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Back pain is a common problem and can be debilitating if left untreated. Statistics show that up to 90 percent of sufferers aren’t even sure where their back pain is coming from or what to do about it.

Noticing the differences between types of back pain can be helpful in figuring out not only the source but possibly how to treat the pain. Your mattress can be a huge part of what’s either causing your pain or making it worse, so it’s important to consider it as part of your treatment.

We’ve put together a list of our favorite mattresses for upper back pain and our favorite for lower back pain. We’ll also explore some causes of your pain, the differences between the two types of pain, and what you might need from your new mattress. Let’s take a look.

Upper Back Pain

Let’s take a look at upper back pain first.

What Causes Upper Back Pain?

Upper back pain is usually centered between the shoulders and may radiate out to the neck and shoulders. Some people may experience tingling or pain in extremities as well.

Overuse is a common cause of pain in the upper back. Lifting heavy things using only the large muscles of the back and shoulders could contribute to strain, for example. Other causes could be things like posture.

Slouching puts a continual strain on the upper back to balance the body. Over time, that strain becomes pain. The muscles weaken and strain the connective tissues. Jobs that cause an imbalance on one side can also cause the body to overcompensate and strain the upper back.

Accidents and trauma can cause injury not only to the muscles but the spine and bones in the upper back and shoulders. These factors can spread pain throughout your upper back, shoulders, and neck.

Degenerative discs and arthritis are other less common causes of upper back pain. If you have hereditary conditions that cause discs to degenerate or slip, that can be a source as well. For conditions like this, it’s essential to prevent your sleep patterns from making the pain worse.

Even improper positioning of your head while sleeping can cause pain. Your neck puts your spine at a strange angle causing your shoulders or upper back to compress. If you sleep on your stomach on an improper mattress, your spine can overextend through your upper back. If you’re a side sleeper, the pressure on your shoulders can cause compression.

What Kind Of Mattress Should I Get For Upper Back Pain?

There are a few different things to consider for a mattress for upper back pain. If the source of your pain is stress through the upper muscles of the back and neck and you’re a back sleeper, it’s important that your spine remain in a neutral position.

A firm or medium firm mattress should prevent your bed from sagging and causing the spine to compress. Contouring materials that cradle your curves and fill in the gaps around your lower back can put your spine in that neutral position.

If you’re a stomach sleeper, you definitely need a firm mattress to prevent overextending the spine and shoulders. You also need good edge support since many of you use the edge to get into a comfortable position.

Side sleepers should get a slightly less firm mattress with thicker contouring materials so that shoulders can sink deeper into those layers. The materials fill in around the waist and keep the legs supported so you reach that neutral spine position.

Besides sleep position, another huge factor in dealing with pain during the night is preventing tossing and turning. Tossing and turning can wrench your back and make pressure points worse.

Temperature is a huge cause of tossing and turning. Modern mattresses have materials to help regulate your temperature better, especially if you prefer memory foam style mattresses. Gel-infused foams and open cell materials help move heat away from your body and keep the overall mattress cooler.

Contouring materials also help hug your body so that you settle into a comfortable position more efficiently and stay there. If you find that you’re still tossing and turning, deeper memory foam may help discourage those position changes during the night.

It may also be helpful to have a mattress that isolates motion, so the movement of your partner doesn’t exacerbate your existing pain or cause you to change positions as you wake up frequently.

Lower Back Pain

Let’s take a look at the pain that originates in the lower part of your back and spine.

What Are the Causes Of Lower Back Pain?

Lower back pain is a little more common than upper back pain. It’s frequently a product of overexertion such as carrying things that are too heavy (backpacks, anyone?) or sitting with poor posture.

Chronic pain can also be caused by degeneration of discs. For example, the cushion between the discs can wear down as we age, transferring impact to the wall of the bone itself. Other chronic conditions can include narrowing of the spine as you age, causing pressure on the discs and connective tissues.

Sometimes, it’s stress that causes your muscles to tense up and your body to overcompensate for the tension. As your stress continues, the muscles remain tense and eventually cause pain.

Mattresses that don’t support your spine can contribute to your lower back pain. Contouring materials of newer mattresses help fill in gaps around your waist and lower lumbar region so that your spine can settle into a neutral, aligned position and muscles can decompress.

What Kind of Mattress Should I Get For Lower Back Pain?

You still need a very supportive mattress for your lower back pain, but the quality of the contouring materials may be vital here. Contouring foams can fill in that gap in your lumbar region that would otherwise cause your spine to curve into a strange, painful position.

