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What’s the Best Type of Mattress for a Bad Back?

Posted by Pam Johnson - Head of Buying on 8th Nov 2021

What’s the Best Type of Mattress for a Bad Back?

Feel like you’re stuck in an endless cycle of back pain and poor sleep? You’re not imagining it. Studies show that insomnia sufferers are nearly one-and-a-half times more likely to experience back pain than those who sleep well. But what might surprise you is that your mattress could be key to alleviating your pain. 

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Is your mattress causing your bad back?

Whilst your mattress may not be the specific cause of your back pain, if you’re sleeping on a mattress that doesn’t support your back appropriately, which is crucial for correct spinal alignment and a truly restorative nights sleep, then it could be making it worse.

There are different types of back pain and each can have different causes. Upper back pain can be the result of slouching, middle back pain is often also caused by poor posture and lower back pain can occur because of a pulled muscle or even a kidney infection.

If you feel your mattress could be the problem, consider how long you have had your current mattress. If it is 10 years or longer, you are likely to need a more supportive mattress that’s more in line with your current support and sleep needs. To help, here are just a few questions - if you answer yes to one or more of these, it may be a good time for a new mattress:-

  • Do you wake up with aches and pains?
  • Are you not refreshed when you wake?
  • Is your mattress causing you and your partner to roll together?
  • Have you recently had a better night’s sleep when sleeping on an alternative mattress?
  • Is you mattress sagging or lumpy?
  • Is your mattress too small, would a King or Super King mattress suit your current needs better?

Common causes of back pain:

  • Slouching and bad posture
  • Poor posture when heavy lifting
  • Slips, trips or falls
  • Long periods of sitting
  • Weak core muscles (back and abdomen) due to lack of exercise
  • Slipped disks (the cushions between your bones)
  • Pregnancy
  • Kidney infections
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis

To help diagnose the cause of your back pain, we recommend speaking to your GP. It could be caused by anything from how you’re carrying your shopping into the house to clocking up the hours sat working at your desk.

Speaking of working, it's not a good idea to work from your bed. Sleep expert Dr Sophie Bostock says: 

"To promote a restful sleep, you ideally want to associate your bedroom with sleep, and intimacy, and nothing else! Working from your bed can train your brain to associate your bedroom with the stresses of work, as well as aggravating back pain. If you have to work from your bedroom, set up a separate working space and tidy things away before you get ready for bed to preserve a positive bed-sleep connection."

Can a new mattress help your bad back?

As sleep experts, we’re sure of it. But instead of us telling you that a new mattress could help your bad back, let’s hear from some of our customers who have experienced the difference for themselves.

Reviews from customers with new mattresses:

The below mattress reviews are for the iGel Advance 2000 Mattress

The following review is for the Slumberland Clima Airstream Memory 6000 Mattress

Types of mattresses to help with back pain

Firstly, when researching the best mattresses for bad backs it’s important to know that there are lots of combinations of mattress types available. For example, you could choose a firm mattress which is orthopaedic, pocket sprung or topped with memory foam. Similarly, there are mattresses which are firm or soft while also being hypo-allergenic, eco-friendly or even suitable for vegans, too.

One thing is for sure: we are all individuals and our comfort, support and sleep needs are just as individual too. We vary in height, weight and shape, common references like apple and pear shapes and for many of us this changes over time too, often meaning that our mattress is not suitable for our current body shape, size and weight anymore. The position we sleep in can make a difference too.

Here is some information around the benefits of different types of mattresses, which will help you when making your choice.

Do orthopaedic mattresses help with back pain?

Most orthopaedic mattresses are firm or extra firm, however for those requiring some additional surface softness, we do offer medium too. Firmer surfaces help to relieve pressure by distributing your weight evenly. This promotes the natural alignment of your spine, which in turn helps your muscles to fully relax, instead of working to keep you in position and balanced while you sleep.Orthopaedic / Backcare mattresses can be an excellent choice if you prefer firmer support. Also, due to the nature of these mattresses being firmer, you are unlikely to experience roll-together.

To research the different types we have available see our orthopaedic mattresses page, where there are a wide range of options, styles and colours.

Are Gel mattresses good for back pain?

Bensons exclusive iGel Advance contours to the body shape, to gently soothe pressure. The Gel Crystals inside iGel concentrate together under deep areas of body compression to provide targeted support where your body needs it most.

iGel Advance also incorporates Intelligent Temperature Regulation to keep you at the optimum temperature - so you sleep not too hot, not too cold, just right throughout the night.

Also, with its excellent Temperature regulating properties, sleeping at the correct temperature throughout the night can help alleviate tossing and turning so you get a more supportive and restorative night’s sleep.

It doesn’t end there, our new iGel Advance incorporates Nobel Prize Award Winning Graphene Technology, which moves heat 7 times faster than standard foam and we use cleaner and greener foams too.

Are memory foam mattresses good for back pain?

Memory foam mattresses can be great for supporting your back, as their high density foam moulds to your body’s contours to relieve pressure and keep your spine aligned, much like a firm orthopaedic or medical foam mattress does. Available as soft, medium and firm mattresses, you can choose how much you want to sink into a memory foam mattress, but if you sleep on your back and it’s already painful, we’d recommend firm or extra firm.

