Mattress Considerations when Dealing with Back Pain

Whether or not you experience back pain, you likely agree it’s a given that we all feel better after a restful night’s sleep. But do we realize how much our bed plays a part in how rested we feel and how much our back hurts (or doesn’t)? If you have back pain, the first thing you should try is a new mattress. The benefit is less back pain. The bonus is restful sleep, night after night. Win-win.


Experts agree that the best mattress for you is the one you feel most comfortable in. The degree of firmness the mattress has or the amount of padding can vary a little and you will still experience the same benefits of better sleep and less pain.

The more padding a mattress has the more comfortable it is. Padding is what protects you from feeling the inner springs or coils, which is what supports your body.

Short of spending the night in the showroom of the mattress store, how do you know if the mattress you’re buying is the right one for you?

Your best bet, experts say, is to purchase your new mattress from a store that offers a free trial period in your own home. The length of the free trial time varies and there is no industry standard, but 30 days is probably the most common trial period offered.

Before you take one home, feel free to give the mattresses in the showroom a test drive, so to speak. Choose one that feels firm enough to support you, but not so firm that your hips and shoulders feel stressed when you lay on your side. Bring home the mattress that you feel the most relaxed on; in other words, the one on which you and your partner did the fewest turn-overs and position-adjusters.

Then go ahead a give it 30 days to make sure the short-term comfort in the showroom translates into long-term comfort in the bedroom.


Surprisingly, the firmest mattresses are not necessarily the most comfortable, nor are they the best at minimizing back pain. It turns out that medium-firm mattresses offer the greatest relief of low back pain and the most comfortable night’s sleep.

If you are choosing between an extra firm and any other mattress with less firmness, go with the mattress that is less firm. How much less firm is a matter of personal preference and something you can find out for yourself using a free trial from a reputable store.

A mattress is filled with inner springs, or coils, which are what support you as you sleep. The coils are fashioned from lengths of wire and the diameter, or “gauge” of the wire determines how firm the mattress is. The lower the gauge of the wire, the thicker it is, so the better it supports humans and the firmer the mattress.

Of course there is such a thing as too much firmness. If you lay down on a sample bed and immediately feel the need to change position, there’s a good chance that particular mattress is too firm for you.

The firmest mattresses also have the most internal padding and often the deepest external topper pad. All of this is to keep your body supported without you feeling the actual inner springs or coils.


Some mattress stores display a cross-section of their mattresses. These are helpful in comparing price, quality, firmness and level of comfort. Although the most expensive mattresses usually contain the largest number of inner springs or coils, they are not necessarily the most comfortable or the best mattresses for back pain.

The inner spring coils are covered with insulation padding, which purpose is to insulate your body from feeling the presence of the springs from the top of the mattress.

On top of the insulation padding is a layer of cotton padding. Its thickness can vary across the top of the mattress. The cotton padding provides firmness and extra support in the middle of the mattress, the part that supports the most weight.

The cotton padding is covered by the middle padding which varies in texture with the firmness of the mattress. The foam used in less firm mattresses feels almost moist to the touch and is quick to return to its original shape. Foam in firmer mattresses bounces back slowly when pressure is applied.

The top padding is referred to as a “mattress topper” and its thickness varies with the firmness of the mattress and its price and quality. The thicker the top padding, the less pressure on your body and the more perceived comfort.

The final layer of the mattress is the ticking and quilting. The ticking is the top layer, usually polyester or cotton-polyester. The ticking is attached to the top layers of the mattresses padding by the quilting.

The biggest consideration in getting a new mattress to minimize back pain is to find one firm enough to support you without being overly-firm, and that has enough padding so you never know the inner springs are there.


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