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Published on June 7th, 2013 | by The Best Mattress


What is the Best Mattress for Back Pain?

The process of finding the best mattress for back pain leads consumers to a variety of resources including reviews, recommendations and a variety of studies. While reviews and recommendations may be slightly more subjective, they are still helpful, particularly those which have been independently verified. Sleep studies include reports from the participants as to whether their sleep or pain levels improved using a variety of mattresses. These often continue for several months, making them slightly more reliable. When shopping for the best mattress for back pain, consumers should consider it’s support, effect on pressure points and of course overall value.

What Type is the Best Mattress for Back Pain?

Maintaining the spine’s alignment is essential for eliminating pain and requires a mattress with full body support. Memory foam is one of the best mattress solutions as it conforms to the natural curves of the body while maintaining support, a conclusion supported by it’s continuous rankings above other types in satisfaction surveys. According to extensive survey data compiled by Sleep Like The Dead, memory foam beds are found to be satisfactory by 81% of owners (the highest scoring bed type, versus 62% of innerspring owners). Air beds and memory foam produce the fewest consumer reports of pain as well. It is thought that airbeds excel as they are less prone to a loss of support, while memory foam’s ability to conform to sleepers serves the same end. However, air beds overall have lower owner satisfaction (about 3 points) due to mechanical issues, comfort concerns, and poor warranties.

Why Memory Foam Works

Consider the way the spine is constructed, with multiple interlocking bone segments. When the curve of the spine is flattened or distorted, for instance by a firm innerspring mattress, the remainder must adjust to compensate causing it to dip. This pertains to both side sleepers as well as those who sleep on their backs. Stomach sleepers can have the opposite problem, as their hips may sink too far in exaggerating the curve of the lower back.

A memory foam mattress evenly distributes weight and takes the brunt of the weight off of the pressure points such as buttocks, hips and shoulders, while providing natural contouring and support to the dips in the body, such as waist and neck areas. This helps alleviate pain while allowing the spine to elongate, decompress and naturally align itself during rest.

Which Firmness is Best?

Sleep study results published by the Kovacs Foundation in The Lancet showed that people who suffered from chronic low back pain actually found the best mattress for back pain relief  to be medium-firm rather than firm, which had been traditionally endorsed for years. Those who had been assigned a medium mattress were twice as likely to report pain improvements versus those assigned firm beds. Sleep Like The Dead also highlights that medium firmness beds have the fewest pain complaints.

Another study by the Back Research Center, published in Spine, compared three different types of mattresses including a waterbed,  memory foam and a firm futon-style mattress. This study showed that test participants reported fewer problems with the memory foam and waterbeds versus the hard mattress.

In the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, an Oklahoma State University study found simply that a new mattress helped improve measures of pain and sleep quality. This study measured participants’ comfort during 28 days in their current beds (9.5 years average age) versus 28 days in a new bed, providing credence to the recommendation that mattresses should be replaced every 8-10 years to ensure comfort and support.

As we found researching, finding scientific studies or endorsements from doctors for a particular style or brand of mattress can be extremely difficult, as many decline to endorse specific brands (or are paid directly or indirectly if they are). Researching and reading reviews from people who actually use a memory foam mattress may be a better indicator of whether it is right for your needs, and polls over the last few years have indicated that owners of memory foam beds report greater satisfaction than owners of other mattresses (by anywhere from 20-2%).

How to find the best mattress for back pain

As with any purchase, finding the best mattress for back pain online will include comparison shopping. Important elements to consider when purchasing a memory foam mattress online include finding the best deal for the money, warranties, reviews and customer support.

  • Value- Be certain to compare apples to apples – meaning consider the firmness, thickness, warranty and other factors when looking at prices. Some lesser known brands of mattresses excel in reviews, providing the same quality of sleep as the big name brands, for less money.
  • Warranty- Know and understand the warranty, including the entire life-span and what is included. Is it partially pro-rated after X number of years? What degree of compression is considered a defect? Are you required to use their foundations or mattress covers?
  • Returns – Ensure you can return or at the very least exchange the mattress in case you dislike it. It may take your back up to a month to adjust to a new bed, so look for a trial with at least 60 days during which you can return with minimal expense.
  • Reviews- Finding and reading reviews from actual customers who have purchased the mattress may help weed out beds with poor construction or value. Subjective reviews regarding increased or decreased pain or comfort can be misleading, since your needs may vary significantly. Look for reviews that have been independently verified if possible, and consider sources like the manufacturer/brand website, third party review sites, forums and social networks when researching.

Comparison of Medium Firm Memory Foam Options

Brand Amerisleep Serta iComfort Sleep Number Tempurpedic
Model Revere Savant m7 Rhapsody
Type Plant-Based Memory Foam Gel Memory Foam Gel Memory Foam over Air Traditional Memory Foam
Density 4.5 lb 3.0 lb (est) 4.0 lb 5.3 lb
Firmness Medium Firm Medium Variable Medium Firm
Trial Period 90 days 120 days 30 days 90 days
Review Rating 4.7 / 5, in 117 reviews 4.3 / 5, in 133 reviews 3.7 / 5, in 15 reviews 3.0 / 5, in 81 reviews
Price (Queen) $1299 $1574 $2999 $3199

In the chart above, we compared a few options from leading brands across a variety of sectors within the memory foam market, including traditional, plant-based, gel, and an air-foam hybrid. All are within the medium to medium-firm range, with three or more inches of foam thus meeting the ideal best mattress for back pain criteria. They vary considerably on price and reviews, with lowest price option, the plant-based Revere Bed memory foam mattress from Amerisleep, actually receiving the highest average review score.

A Final Word

Memory foam mattresses have continued to receive the highest accolades from customers who are trying to find the best mattress for back pain. Their ability to provide conforming support allows the spine to decompress, lengthen and align itself into its optimum position which helps alleviate back pain. Aside from pain relief, memory foam offers other benefits such as preventing motion transfer and offering a longer lifespan than springs. Based on the consumer survey data, reviews, and professional studies we found and discussed above, we recommend considering a medium to medium-firm memory foam bed if you are looking for the best mattress for back pain.

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One Response to What is the Best Mattress for Back Pain?

  1. bonnie spence burke says:

    i have had two back spinal surgeries i wake up every morning with back pain how can i purchase the amerisleep mattress . which has the best review on your site. Thank you

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