. They are generally the best mattress for bad backs as they are designed and created specifically with spinal support in mind.
Orthopedic mattresses enable even weight distribution, which in turn allows for good spinal alignment and a healthy sleeping posture.
They are ideal for those who prefer a firmer sleep surface and can be combined with a mattress topper as a comfort layer for those who find them too firm. The support foam layers combined with pocket springs make orthopaedic mattresses the best choice for
Memory foam mattress
Memory foam was originally introduced by NASA who developed it to keep astronauts comfortable during take-off. This revolutionary technology was so successful that the bed industry soon started using it to create mattresses.
But, are memory foam mattresses good for back pain? Mattresses made purely from memory foam are great for providing pressure relief and usually provide a softer mattress or medium-firm mattress.
While this is perfect for those who prefer a softer sleep surface, it is not the firmest mattress for back pain sufferers. Without the support of innerspring, even the best memory foam mattress cannot provide the support needed for back pain.
Pocket sprung mattress
Pocket sprung mattresses use springs to provide support for the body. Pocket springs technology has come a long way in the last few years and these types of mattresses can often provide a firm surface.
However, much like purely memory foam mattresses, solely pocket sprung mattresses can lose their spring over time, particularly with a larger body shape, which means they also lose support and pressure relief. Without the benefit of memory foam mattress technology, pocket springs might not be the best choice for back pain.
A hybrid mattress is the perfect blend of an innerspring mattress and a memory foam mattress and can be one of the best mattresses for back pain. The support from the pocket springs works together with the memory foam and support foam to provide a firm sleep surface, whichever position you prefer to sleep in.
A hybrid mattress will also last much longer due to the duel support from both types of technology. The best hybrid mattress is one that has edge-to-edge support as this will help to ensure that the spine stays aligned correctly during the night.
Latex mattresses combine latex foam with springs for a supportive sleep surface. Latex is a natural material that comes from the sap of a rubber tree which was discovered by Dunlopillo in the early 1900s.
Latex mattresses are usually combined with other natural materials to create a relatively firm mattress that provides pressure point relief. It can be more expensive than memory foam mattresses and the firmness can vary so always try them out before deciding whether it is the right mattress for back pain.
Eco-friendly mattresses are becoming a popular choice for those looking to limit their impact on the environment. The best eco-friendly mattress is one that uses recycled materials to create a greener product. The foam firmness of eco-friendly mattresses varies so it is worth trying them out before deciding whether it is the right mattress for back pain.
Mattress features to look for
If you're looking for a new mattress for back pain, there are a few key things to look out for.
Mattresses with edge-to-edge support are ideal for those suffering from back pain as they increase the amount of surface area that you can stretch out on while remaining fully supported. This type of support will also prevent the mattress from sagging, which is a contributing factor to back pain.
While medium-firm and firmer mattresses are usually better for back pain, comfort is important to ensure that the pressure points don't have too much stress put on them.
A new mattress will usually have comfort layers built into it, with softer layers relieving pressure points and firmer foam providing the necessary support for the spine. Bedding accessories like mattress toppers may also be able to provide this comfort.
A new mattress is an investment, and so durability is important when choosing the best mattress for you. As a general rule, a hybrid mattress will tend to last longer as it combines the best of memory foam and pocket spring technology.
Built-in memory foam is supported by innerspring which enables it to last much longer than other mattresses.
Mattresses for bad backs need to be medium-firm to firm, with the correct support built into the mattress. The firmest mattress might not necessarily be the right mattress for your body, so it is important to know where your pressure points and spine need the most support.
The best firm mattress will have zoned support which allows the body to maintain the correct alignment while relieving pressure points.
Pressure relief is an important consideration when choosing a mattress for back pain. While a firm mattress will support the spine, built-in memory foam will ensure that the pressure points are also supported through the night.
A soft mattress will reduce your mobility during the night, making it harder to turn over and causing strain on the muscles and spine. The best mattress will enable you to roll over and switch positions without causing you to strain the body.
Memory foam combined with pocket sprung technology will usually provide the bounce-back that you need to stay mobile during the night.
If your partner wakes you up at night with their tossing and turning, this can have an impact on your ability to keep your back aligned while you sleep. Look for the best firm mattress that absorbs motion transfer so that your muscles don't have to work as hard during the night to keep you in the right position.
Which mattress is the right one for you?
It can be tricky to find the perfect one for you, so here are our top picks for the best mattresses for back pain.
REM-Fit 400 Hybrid
The REM-Fit 400 Hybrid mattress features 2,000 premium pocket springs that are 15cm tall to provide spinal support, reduce motion transfer, and improve mobility during the night. The high-quality memory foam gently absorbs the weight of the body and relieves pressure on the joints and muscles, while the open cell memory foam technology allows for advanced temperature regulation throughout the night. It features edge-to-edge support and can fit onto almost all types of bed bases.
REM-Fit 500 Ortho Hybrid
Our top pick for those with back pain, the REM-Fit 500 Ortho Hybrid also features 2,000 premium pocket springs to provide spinal support, reduce motion transfer, and improve mobility during the night.
It also has a zoned open-cell memory foam layer that gently absorbs the weight of the body and relieves pressure on the joints and muscles, while allowing for advanced temperature regulation. It features edge-to-edge support and a firm sleep surface that will leave you feeling refreshed the next morning.
The bottom line
Ultimately, the best mattress for you will be one that reduces back pain while improving your sleep. Orthopaedic mattresses are designed with back pain in mind, so consider investing in one that has edge-to-edge support as well as zoned memory foam support that can provide relief for the joints while allowing the spine to stay aligned.
A firmer sleep surface tends to be better for those with ongoing back pain, so if you have been used to sleeping on soft mattresses until now, it may be worth adjusting to a different level of firmness to help with back pain issues.