Memory foam mattresses can provide great support for your back. This innovative foam reacts to your body temperature, moulding to your body contours, absorbing pressure for excellent pressure relieving comfort and support. Whilst the memory foam provides initial surface softness, it is important that either the springs or foam below this provide good support in the core of the mattress (see information on springs below).

Are latex mattresses good for back pain?

Latex has natural flexibility, elasticity and outstanding resilience. Latex responds instantly to every body movement, for correct spinal alignment with maximum pressure relief – so you wake up feeling refreshed and re-energised! Latex is also a great alternative if Memory Foam is a little too soft.

Here are some of our latex mattresses:

Can pocket sprung mattresses or open coil mattresses help with back pain?

There are 3 main types of springs:

  • Open Coil Springs: individual coil springs joined together, typically around 300 springs
  • Continuous Springs: typically around 750 springs, spreads weight and offers improved pressure relief and support
  • Pocketed Springs: individual springs, encased in individual pockets, offer independent support for each sleeper, reduced roll-together. Typically higher spring counts providing higher levels of comfort and support.
  • Double layer of pocket springs (with all the benefits of pocket springs): ideal for different weight sleepers, where a lighter weight sleeper will be supported by the first layer of springs and a heavier weight sleeper will have increased support from both layers of springs

There is a very simple logic that the more springs there are in a mattress, the more comfort and support your body will experience. By putting more springs into a mattress, finer wire can be used, which will adapt better to the body contours for improved spinal alignment. Additionally each individual spring will be supporting less weight and it’s therefore likely that your mattress will last longer too.

Both pocket sprung and open coil mattresses are good options for bad backs. Pocket sprung mattresses create support with less movement of the mattress overall, while open coil mattresses can create an even surface to relieve pressure where it’s most needed.

Will a firmer mattress help your bad back?

Firmer mattresses help to distribute pressure, which can really help if you have a bad back. However, the firmness of your ideal mattress will also depend on what you naturally find most comfortable and the position you sleep in.

It’s always worth trying out different levels of firmness in mattresses, but as a general overview:

  • Soft mattresses: great for if you sleep on your side, as their softness can help your spine to naturally curve as you sleep, helping you to feel comfortable as well as supported.
  • Medium mattresses: ideal for people who change from sleeping on their side to their back and vice versa, throughout the night. They’re a hybrid of soft and firm, which means they best cater for the support you need in both sleeping positions.
  • Firm and extra firm mattresses: great for if you sleep on your front or back as they encourage your body to maintain good posture throughout the night, evenly spreading pressure and preventing your spine from curving as much as it would be able to in softer mattresses.

Types of beds that can help with back pain

If getting in or out of bed is particularly painful for your back (or anywhere else) an adjustable electric bed could be a big help.

Zip and link beds are beds with separate mattresses that can be linked together. These are ideal for if you sleep with your partner and have different firmness preferences, or different needs when it comes to how much support you’d like your mattress to have. 

Other ways to improve pain from a bad back

Alongside equipping yourself with the best mattress for your back, there are other things you can do to give your back pain the best chance of improving:

  • Keep moving: long periods of remaining static are likely to do more harm than good. Even short walks can start to ease the pain of a bad back.
  • Posture: sitting up straight or standing with your weight evenly distributed from your feet which are shoulder width apart are two really good posture habits that can start to make a big difference
  • Hot and cold: generally ice is good for inflammation and heat is good for tight muscles. Try a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel for inflammation or a hot water bottle when experiencing muscle tightness
  • Take a break from screens: if possible, have a day away from your laptop or tablet. Similarly, taking regular breaks from hunching over a mobile phone will help with your posture
  • Try shoes with more support: you might find that shoes with more cushioning help you to feel more comfortable and supported
  • Stretching and light exercise: gentle stretching and starting to build up your core muscles (back and abdominal muscles) can help with the prevention of back pain, but be careful not to do too much while you’re in pain if your body isn’t already used to it. We recommend speaking to your GP for recommendations of stretches and rehabilitation exercises to try

Does sleeping on the floor help a bad back?

The idea of sleeping on the floor to help a bad back aligns with how sleeping on a firmer surface can improve back pain. However, removing the cushioning you would experience when sleeping on a firm or extra-firm mattress can increase the pressure on a back that is sore, stiff or aching. 

Help with choosing the best mattress for your back pain

We’d love to help you achieve your perfect sleep experience - especially when it’s one that can alleviate back pain.

Whether you’re experiencing upper, middle or lower back pain, or even all three, our approach is based on sleep-science, innovative technology and your personal preferences, so you’ll definitely come away more clued-up about what would work best for you. There are three ways our experts can help with advice:

  • In store: our exclusive sleepPRO™ technology will help match you with your ideal mattress by tracking your sleep position and providing a suitable firmness rating. Speak to our store colleagues and they’ll be happy to help with your own assessment.
  • Over the phone: our helpful sales team can help you to think about the questions you should be asking before investing in a new mattress. Call us and we’ll be able to help guide your decision.
  • Through resources like our guide to choosing the right mattress and through reviewing our mattresses according to their comfort ratings

If you do decide to order a new mattress to help with your back pain, it might be comforting to know that we offer a 40 night comfort guarantee at Bensons. This means that if after 40 nights, you decide your mattress isn’t comfortable, it’s possible to replace it with a different one (see conditions on our 40 night guarantee page).

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