Back pain has different causes, and a mattress that relieves one person’s pain may not be right for another individual. But there are some general principles that can help guide you to the type of mattress that will be most helpful for your back pain.
Morning back pain
If you wake with an aching back, but the pain subsides once you’re up and moving around, that’s usually a signal that your mattress is either the wrong type for your body or is no longer supporting you well. In other cases, the issue may not be too little support but a hardened surface that has become too firm to be comfortable. How a mattress feels to you will depend on its design, materials, and the cause and type of back pain you’re experiencing.
Back pain resulting from pressure on a spinal nerve, such as from a damaged disk or other injury, requires very stable support. A medium-firm to firm mattress will provide stability and minimize the risk of triggering sciatica, the strong nerve pain that sometimes shoots down the leg.
Styles of mattresses that offer the firmest support include innersprings, some air-pumped designs, and latex. A firm latex mattress will distribute weight evenly while still allowing natural contouring.
Arthritis, fibromyalgia, and joint inflammation
Some back pain is related less to spinal damage than to arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint inflammation or similar conditions that can produce deep soreness. For these kinds of problems, often a softer mattress—or at least a soft topper—provides the greatest relief. Memory foam is popular for its pressure-relieving characteristics, although it also suppresses natural movement during the night, which can reduce circulation and contribute to back soreness. Natural latex also relieves pressure well and distributes weight evenly.
This brief video offers a helpful summary of how to choose appropriate mattresses and toppers for back pain.