If you sleep on your back, you need a medium-firm mattress, so that your hip and shoulder area sink in slightly, but there isn’t too much sag. Stomach sleepers also need a firm mattress to encourage your spine to remain aligned. If you experience any sagging within the mattress, it can bend your spine at the lower lumbar region and cause some severe pain when you wake up.

Side sleepers may have trouble with both lower and upper back muscles as your hips twist away from your torso and cause stress. Deeper contouring and a slightly softer mattress help prevent your back from twisting and causing stress.

Side sleepers may also have trouble with lower back pain radiating through the hips and legs. If you have pain with the nerves in your lower back, anything that causes you to twist that nerve could be difficult on your pain.

Tossing and turning can make pain worse, so it’s important to remove other reasons you might chronically change positions. Temperature regulation happens with gel infused foams that pull heat away from your body, open cell materials that increase breathability, and cover materials that keep heat and moisture from building up around your body.

You also want a mattress that helps to isolate motion if you sleep in the same bed as a partner. Movement that jiggles you too much can make your existing pain worse with the movement, or cause you to reposition as you’re continually woken up.

As long as your contouring materials are correct, you should have a better time getting your spine to decompress. That’s going to prove to be a crucial part of your treatment for your pain.

The Difference Between Upper and Lower Back Pain

Upper back pain is frequently a product of trauma to the connective tissues and muscles surrounding the shoulders and chest. Joint and muscle issues need deep relaxation throughout the night to help the muscle let go of the stress and trauma.

Lower back pain is more common and is frequently combined with nerve pain. Here, the spine pinches a nerve, so it’s crucial that you allow the spine to decompress so that it comes off the nerve. In both cases, the mattress must offer both contouring and support.

Old styles of mattresses forced your body to conform to the surface of the bed, which might have caused a lot of stress to your pressure points. If your mattress is old enough to have lost support, the sagging can cause curves in the spine and more pain.

Upper back pain isn’t going to go away if your pack isn’t adequately supported, and lower back pain can be made so much worse by a sagging mattress.

The List

We have recommendations based on your individual type of back pain, but we have one mattress that’s our overall top pick regardless of what kind of pain you have. Let’s take a look.

DreamCloud – Our Top Overall Pick

DreamCloud is one of our favorite mattresses of all time. It uses eight different layers of targeted foams and a layer of coils to provide both contouring and support.

The cover materials are a cashmere blend that’s highly breathable and very soft. Underneath, the first two contouring layers are gel-infused foams that cushion your curves and help you settle into a comfortable, neutral position. One layer is quilted to provide extra plush if you prefer a softer mattress, or you’re a side sleeper.

The next two layers are transitional layers that adapt to your movements and provide recovery as you move around. One is latex, a material that’s more responsive and has more bounce than traditional memory foam. It fills in the area around your lower back while pushing back against your upper back to keep the spine in a neutral position.

The real support layer is a layer of individually pocketed coils. It provides excellent combination support, so you should feel proper support for your back issues regardless of your sleep position. The top layers allow your curves to sink further into the mattress, so if you side sleep and your shoulders are responsible for some of your pain, you should find relief.

It’s a pretty firm mattress, but it doesn’t feel that way because of the contouring materials. IF you have a partner who sleeps in a different position than you do, this should satisfy both of your preferences. It also keeps you really cool to cut down on the position switching that could make your pain worse.

DreamCloud offers a one-year sleep trial, so you should have plenty of time to see if your pain begins to subside. Give it a few weeks before you decide, so that your mattress has time to break in and you have time to adjust. You can return it at any time before the sleep trial is over for a full refund.

You’re also covered by a lifelong warranty. DreamCloud will replace a defective mattress during the first ten years, and repair or replace a defective mattress after that year-long period is up. They also have periodic reconditioning of the mattress, so even if your sagging isn’t enough to trigger a warranty replacement, you can still renew your mattress. Since back pain doesn’t just disappear, this extends the life of your mattress.

You have two options for shipping. If you can set your bed up yourself, standard shipping compresses the mattress into a box for delivery right to your door. If your back pain is too much, you have the option of white glove delivery so that you have help setting things up.

Why It’s Good For Upper Back Pain

DreamCloud is suitable for upper back pain because it does help you get into a good position, particularly as a back or side sleeper. The supporting materials and springs help respond to your movements and reduce tossing and turning.

If you side-sleep, the contouring layers do a great job of reducing pressure on your shoulders and upper chest as you sleep. This reduces the amount of strain you feel on the large muscle groups at your back.

