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Labor Day Lounging: 5 Tips To Help You Pick The Perfect Mattress For Low Back Pain Prevention

Labor Day is just around the corner and already our screens are filled with ads promising you the best mattresses for a good night’s sleep. High tech options abound with cooling and heating as well as raising and lowering options. Know your number. Find your perfect position. It can all be a bit overwhelming. Throw some back pain into the mix and it may be no wonder that you are at a bit of a loss as to which mattress to pick for the perfect slumber.

Poor sleep is a significant risk factor for low back pain.

Why Sleep Is Important To Prevent Back Pain

Sleep is an essential biological function for our bodies. During sleep our bodies recover from the physical and psychological stresses that we encounter throughout the day. If we don't get enough sleep it increases our risk for things like obesity, dementia, diabetes, and back pain.

A study of health workers found that poor sleep was a significant risk factor for low back pain compared to those who had moderate to good sleep.

Man testing a mattress

How To Pick The Perfect Mattress

While we have previously written about the importance of sleep for managing low back pain, and we have covered the different types of sleep positions that are best for low back pain sufferers, we haven’t covered the best type of mattresses - until now. We thought that labor day would be the perfect time to do a bit of pre-shopping research so you can hit those sales properly informed and ready to spend!

Considering that most of us will spend approximately one third of our lives lying in our beds, choosing a marvelous mattress that can manage our low back pain is essential. A good night’s sleep can make or break your day no matter what side of the bed you ultimately get out on.

Good support is key when choosing the right mattress.

What To Look For In A Great Mattress

1. Support

When it comes to finding your perfect pairing for slumber, support is going to be key. A good mattress should support the natural curves of your spine and follow your alignment. The right levels of support are key for waking up fresh and restored in the morning rather than waking up sore and stiff.

Ideally your mattress should be a bit like a Goldilocks mattress - not too firm, but not too soft. An extreme in either direction will just leave you feeling unsupported. Too firm and you won’t feel supported and too soft and your joints may become twisted and painful during the night. A good mattress will minimize the pressure points on your back, glutes, and shoulders.

The right mattress should feel good to your back.

2. Find What Speaks To You

Generally speaking, there isn’t one type that is perfect for everyone since our bodies are all so different and we all have unique experiences with low back pain. Whether you prefer a firm top or something softer and snuggly-er - you should definitely let your preference guide you and choose whatever feels the most comfortable.

There is no point getting a mattress that you just don’t enjoy and that will cause you to toss and turn all night. Those with wider hips may find that a softer surface might be more supportive, while those with more narrow hips may find a firmer mattress to be better. You might also want to consult with your doctor before starting your mattress spree to make sure that there aren’t any structural issues with your spine that you need to be aware of or that could require medical attention.

Memory foam mattresses can be best for low back pain.

3. Find A Middle Ground & Memory Foam

While research around what constitutes the perfect mattress is limited, one study found that, out of 300 people with low back pain, those who used a “medium-firm” mattress for 90 days reported less discomfort than those who used a “firm” mattress. If you aren’t waking up with low back pain and you have a squishier mattress then that might be something that works for you.

Memory Foam mattresses can be a great option here, compared to more traditional innerspring mattresses, since the foam molds to the shape of your body, specifically. They tend to be firmer - but not too firm and offer a good degree of support.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that some memory foam mattresses tend to retain heat rather than cooling your body, so if you live in a warm climate and need help staying cool at night you might need to try something different or invest in one of the fancier cooling systems.

Taking your mattress for a test period can help you know if it will be the right fit for you.

4. Take It For A Test Drive

It might seem silly but many mattress stores offer you a trial period to test out the mattress. This can be anywhere from 30 to 100 days and many even offer a full refund if you aren’t happy with your purchase (What we want to know is what they do with the mattress if you bring it back? Do people just not bother?). Questions aside, taking time to test your mattress can be a great idea.

If you feel bad about doing something like that, take note of mattresses that have given you a great night’s sleep. Pain-free night at a pal’s house? Ask them what type of mattress they have. Best beauty sleep at a hotel? Take down the model, make and number of the hotel’s mattress.

Another way to test out what type of mattress might suit you best is to place a piece of plywood board under your current mattress to reduce the amount of movement that the springs provide or you could even try sleeping with your mattress on the floor.

Whatever type of experiment you decide to do, just keep in mind that the longer you try something, the fuller your experience might be. A bad night’s sleep at a friend’s house might not just be about the mattress or a great night’s sleep at a hotel might just be the result of you being exhausted from traveling and you would have slept anywhere! Don’t be scared to try out a variety of models and makes or to make use of that money-back guarantee.

Generally speaking, it is a good idea to change your mattress every 10 years or so.

5. Replace

Most of us wait far too long to get a new mattress. We complain about our backs but don’t think about how much we expect of both our backs and our mattresses. Considering the fact that we spend about one third of our lives in bed, we are spending at least 1,216 days one one mattress - assuming we change it out at the recommended 6- 10 year mark. We replace our shoes far more often than we replace our mattresses and we demand so much more from our beds in terms of comfort and support.

While 10 years isn’t a fast rule, it is a good guideline to go by. From there, you can factor in things like how often you rotate your mattress, how much use it gets (are you conducting Netflix marathons from it?), or if it is in a guest room where it doesn’t get used as much.

Sleep is an essential part of the healing process for our bodies and for low back pain.


Sleep is an essential part of the healing process for our bodies and since our backs bear the brunt of so much of our daily activities, sleep is crucial for preventing low back pain. While we can find great pillows, pick the perfect sleeping position, and practice good sleep hygiene, having a great mattress as the foundation for all of this is super important. We hope that you found these tips helpful and that you can find the best mattress for your back. For more ideas on great mattresses for low back pain you can also check out the National Sleep Foundation’s top picks.

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