Your current mattress might be the source of your chronic back aches and pains. We spoke with Dr. Andrew Casden, chief of orthopedics and spine surgery at White Plains Hospital in New York, about the best mattresses for back pain. Casden said, “What we know for sure is that too soft or too hard a mattress is not good for your back and can lead to back pain. A good mattress should provide support for the natural curves in our body without putting pressure on the spine.”
You don’t want a super firm mattress or too soft a mattress. Where does that leave you? According to Casden, “Medical research does suggest that a ‘medium-firm’ mattress can help reduce the risk of developing back pain and decrease the pain for those already suffering from back pain.” You should also take your specific sleeping position into account, so you maintain proper spinal alignment while sleeping.
I have tested over 100 different beds from just about any brand you can think of, and I have hundreds of hours of experience reviewing mattresses. This allowed me to select the best mattress for back pain that checks all the boxes you need for a bed that relieves the pain, not contributes to it.
Video: Best mattresses for back pain
Watch CNET Video Producer Owen Poole review the best mattress for back pain.
What is the best mattress for back pain?
After testing many beds, we selected the Casper Wave Hybrid as the best overall mattress for back pain. Its targeted Zoned Support™ system, resilient springs and Airscape foam combine to give this mattress a breathable and comfortable design that can help relieve aches and pains. Despite having memory foam, the Casper Wave Hybrid mattress doesn’t have the stuck-in-the-mud feel of other memory foam mattresses. The medium firmness of this bed means that it’s suitable for all body and sleeper types.
Best mattresses for back pain of 2024
Mattress price scale:
These reflect MSRP or list prices. Sales might make a mattress less expensive, but are always changing.
What to consider when buying the best mattress for back pain
Shopping for the best mattress for back pain that fits your needs isn’t always easy. People with back pain especially have to be considerate of their new bed purchase because they don’t want it to contribute to even more aches. Here are the key things to look out for when searching for a bed to help with back pain relief.
As our medical experts have said, the best beds for back pain seem to be in the medium-firm range; you want a mattress that’s neither too firm or too soft. A medium-firm mattress mostly offers great support, but it’s not so firm that it loses its pressure-relieving abilities. At the same time, it’s important to consider your sleeping position to properly accommodate your needs.
Medium-firm mattresses will be perfectly suitable for many people with back pain including back, stomach and combination sleepers. The key is to have a mattress that keeps your spine in a straight alignment with your neck and head. As such, side sleepers with back pain may want a slightly softer mattress that gives underneath the curves of your shoulders and hips. A medium mattress is best for petite and side sleepers because you get more pressure relief without compromising support.
Between foam beds and hybrid beds that incorporate both foam and coils, hybrid beds are typically best at helping alleviate back pain. Foam beds are more prone to sagging and indentations, and this wear and tear can help contribute to your back pain. Hybrid beds with coils in the foundation layer provide more support for all body types, and do a better job of keeping your spine in proper alignment.
Special ergonomic designs
Some beds have average designs while others are made with back pain sufferers in mind. Keep an eye out for these ergonomic mattresses. Beds like the Casper Wave with multiple zoned support layers or the Saatva with special lumbar support will likely prove to be more beneficial for back pain than a standard hybrid or foam mattress.
How we test the best mattresses for back pain
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We considered several key factors when testing the best mattress for back pain: price, firmness, feel and pressure relief. We also made sure to note what special features each mattress offered.
Firmness and feel
At the start of any mattress testing, we immediately note the bed’s firmness and feel. These are the two most important factors consumers use to decide on a mattress. Think of firmness as how hard or soft your mattress is. Part of this is your preference, but firmness is also dictated by how you sleep. For example, back and stomach sleepers need a firmer mattress to keep their spine and neck aligned. In contrast, side sleepers need a softer mattress with pressure relief to prevent painful pressure points at the shoulders, hips and knees. People with back pain generally need at least a medium-firm level of support.
Feel is a preference thing. It all comes down to what you want your bed to feel like. Do you like sinking memory foam? Or thick pillow tops? What about the unique feel of the Purple mattress? The firmness and feel of each mattress are noted in the reviews.
Support and pressure relief
Regarding mattresses for back pain, great support with ample pressure relief is essential. Once we had a roundup of the beds that stood out the most, we carefully considered the beds with designs that were meant to help promote a neutral spinal alignment. We also looked at mattresses that have been endorsed by the people who know best at the American Chiropractic Association. For even more expertise, we consulted specialized doctors who have the necessary knowledge on the best and worst mattresses for back pain.
Read more on how we test mattresses.
Other mattresses we’ve tested
It’s difficult for the average person to test every mattress they might be interested in, especially when it comes to online mattresses that are exclusively sold through the brands’ websites. That’s why we have our CNET Sleep editors test the mattresses we review, and create round-ups that include some of the best beds they snuggled up to. While the beds above are top choices, here are a few that could have easily made the list as an ideal mattress for back pain.