If you’re a back sleeper, the contouring materials adjust so that you don’t sink too deeply into the mattress, and that your upper back muscles can relax. It eases the strain by filling in gaps in your lower back region, so the muscles don’t have to work so hard to keep your spine straight.

Why It’s Good For Lower Back Pain

It’s good for your lower back pain because it discourages overextension if you’re a side sleeper. Instead of twisting your lumbar region, you can keep your back straight and your spine better aligned. In both cases, your spine should decompress well.

It also reduces pressure on your hips if you’re a side or stomach sleeper. The hip joints can trigger pain through the nerves in your lower back or through your body compensating for pain by laying unevenly.

The contouring materials fill in the area around your waist and lower back so your lower back muscles can relax. Since your spine stays straight, the muscles don’t have to work as hard. They have time to recover during the night instead of waking up stiff.

Nectar – Best Overall Budget Option

Nectar’s construction is simple, but it benefits both upper and lower back pain. The best part is that it’s less than $1000 for the most expensive sizes, a California king and king. The rest are even more affordable.

Nectar uses a Tencel cooling cover that wicks heat and moisture away from the body. It works directly with the next two layers, which are gel infused. The quilted gel layer helps circulate air while the other layer helps distribute your weight to reduce overall pressure.

The next layer is an adaptive foam that supports and provides a lot of response. If you change positions throughout the night, it can adapt quickly, so your spine remains aligned no matter what position you’re in.

There’s almost no motion transfer because the core support layer is also memory foam. It provides plenty of support, but it’s almost guaranteed your partner’s movements won’t disturb your sleep or cause you more pain.

Nectar has a full 365-night sleep trial that should allow you plenty of time to figure out if the mattress is helping relieve either your upper or lower back pain.

You’re also covered by a forever warranty. Nectar will replace the mattress during the first ten years if you have a defect. After ten years, they’ll decide if it’s more effective to repair the bed or replace it entirely.

You don’t have the option of white glove delivery with Nectar, so be sure to have someone there who can help you set things up if your back pain prevents you from doing it yourself. The mattress arrives compressed in a box. Unpack it and gently tear the plastic away from the bed to let it inflate. It should be ready in a few hours.

Why It’s Good For Upper Back Pain

If you suffer from upper back pain, you should find that the contouring materials ease some of the pressure on your joints and large muscle groups. Side sleepers should experience a reduction in pressure on significant pressure points such as the shoulder and hips. Your large muscle groups in your chest and upper back won’t have to work as hard to keep your spine straight.

Why It’s Good For Lower Back Pain

If you have lower back pain, it should fill in around your lower lumbar region to help decompress your spine. If your pain originates from a pinched nerve or disc, the neutral position of your spine on the foam can help with that.

If you’re a side sleeper, it gives way underneath your shoulders and hips, so you’re less likely to twist into sprinter’s position to relieve the pressure. Without the twist in your lower back all night, your muscles can relax and heal.

It also decompresses the area of the lower spine that can contribute to nerve pain in your lower back, hips, and legs. The spine doesn’t bend at the small of your back because the contouring materials fill in the gap. No compression, no pain.

Best Mattresses For Upper Back Pain

Now let’s look at a few specific examples that might work better for upper back pain.

Muse – Best Customizable Mattress

Muse mattress is an all memory foam mattress that will allow you to have some control over how firm or soft it is. We recommend the medium firm option for most combination sleepers, but if you’re specifically a back or stomach sleeper, you might get some relief from your upper back pain with a firm.

The cover wicks away heat and moisture as well as zipping off the mattress for easy cleaning. The first layer is a temperature regulating foam that’s gel infused. The middle layer is adaptive. It moves with you as you move, but helps to get you into a comfortable position so you’ll stay there. The base layer is a dense foam that gives the mattress structural integrity and edge support. The entire thing should relieve pressure particularly on your shoulders and neck and allow your spine to rest in a neutral position.

Since upper back pain is often related to the muscles and joint groups within the broad areas of the shoulders and chest, the firmer foam options will contour to you but still offer a lot of support. Once your body can relax in a position that matches your preferences, you might alleviate some of the pain sources, or at least, keep from making things worse.

You have 120 nights to try the mattress out, and you’re covered by a 10-year limited warranty for mattress defects. They’ll replace your mattress for free if it’s found to sag or show abnormal wear and tear. Make sure your mattress is fully supported so you don’t void the warranty.

Bear – Best For Athletes

Upper back pain is a frequent complaint for athletes. If this is you, Bear might be a good option. Repetitive motion can make pain in the upper back, shoulders, and neck worse, but Bear claims to reduce the recovery time from training and workouts.

