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How to choose the best mattress for back pain relief

Low back pain affects 619 million people globally
A good rest on the right mattress could make a real difference to your day. Credit: totojang/iStock.

Low back pain (LBP) is the largest cause of disability worldwide, according to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) statistics. In fact, low back pain affected 619 million people in 2020, and this number will rise to 843 million in 2050. 

Back pain can seriously affect your quality of life, with its impacts ranging from difficulty moving to depression and distress. To combat this, the WHO recommends a range of treatment, management, and self-care options for back pain, including “good sleep habits” and “getting good sleep.” 

There’s a lot of research into what type of mattress is the best for back pain relief, and generally, the findings are inconclusive. Your own pain and sleep habits will determine your choice of mattress; however, focusing on finding a mattress that will give you the best rest is going to be most important.

Here’s what to consider when choosing the best mattress for back pain relief.

Consider the mattress design

The number of coils or springs in a mattress varies, as does the thickness of the padding on top of a mattress. Mattress depths can be from 7 inches to 18 inches. Mattresses with greater padding may offer a little more back support. 

Each mattress or bed manufacturer may classify mattresses differently; one company's “firm” mattress might be another’s “extra-firm.” Mattresses also come in various levels: “medium-firm,” “medium,” or “soft.”

Does it have back support?

It actually appears to be a bit of a myth that firm mattresses are the best for back pain relief. The latest studies seem to settle on medium-firm mattresses being a better solution. A mattress that’s too soft or not well made and ends up sagging is not going to be very supportive at all.  Well-made mattresses of reasonable firmness will provide some support throughout the night, and they’ll last over time.

Balance back support and comfort

It’s actually of no benefit to choose an extra firm mattress that you just can’t sleep on. A mattress that is too hard might cause aches and pains on certain pressure points, according to Dr. J. Talbot Sellers at Medium-firm mattresses allow the shoulders and hips to sink slightly. 

Choose the mattress that meets your personal preference

There isn’t yet a mattress that, without a doubt, helps everyone with low back pain. If a mattress makes you feel comfortable and allows you to sleep without pain or doesn’t make you wake up in more pain, the chances are that’s the mattress type that works for you. 

When you choose the best mattress for back relief, you will also want to consider your sleep position and if you like to be warm or cool while sleeping. A mattress that’s too firm or too soft might not suit your sleep position. Or, to be the most comfortable for a good night’s sleep, you could think about a breathable mattress if you often get too hot. 

Test your mattress in your local store

If you happen to know the type of mattress that you sleep the best on, then choosing the best mattress for back pain relief is going to be so much easier for you. You might even be able to order your mattress online if you’re really confident. If you can’t make it into a store, then asking friends and family for recommendations is a good place to start. 

Beds and mattresses are a major purchase and something we just don’t want to keep replacing because we made the wrong choice.

This is one product where, if you can, it’s great to go into a local mattress store and get a good feel for the mattresses on display. Queensway Mattress is one mattress specialist with convenient locations in Etobicoke, Toronto, and Woodbridge, Vaughan, as well as an online store.