Do you wake up during the night because your back is aching? How does it feel during the day? Are you enduring back pain and wondering what you can do besides taking pain medicine?

If so, you are not alone. One in six Australians have back problems — a total of 3.7 million people according to the 2014–2015 National Health Survey. A common question amongst sufferers is, “Can a bad mattress cause back pain?”

The correlation between back pain and your mattress

Back problems have a range of causes outside of our control, from genetic diseases to injuries; those that are within our control include things like your choice of mattress and your pillow.

Studies have found that when subjects with back pain tried sleeping on a new, quality mattress, they slept better and their back pain was reduced. So, why does it make a difference?

Your spine has a natural curvature and it requires a neutral posture for optimal health. Your neutral posture is evident when you are sitting or standing straight up and looking forward.

You can sleep in a natural position by lying flat on your back on a mattress that supports the lower lumbar region. It is also possible to maintain a neutral spine when on your side with your legs just slightly bent and the mattress supporting your side.

When your spine is neutral, the muscles surrounding it can relax.

Is Your Mattress Causing You Back Pain?

How to tell if your mattress is the cause, and solutions to a better night's sleep

A mattress that facilitates the proper spinal posture is said to provide orthopaedic support.

When your spine is not neutral, the muscles become strained, causing tossing, turning, and pain.

The difference between a good and bad mattress

A good mattress features technology purposefully designed to provide the right amount of support in the right places.

What about the age of a mattress? An old mattress can cause back pain, especially if it was not designed to provide adequate support. It can also cause pain if it has degenerated over time; it may no longer support you properly, even if it used to.

Is your mattress causing back pain?

You may be wondering, “Will a new mattress help me?” A new mattress may help ease your back pain if your current mattress is contributing to the problem. To find out, analyse it.

How long have you had the mattress? Does the manufacturer prioritise proper support and comfort in its products? Is it sagging or worn out? When you lay down, is it comfortable? Does it support you so that your spine is neutral? Answering these questions may help you decide if it’s time for a replacement.

Is a firm mattress really the best?

One study performed at the Back Research Center in Denmark tested the relative influence of different mattress types on 160 people with chronic lower back pain. The three mattress types were a waterbed, a foam mattress, and a hard mattress. Upon conclusion of the study, it was discovered that the foam mattress and waterbed helped back pain more positively than the hard mattress.

Another study, conducted by the Scientific Department at the Kovacs Foundation in Spain, assessed 313 adults who complained of back pain after getting out of bed each day. The subjects were assigned either a firm mattress or a medium-firm mattress. After 90 days, the study found the medium-firm mattress improved pain and disability better than the firm mattress.

In summary, for spine support, mattresses that are firmer are not necessarily the best option as they may lack the conformance needed to offer posture support for your back. However, everybody has different needs and mattresses that are too soft can be equally as problematic.

Here’s how to find the right balance.

How to choose a mattress for back pain

When choosing the best mattress for a bad back, it’s important to find a manufacturer that prioritises orthopaedic support and comfort. Sealy Posturepedic offers a range of comfort levels from extra plush to firm, as well as collections from standard to luxurious. The first step is to try using our Mattress Selector. This tool will ask you a series of questions about your sleep position and preferences before offering a tailored solution.

When you have an idea of the kind of mattress that is suitable for you, we recommended visiting a retailer in comfortable clothes in person. Spend time lying down on mattresses in your normal sleep position before making a choice.

Back problems are frustrating at best and debilitating at worst. The good news is, one of the main contributing factors is within your realm of control. Follow the steps above to find a quality mattress that will help you get a restful night’s sleep and give you the best chance at waking up with less pain.