5 tips for choosing the best mattress for back pain

Ouch, my aching back! If this is a frequent complaint of yours, your mattress might be to blame. But what makes a good mattress?

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit a doctor. In fact, more than 3 million cases of back pain are reported to a doctor each year.

Pain may be acute and caused by a muscle or ligament strain, or it may be chronic, meaning it sticks around for at least three months. Chronic back pain is often the result of arthritis, bulging disks in the back, osteoporosis or skeletal irregularities, like scoliosis.

If you experience back pain, there are many ways you can treat it — but there are also steps you can take to prevent it in the first place. One such step? Finding the right mattress.

But how exactly do you do that? Read on for five tips on choosing the best mattress for back pain.

Tip 1 for choosing the best mattress for back pain: Know when it’s time for a new one

This might be the most important tip of all. No matter how good your mattress is, there comes a time when it must go!

If your mattress sags in the middle, has protruding parts or is no longer comfortable, it’s probably time to look for a new one. If you find yourself waking and not feeling rested or feeling achy, your mattress may be to blame.

You may have heard that you should replace your mattress every eight years. Well, the rule of thumb isn’t that exact — the Better Sleep Council recommends changing out your mattress every seven to 10 years, depending on your comfort and how supportive it is.

Tip 2 for choosing the best mattress for back pain: Look for one with back support

What makes a good mattress? Well, for those with back pain, the best mattress offers support for the natural curves and alignment of the spine.

You might think that a firm mattress would be best, but you may be surprised. A study of those with chronic pain found that those with a medium-to-firm mattress had less back pain than those who slept on softer or harder mattresses.

Tip 3 for choosing the best mattress for back pain: Strike the right balance

This tip is key, too. While you want to look for a mattress that’s supportive to the spine, you need to find a balance between support and comfort.

If your mattress isn’t comfortable to you, it won’t matter if it’s the best mattress for back pain. It won’t help you sleep or relieve your pain.

This may be why a medium-firm mattress was found to be best for back pain — this provides a little bit of support and a little bit of give, allowing the hips and shoulders to sink in.

If you like the support of a firm mattress, you may find this balance by putting memory foam padding on top of the mattress.

Tip 4 for choosing the best mattress for back pain: Know what the mattress is made of

When you’re shopping for a new mattress, be sure to do your research. Look up information about mattress components online and talk with a salesperson about what each mattress contains.

Why does it matter? Well, there’s a huge variety of mattresses — and they vary in terms of materials, number/arrangements of coils, thickness of padding and mattress depth.

You want a good amount of springs and cushion to help support your back during the night. And you may find that a latex mattress provides the support you need.

Tip 5 for choosing the best mattress for back pain: Experiment a little

Finding the best mattress for back pain may mean you need to be a little like Goldilocks — you may have to try a few of them before you find the one that’s “just right.”

Ultimately, the best mattress for back pain is the one that’s most comfortable to you. So, don’t just look at mattresses. Try them out and see what feels best.

Regardless of what mattress you choose, how you sleep is also important. Use pillows to support your body.

If you sleep on your stomach, you’ll want to place the pillow under your hips. If you sleep on your back, place the pillow under your knees. And if you’re a side sleeper, put the pillow between your knees.

Back pain just won’t go away? Help is available! The first step is to talk with your doctor. Find a doctor here.