There are two different options for Bear. One is a graphite infused, all-foam choice that should completely reduce motion transfer if your pain is severe enough that small movements could make it worse. Also, if you tend to toss and turn, the all memory foam option may encourage you to find a comfortable position and stay there instead of tossing and turning.

The hybrid option is suitable for strained muscles that need a lot of support to help the joints relax, and give you some extra responsiveness for position changes.

Bear’s claim is a new type of material called Celliant. Preliminary studies show that Celliant might increase the body’s natural healing abilities by harnessing your body’s natural energy. As you sleep, the material absorbs your body’s energy and reflects it back, causing faster recovery times. Although studies are still coming in, it might be a good option if your primary back pain is due to training, workouts, or strain because of work.

Bear gives you 100 nights to try the mattress out. Give it at least a few weeks so that you can decide if you’re recovering more quickly and if old pains are subsiding. It can also take a little time for the mattress to break in.

You’re covered by a ten-year warranty for mattress defects. If you notice unnatural sagging or wear and tear, Bear will replace your mattress before the warranty period ends.

You won’t have the option of white glove delivery, so make sure that you have someone who can help you set up the mattress if your back pain is too severe to do it yourself.

Best Mattress For Lower Back Pain

Let’s look at a few alternative options for lower back pain.

Puffy – Best For Lower Lumbar Pressure Relief

Puffy’s mattresses are simple constructions. They use all foam to relieve pressure and reduce motion transfer to nearly nothing.

We recommend the Puffy Luxe, especially if you’re a side or combination sleeper. It uses three different layers of foam. The first is a cloud foam that uses conduction to wick heat away from the body and regulate your temperature.

Underneath is a plush layer that eases your body to the support layer and actively adapts to your body as you move around. The two layers have a little “hug” to them, which should discourage tossing and turning and reduce extra pressure.

The support layer is very strong and offers a lot more support than standard memory foam. It pushes back against your body to keep your legs, back, and spine in the right place. As you sleep, the foam fills in gaps around your middle so that your spine doesn’t settle in around nerves or compress too much.

It’s precisely the right firmness level for back and side sleepers and can help you position so that your torso isn’t twisted. If you usually sleep in sprinter’s position, the foam layers can help ease you out of that twist and into a more neutral position.

Puffy gives you 101 nights to sleep on your mattress before you decide if you’re keeping it. That should give you plenty of time to find out if your aches and pains subside and allow the bed to break in entirely. If you decide that it isn’t helping your back problems, Puffy will retrieve the mattress and give you refund.

You’re also covered by a lifetime warranty against mattress defects. During the first ten years, Puffy will replace a defective mattress. After ten years, they may decide to repair the bed instead of replacing it. They also give you the option to quickly replace the mattress after ten years with a new, half-priced mattress. You get to keep your old Puffy.

Purple – Best For Lower Back Pressure Relief

Purple is a unique mattress. It was created by a rocket scientist who previously purchased (and was stuck with) a bed he hated. He set out to design the first zero pressure mattress, and he’s put out a good contender.

Purple uses a unique grid layer made of elastic polymer material. The grid is ultra stretchy and redistributes weight all across the mattress, so no one pressure point receives impact. If you’re a side sleeper, this one could be a game changer.

Even if you aren’t a side sleeper, the Purple should reduce pressure and offer relief from some of the common causes of back pain including nerve pain. When you lay down, the impact on your pressure points is reduced and carried by the entire mattress instead of causing compression on one single part.

The second layer is a plush comfort layer. It gives the mattress a softer feeling without losing support. It enhances responsiveness and eases your body to the support layer. The dense support layer underneath provides structural support for the entire mattress and pushes back against your body to keep your spine aligned.

The entire mattress is excellent for those persistent pressure points in your hips and shoulders, as well as helping you to get into a better position that doesn’t overextend your lower back. There’s very little motion transfer, so a partner won’t jostle you awake or trigger pain as they move around.

You have 100 nights to try out this unique mattress to see if it’s the right one. Give it at least 30 nights before you consider returning it so that you have a chance to adjust. It might take some time for you to notice a difference in your pain, so take that time. If you don’t love it even after 30 nights, Purple will retrieve the mattress and refund your money at any point before the sleep trial is over.

Purple is covered by a ten-year warranty for mattress defects. As long as your mattress is appropriately supported and you are using the mattress for its correct purpose, Purple will replace it for free if you notice something like abnormal amounts of sagging.