Avocado mattress: For individuals who live green or are particularly sensitive to household allergens, an organic mattress like Avocado might be appealing. With the optional pillow top, the Avocado mattress has a medium-firm profile that keeps the back in neutral alignment and prevents it from sagging into the mattress. It’s also endorsed by the American Chiropractic Association, although, it might be a little too firm for side sleepers. Another plus about this bed is that thanks to its latex foam construction, it’s hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
WinkBed mattress: There are several perks to a WinkBed mattress that make it an ultra-comfortable option for people who suffer from back pain. It’s offered in three firmness levels, but the firm model (rated around a medium-firm) is what I recommend, thanks to its golden ratio of support to pressure relief. Not only is it made with supportive pocketed coils, but it also has a “LumbarLayer” specifically designed to offer targeted support to your lumbar region.
Loom & Leaf mattress: Offered in two firmness levels, medium-firm and firm, the Loom & Leaf mattress is a memory foam mattress that can help prevent back pain and offer cooling relief at the same time. It’s a thick, foam mattress with a firm profile that keeps your spine from sagging into the bed. If you happen to sleep hot, it also has a cooling gel layer that’s very effective at keeping you and the bed at a comfortable temperature.
Signs your mattress is causing back pain
Dr. Jacob Hascalovici, chief medical officer of the telehealth chronic pain platform Clearing, gave us insight into the consequences of a bad mattress, and the signs to look out for.
“If you’re frequently waking up with a crick in the neck, back pain, stiff joints, experiencing mental fogginess, and having trouble falling asleep can all be signs of a mattress that is hurting your back,” Hascalovici said. “A bad mattress can mean a bad night’s sleep. It can also add up to more pain, both in your back and in other muscles and joints that are forced out of alignment or have to compensate for a lack of support.”
That’s why it’s so important to sleep on an accommodating mattress. “Over time, pain and lost sleep can lead to memory problems, lack of concentration, mood swings, lowered immunity, and even weight gain and a higher risk of heart trouble,” Hascalovici said. “Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for multiple areas of your mind and body, so it’s worth prioritizing.”
Different types of back pain
“The back is such a large and important part of the body, it’s not unusual for it to develop aches and pains,” Hascalovici explained. “While back pain can be characterized in many different ways, it can be convenient to classify it by where it shows up.”
Neck pain: “Unfortunately common, neck pain can happen for quite a few different reasons. The neck can get sore from supporting an out-of-alignment head — if you carry your head thrust forward, for example, hunch, or have ‘text neck’, you may notice soreness and difficulty turning your neck. Arthritis can happen, or the neck can get injured. It’s also not uncommon to wake up with neck pain from unsupportive pillows, from sleeping on your stomach, or from tooth-grinding during the night, among other things.”
Upper back pain: “The upper back, or thoracic spine, can suffer from musculoskeletal pain,” Hascalovici said. “Discs can slip, strains can occur, and nerves can get pinched. Often, the causes of upper back pain can be traced back to being sedentary, having relatively poor posture or weakened muscles that let the spine tilt out of alignment. Upper back pain can affect the shoulders; shoulders may also hurt if you’ve been putting pressure on them unevenly while sleeping.”
Lower back pain: “Only five vertebrae comprise the lower back, but those bones bear a lot of weight and pressure,” Hascalovici said. “Herniated discs, muscle strains, nerve damage, and arthritis can all cause lower back pain. Doing heavy, repetitive labor, lifting heavy weights, toting a hefty bag around, or slumping don’t help, either. For people with lower back pain, a medium-firm or firm mattress can sometimes yield some pain relief.”
“Wherever pain shows up in the back, it can be frustrating,” he continued. “The back is vulnerable to damage and to soreness caused by inflammation and arthritis; stress also contributes to back pain, since it often makes people clench their muscles.” As a remedy, Hascalovici suggested “supplements, regular exercise, good posture, an anti-inflammatory diet, managing stress, and getting enough sleep all help to prevent and manage back pain.”
Other ways to reduce back pain
Hascalovici said some sleeping positions are better than others for back pain, and offered a few tips to help you sleep more comfortably.
- If you can, try to sleep on your side while bending your knees a little. It may help to put a firm pillow behind your back to help hold you in place.
- A soft body pillow or feather pillow between your knees may make you feel more comfortable.
- If you naturally prefer sleeping on your back, tuck a small pillow under your knees to keep your lower back from arching and possibly hurting more.
- Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach, but if you can’t, you can at least stick a pillow under your hips at night to keep your back from arching too much.
- Consider a mattress topper to make your bed feel more supportive or more pressure-relieving, depending on what you need out of your current mattress. If your bed is too soft, consider a latex topper to add firmness. If your bed is too firm, a plush memory foam topper can help soften things up.