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Best Mattress for a Bad Back - How to Choose the Right Mattress

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 Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2014-2015 National Health Survey (NHS). 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 from factors out of your control like genetic diseases and injuries, to those within your control like your choice of mattress. Studies have found that when subjects with back pain tried sleeping on new and improved bedding, they slept better and their back pain was reduced, 

Why does it make a difference?

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

You can sleep in the neutral position by lying flat on your back on a mattress that supports the lower lumbar region of the back, as well as 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.


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

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

Good vs. Bad Mattresses


What makes the difference between a good mattress and a bad one?

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? Can an old mattress cause back pain? Yes, if a mattress has an infrastructure that did provide proper support but has degenerated over time, it may no longer support you properly, which can cause your back to hurt.

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? What kind of infrastructure does it have? 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 can help you decide if it’s time for a replacement. If it is, many people recommend a firm mattress to those with back pain.

Is a Firm Mattress Really the Best?

Is it true that you need a firm mattress if you experience back pain? Is it possible a firm mattress can actually cause back pain instead?

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 influenced back pain more positively than the hard mattress.

Another study, conducted by the Scientific Department at the Kovacs Foundation in Spain, assessed 313 adults with chronic non-specific lower-back pain 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.

Then, you will want to go in-person to check out the lineup of mattresses available in stores. Sealy, for example, offers a range of comfort levels from extra plush to firm, as well as collections from standard to luxurious. It’s recommended you visit a showroom in comfortable clothes and spend time lying down on the different beds before making a choice..

Help Relieve Back Pain with the Right Mattress

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.

Looking for the perfect mattress for a bad back? Find yours using our mattress selector here.

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