Purple doesn’t have the option of white glove delivery, so be sure you have someone available to help you set up if your pain is too severe. The mattress arrives at your door compressed. Unpack the box and gently tear the plastic away to allow it to inflate.

Best Mattress For Heavier People with Back Pain

Heavier people have specific requirements for a mattress. Not all of the beds above are rated for supporting heavier people, but we do have two mattresses we love that can help.

Winkbeds Plus – Best For Upper Back Pain

Winkbeds Plus is a hybrid mattress that uses foams for contouring materials and springs for the dense support layer. It’s responsive and rated for sleepers of 300 pounds or over.

The top layer is a gel-infused foam that wicks away heat and moisture. The second is an ultra-responsive layer that provides bounce and should help with position changes.

The coil support layer is really where upper back support shines. The coils push back actively against the body preventing any sag that might overextend the spine, regardless of your sleep position. It helps those muscles relax and release so that you sleep better and wake up hopefully with less and less pain over time.

Layers of foam and individually pocketed coils reduce motion transfer so you won’t get woken up with every movement and should isolate you enough that if your back pain is severe, it won’t trigger it further.

Lower lumbar support regions reduce spinal compression further and help the entire muscle group relax. It helps relieve that tension that spreads from a poor position so that those muscle groups have time to heal and you don’t toss and turn trying to alleviate your spinal pressure.

It has excellent temperature regulation to discourage frequent position changes, another way it might help ease tension in your neck and upper back. You have a better chance of finding a comfortable position and staying there instead of tossing and turning.

Winkbeds allows you to try their beds out for 120 nights. Be sure to sleep on the mattress for at least a few weeks to give your body time to adjust. You can return it for a full refund if you end up not loving it. You’re also covered by a lifetime warranty against mattress defects.

One good thing about Winkbeds is that they offer a 50% off replacement for the lifetime of the mattress. If your weight changes significantly and you need a less firm mattress, you can change at just 50% of the original cost of the bed.

Ghostbed – Best For Lower Back Pain

Ghostbed is an all foam option that can really help support the lower back. It’s rated for a combined weight of up to 750 pounds, so you shouldn’t feel any unnecessary sag even if you’re heavier than average.

We recommend the original Ghostbed because it’s slightly firmer than the Luxe option. The outer materials are cooling synthetic materials that wick away heat and moisture. Underneath is latex foam with air pockets. Latex is very soft but ultra responsive, so as you move, there’s no recovery time. The pockets force cool air throughout the surface of the mattress to help keep your temperature regulated.

Underneath is a transitional layer of gel-infused foam that prevents heat buildup in the core of the mattress and provides solid support where you need it while giving way under your pressure points. The bottom layer is a high-density base foam that resists sagging and deep impressions while providing the mattress overall structural integrity.

The composition of the mattress reduces the amount of pressure you feel on your joints. If you sleep on your side, it removes enough pressure from your shoulders and hips that you aren’t tempted to twist into the sprinter’s position, which can really stress the muscles in your lower back. Your spine stays in a neutral position and decompresses to relieve nerve tension as well.

Your temperature is also better regulated, so you don’t toss and turn looking for a cooler spot. The less you toss, the less likely you are to stress a muscle during the night and wake up with stiffness or cramp.

You have 101 nights to try out your mattress before deciding if it’s the right one for you. If it isn’t, you can return it for a full refund. Be sure to give the mattress at least 30 days before you decide to return it so that it can break in and your body has time to adjust. It can take time for the old pain to dissipate.

You also have a 20-year warranty in case your mattress is defective. As long as it’s properly supported, Ghostbed guarantees you shouldn’t see any unnatural sagging or impression lines, or they’ll replace the mattress for free.

Our Final Thoughts

Back pain is a serious issue, but to get the most from your treatment plans and mattresses, it’s vital that you be specific about what kind of pain it is. Upper and lower back pain are frequently connected but identifying the location of your pain is crucial.

All the mattresses on our list have the potential to change your sleep life. We love DreamCloud’s overall composition and believe that it can help the majority of you regardless of your type of back pain, your sleep position, and to some extent, your weight. There’s just no reason to continue to sleep on a mattress that doesn’t help alleviate the causes of your pain and allow your body to heal.

Do you know the source of your back pain? Is it genetic, trauma, or something else? Tell us about it in the comments because it’s always important to learn more about everyone’s varied experiences when it comes to the complicated issues of back pain.

Tim

Remember how your parents told you that you were going to sleep your life away? Well that would be perfectly fine with Tim. He's been in search of the most comfortable nights sleep for years and shares his findings with any willing ear.

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